Here is my latest newspaper (and online) column! It's a joy to share some of my expertise on a regular basis with readers of Bay Area News Group publications such as the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and more. Please send me your column ideas!
Research your home inspector to avoid horror stories
Your cat’s veterinarian might also be a home inspector. Your favorite barista? She might be planning to pick up an extra $1,500 a month completing inspections. In California, all that each of them has to do is take an online class and pass an exam to become certified. It’s important, therefore, to know that there is a significant difference between a “certified” home inspector and a “licensed” home inspector. In fact, California is one of 13 states that doesn’t require inspectors to obtain a state-issued home inspector’s license. And although I’m not a big fan of overregulating businesses, this particular lack of oversight worries me on behalf of my clients.
It also gives me a good reason to encourage vigilance when choosing an inspector. Even after a bidding war, when a buyer may be tempted rush through the inspection process for fear of losing the house to queued-up offers, the inspection is no time to rush. As a Sotheby’s Realtor® and Broker in the Sacramento area, my team and I work with a good balance of buyers and sellers. I’d never represent both seller and buyer in the same transaction, but I’ve seen enough inspection reports from both perspectives to know which ones have holes big enough to drive a moving van through them.
A few key questions and observations can help you distinguish true professionals from those who are no more qualified than an easy certification requires them to be. For starters, collect two or more recommendations from your Realtor® and seek others, paying attention to reviews. Note which professional associations each inspector has joined. Full members in good standing with the nonprofit California Real Estate Inspection Association (CREIA), for example, are active members of the trade who go above and beyond certification requirements. In addition to 30 hours a year of continuing education, CREIA members must have completed mentorship programs; performed at least 250 paid home inspections; and passed the National Home Inspectors Examination.
Request – and read – at least two inspection reports from each candidate. Ask for explanations about confusing or “not inspected” items. I’ve seen reports in which an inspector couldn’t find the furnace and therefore didn’t inspect it. Another didn’t inspect the water heater because there was too much storage stacked in front it. Yet another tried to scare the buyer and seller about a leaky shower head, claiming there might be mold in the wall. He said he’d be happy to fix for them. In that instance, the inspector crossed the line from unacceptable to unethical.
Although the best home inspectors have worked previously as contractors or builders, beware the inspector who offers to fix – for a separate cost – items discovered during inspection. Per California law, it is unethical for any home inspector to perform or offer to perform, for an additional fee, any repairs to a structure on which the inspector or the inspector’s company, has prepared a home inspection report in the past 12 months (California Code, BPC § 7197).
Attend the inspection and choose someone who plans to describe in detail every point on their report. Finally, take your time. Be sure to tell your Realtor® if you’re uncomfortable with your inspector. We’re only as good as the references we give for the professional services our clients need.