Don’t hire a home inspector until you read this! You’ve probably seen this head line before. Typically, it comes from a home inspection company trying to tell you how great their company is and how bad the other companies are. The goal here is to provide you with an objective opinion about what makes a great home inspector and what to look for when recommending or hiring one.
We all know there is an entire industry built around home inspector pre-licensing training and continuing education. The home inspector schools do a great job of teaching prospective inspectors the requirements for licensure, what to report on and how to write a report. However, some additional experience, knowledge and expertise are necessary in order to reduce the risk of problems after the sale. In other words, you need to look at more than the company’s marketing materials and the inspector’s license number. Below are the five ingredients that make up a good inspector and the reasons why.
- Knowledge/expertise in local residential construction practices
- Knowledge/expertise in residential building codes (life and safety codes
- 5-10 years experience in new home construction (or remodeling)
- 5-10 years experience in customer service
- Termite Inspection License
Knowledge of local residential construction practices is important because homes across the country are built differently to with stand a variety of elements. Homes in the coastal areas are built to battle wind. Homes in northern areas are built to battle ice. Homes in southern states battle moisture and humidity. Homes built on rock require very little flexibility in the foundation and homes built on clay or sand need a lot of flexibility built into the foundation.
The primary reason the home inspection industry was created was to protect the consumer. Life safety issues are a primary concern for most consumers as well as Realtors. This is why a home inspector’s knowledge base should include the building codes. The best way to acquire this knowledge and experience is through interaction with seasoned code professionals while working in the home building industry.
Experience in new home building (or remodeling) is essential because with the application of knowledge comes a certain understanding that is difficult to grasp by just reading a book. When you put a home together piece by piece you get an understanding of the home as a system of components that have different characteristics and performance profiles.
The best knowledge and experience to be gained as a home builder is the wisdom that comes when a building system or component fails. When this happens the home builder gets to disassemble the existing components, repair the underlying problem and reassemble the components so they will look and function like new.
It takes five to ten years of home building experience and lots of problem solving before someone gains the insight and wisdom that makes them an expert in home building. An expert in home building is a home performance expert.
A home performance expert can look at the components of a home (during or after installation) and tell if these components are going to function as was intended. More importantly when a home performance expert identifies a component that is not functioning, they intuitively know what the cause is and how to fix it.
Knowledge and experience in customer service is important to you and your client. Unexpected things can and will happen after the sale. Seasoned home builders are experienced customer service representatives. Knowing how to deal with a customer’s question, problem or complaint is an essential skill which is best gained by someone working in the home building industry instead of on you or your client’s home.
A home inspector that holds a termite inspection license is a specialist. There is no industry or schools dedicated to helping someone become a termite inspector. In fact, the Texas Department of Agriculture which licenses termite inspectors frowns on “diploma mills.”
Classroom education is involved. However, it is provided by the pest control company and the largest percentage is accomplished through on the job training. This on the job training takes at least a year and is a huge time commitment that reflects the home performance expert’s dedication to education and knowledge.
The search for termites helps to laser focus a home inspector in several ways. Termites are very cryptic in nature. They are small and do not like to expose themselves to the elements. Often their presence in a home is related to moisture penetration and if found would warrant additional investigation into the possibility of a plumbing leak or other sources of moisture.
Additionally, termite reporting focuses on favorable conditions (conducive conditions) and areas of the building where termites could be concealed from sight. This line of thinking helps the home performance expert to provide additional information that is valuable to clients about the things that contribute not only to termite infestation but also to foundation movement, roof leaks, window leaks and door leaks.
Again, an expert can find performance related issues without the benefit of additional time, frequently with little to no visual evidence of non performance but before it results in a customer’s complaint. Once someone acquires this expertise and completes home inspection school then they will have the tools necessary to do a great home inspection and provide the support that you or your clients deserve.
In conclusion, hiring the right home inspector requires that you look at more than their license number and marketing materials. A review of their previous experience and accomplishments is required. Relying on someone that has; expertise in home building, expertise in life safety codes, a termite inspection license, extensive customer service experience and a home inspection license will decreases the risk that a major performance related problem will be overlooked and helps to assure that when there is a problem the home inspector is willing and able to provide a solution.
I live and work in Cordillera Ranch and the Texas Hill Country. I have over 15 years of experience in home building. I founded and ran a successful home inspection company for more than 10 years. I provide consulting services and training to home builders as well as training and support to home inspectors in Cordillera Ranch and the Texas Hill Country.