This post is inspired by a conversation I had with a client and local business man. He is a well established, experienced home improvement contractor. Recently, he had a past customer call him and say that a potential buyer for her home had a home inspection done and that inspector reported that the bathroom fan this contractor had installed was not vented to the outside. Of course, the contractor had installed the fan and he showed the customer where the vent was. This tainted his opinion of home inspectors. I understand.
When he told me the situation, I rolled my eyes. As a listing agent I have seen many poor inspections come back to me... Most are accurate. Most are fair. Some are not. Some are just wrong. Sometimes the home inspector will think he's earning his fee by scaring the potential buyer. Sometimes the home inspector will think he won't get another referral from an agent if he points out all the flaws.
So, what kind of home inspector do you want? I say my buyers want a fair home inspector... one who will not provide a "good" or "bad" opinion, but will report the facts, objectively... In my view a home inspector has multiple roles:
- Inspect the property and discover significant flaws. They will also discover relatively insignificant flaws, too, but let's be honest... there are a bazillion parts to a home and no one person, in a matter of two hours, can discover every flaw. You want to make sure they catch the big stuff... it's probably OK if they didn't catch something small.
- Report the property flaws objectively - without scaring the potential buyer or glossing over facts.
- Provide an accounting of systems... most buyers do not know from walking through the property and reviewing the marketing materials what kinds of systems are in the home. I want a home inspector to tell my buyers what's inside this particular "People House", how old it is, and how it works.
- Provide usage and maintenance information... Even if you've owned homes before, that doesn't mean you've owned this kind of system. A good home inspector will not know everything, but they will definitely know the most common types of systems. They should be able to tell you how to operate the system and what their maintenance requirements are, as well as their average life expectancy. Proper use and maintenance of systems increases the life expectancy dramatically. That's why some homes have 30 year old water heaters that still work. But, let's face it, that one won't last long, so you need to know that it's going to need replacement soon. And you need to budget for it.
- Provide insights on repair items - How difficult is it to repair? What might it cost? Is it something Harry Homeowner can do, or should this be left to a contractor?
What if an inspector stumbles across something that he doesn't know much about? Well, he should be able to record certain information, and give you resources. For smaller systems, like a security system for example, the owner may have a manual and be able to provide information on how to use it. And that might be all you need. For other situations where the owner can't help you fill in the blanks, you should get enough information from the home inspector that you know what questions to ask and of whom to ask them.
The inspector's role is NOT to provide advise on contract issues to the buyer. An inspector should not say "you can tell the sellers they have to fix this" because your inspector is not your REALTOR... and he probably doesn't know what your contract says nor does he know the dynamics of the transaction like your agent does. Trust your agent here.
So, should you take your agent's advice about what home inspector to hire? I suppose it depends on the competency and trustworthiness of your agent. I'd like to tell you that you can trust us all... but as in every profession, there are people who are trustworthy and competent, people who are trustworthy but not very experienced and therefore less competent, and people who are experienced but are really just in it for the quickest cash possible. Hopefully, you've found an agent that is trustworthy and competent... and if that is the case, then I think your agent is going to know better than the yellow pages who to hire. After all, they are helping a lot of people buy and sell homes, and that experience and guidance is why you hired them.
I will also tell you that sometimes, agents have a "go to" person, or two... but those people may get too busy sometimes to help you. In those cases, your agent may have to make calls to other agents they know and trust to get other recommendations. It happens. But you'll notice that if your agent is good, he or she does not go to the yellow pages to find you another recommendation...and if they do, watch out.
Buying a home is a pretty big deal... one not to be taken lightly. Although some buyers don't feel the need to do an inspection, I always encourage it. (Check out this post to learn why.) My husband would not allow a professional inspector when we bought our homes - and boy did I live to regret it. I am older and wiser now. If we ever buy another home, not only will I get an inspection, but I will know who to call, too. It will be the same person I recommend to you.
Remember, with me, you've got a friend in the business!