I had been designing and building homes for 33 years when I decided to become a Seattle Home Inspector.
With all of my years of building experience and taking the 160 hour Residential Home Inspection Course at Bellingham Technical College, it is difficult to imagine what kinds of inspections the buying public was getting before the State of Washington started requiring Home Inspectors to be Licensed. (Thanks to the efforts of Senator Spanel, and many others there is now licensing of Home Inspectors in Washington State.)
I have a dream of seeing home inspections taken to a higher level. While setting "minimum" standards is important, providing something of lasting value to the home buyer is what I am interested in, and over the coming years I expect to see increased education of home inspectors---perhaps even including 2 to 4 year college degree programs.
Providing the kind of information necessary to aid in the decision making process is not difficult, and adding the kind of information that turns the home inspection report into the beginnings of an "owner's manual" creates something of lasting value. Because I use a lot of pictures in my reports, people have often commented on how easy it is to communicate the issues to the seller, and as a result I very rarely ever get calls from sellers looking for clarification----or to refute my findings. The whole process is about communication and information----"too much" is never enough.
Current Member of the WA State Home Inspector Advisory Licensing Board.
I am a Certified Member of ASHI and I see membership in at least one of the major associations as a "minimum" requirement when choosing an inspector in Washington State----in addition to the State's requirement to be a Licensed Home Inspector. I would also expect to see Home Inspectors also be Licensed Structural Pest Inspectors in order to provide the highest level of service to the home buyer.
While members of the major Associations (and other associations for that matter) will argue the merits of their Association over the others, I find that they all have their good points. Buyers need to understand that membership requirements in all of these associations set "minimum" standards for the profession and that most inspectors exceed those standards. The important thing is what kind of report does the inspector provide and how clearly is it written, how well does it describe the issues, and how clearly does the report define the course of action regarding those issues.
I provide my client with a very detailed and thorough report on the condition of the home---some have commented on the report being like an "Owners Manual." I consider it the beginning of one. Along with all the major concerns, the buyer will also find useful information as to the age of appliances and Model and Serial Numbers.
One area of concern for many home buyers today is MOLD. It has almost become a "four letter word" (wait a minute----it is a four letter word). No buyer's education and information about Mold is going to be complete without the information provided by Caoimhin Connell. For some great information please see his links below:
Health Effects of Mold
Caoimhín P. Connell http://www.forensic-applications.com/
Forensic Industrial Hygienist
What Will the Inspection Cost?
Since this is one of the first questions the inspector hears when he or she picks up the phone, I figure this is as good a place to start as any.
It often seems that for the caller it may just be a conversation starter---not knowing any better place to start the conversation. It seems like a simple enough question but behind this question is a mountain of unasked questions. Even before I attempt to answer this question I want to see how much of that mountain I can explain before getting to that burning initial question.
My favorite lead in question is something like, “Do you have any current concerns or particular interests regarding the house?” This leads to answers of, “Well we are really concerned about the roof,” or “The seller reported that there was flooding in the basement,” or “There is this crack big enough to drive a truck through that we are concerned about.” All of these questions start to build a connection with the buyer and help me get a sense of what the house is about as well as their level of comfort with “the language” of houses. Do they know what a furnace is, or the difference between drywall from plaster, or what a crawl space is----as opposed to an attic?
I will usually ask them for the MLS number or the house address so I can get a look at it while I am talking to them. In this way I know the age, the square footage, number of bathrooms etc----all things that go into helping calculate the cost of the inspection.
Some inspectors have fixed fees (no ifs, ands or buts), some have fixed fees (unless the house is really big or really small), and some have sliding fees depending on how old the house is, where the house is, the square footage, number of bathrooms, number of kitchens, number of attics, number of crawl spaces and so on. I fall in this later group.
So the conversation with the buyer is about gathering enough information to give an accurate price. Most inspectors have rough minimum fees and typically the cost goes up as new information is gathered.
At the end of all of this is the idea that people will start to see the price as secondary to what is actually being provided---information. People want “value” for what they are getting---often more than price. They still want to know what the inspection is going to cost but agreeing to the price has a way of making sense in relation to the conversation had about their particular future home.
There will always be people that all that matters is the price---but that is likely to cost them a lot more in the long run.
While it is OK for agents to give prospective buyers a rough idea of what an inspection is going to cost, it is best, in my opinion, if they give a “range” as opposed to a specific number as there are so many factors that must looked at in determining the cost. It can be very awkward when a buyer says something like, “But the agent said it would only cost $350.00 and you are telling me $475.00----what gives?” Well, what gives is that the agent may be giving the buyer a price based on other inspector’s prices, or based on houses with fewer contingencies etc. Maybe there was no crawl space in the $350.00 one and this one has three.
Usually by the time I talk to them and they see my sample report on my website, Charles Buell Inspections Inc I end up booking the inspection. I don’t try to be the cheapest inspector in town. I attempt to give them as much information about the home as I can in the short time I am there. Putting all that information into a report with pictures can take another 6-10 hours of work in the office. This office time is something that few people factor in when they hear the price of the home inspection.
Giving a price for the inspection can be very difficult because of things discovered at the site that would have affected the price had they been known. I have gotten to many inspections expecting one crawl space and found 3 or 4 distinct spaces. I have recently started letting the buyer know ahead of time that if there are “significant” extenuating circumstances the price may have to be re-negotiated. This rarely happens and I would have to say that, more often than not, to foster good will, I don't change the price.
So now---what is the cost of the inspection?