Five Things You Should Know about Home Inspections
An Experienced Inspector Answers Common Questions Your Clients May Ask
By Randy West
Your buyer may ask you to recommend a home inspector. Your sellers may want details about the process when they hear that a home inspector is coming to visit. So it’s important for you to have some understanding of the home inspection profession. Here are answers to common questions your clients may ask.
Are home inspectors regulated in Arizona?
Home inspectors have been regulated by the Arizona Board of Technical Registration (BTR) since 2001. The requirements to be a Certified Home Inspector (CHI) in Arizona are more stringent than most other states. An applicant is required to complete 80 hours of education at an approved school, pass the National Home Inspector Exam and perform 30 parallel (training) inspections with a CHI. The applicant produces a report for each parallel inspection, and the reports are reviewed by the CHI. The applicant also maintains a log of these inspections signed off by the supervising CHI. Finally, the applicant submits a completed inspection report to BTR, which ensures it complies with the Standards of Professional Practice. Upon approval, the new CHI must provide the board with a home inspector bond or proof of errors and omissions insurance. Because home inspectors are often alone in a home, applicants must also submit a fingerprint card for an FBI background check.
These are the minimum requirements, but as in most regulated professions, there can be a large difference between individual inspectors. A contractor friend says he cringes every time he hears a contractor defend poor workmanship by stating it’s built to code— “built to code” is basically the worst home you can legally build. Most contractors build homes that exceed the building codes, and similarly most home inspectors produce reports that exceed the minimum standards.
What kind of report and information will I receive?
All home inspectors must provide a written report to the client that is in compliance with the Standards of Professional Practice for Arizona home inspectors. These standards explain what a home inspector has to do and what an inspector does not have to do. You can obtain copies of these standards to share with your clients from a local home inspector, from the BTR website (btr.state.arizona.us) or from the Arizona chapter of the American Society of Home Inspectors (800-723-2790).
There are two main types of inspection reports. A checklist report is a “carbon-copy” style report filled out with a pen and separated into three or four copies. Checklist reports are easy to prepare, so the advantages include quicker delivery of the report (usually on site) and a lower inspection fee. Narrative reports are prepared with a computer and usually include digital pictures. These take longer to prepare but usually provide more detailed information. Some inspectors can produce a narrative report on site, but many deliver the report the next day. Narrative reports are frequently emailed to the client and REALTOR®. Some inspectors provide a password to download a report off their website. There are also some hybrid reports (for example, checklist-type reports that are prepared on a computer).
How much does a home inspection cost?
Home inspection fees vary from area to area and from inspector to inspector. Many home inspectors have fees based on square footage. Some companies charge extra for an older home, a home with a crawlspace or a home with other features that take longer to inspect. Some companies offer additional inspections, such as a swimming pool inspection, for additional fees. Call a few inspectors to find an average in your area.
How do I find a good inspector?
An obvious way is to ask how long they have been an inspector, how many pre-purchase inspections they have completed and what type of report they deliver. Another way is to ask about any affiliations or organizations the inspector belongs to. There are independent home inspector organizations that have strict requirements for membership, such as NAHI and ASHI. ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors, is the largest and oldest non-profit home inspector organization. A certified member of ASHI has performed at least 250 home inspections, abides by the ASHI Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics and has continuing education requirements.
Should I attend the inspection?
Most home inspectors welcome the client to attend the entire inspection. I prefer that the client meet me at the end of the inspection. I do this for two reasons. First, I’m responsible for the home while I’m on site, and I don’t want the clients at the home until I can give them my undivided attention. Once when I was on the roof, I saw the clients arrive in a minivan filled with children, grandchildren, grandparents, neighbors and a few hitchhikers. Before I could get off the roof, all 47 of them walked through the mud and into the occupied home. None of them removed their shoes, and it took me a couple hours to clean up the mess.
Second, I can’t always explain everything until I’m completely finished. The attic and crawlspace are the last places I inspect, and often the most important. Until I’ve been there, I may not be able to tell you what caused that stain, what that valve is for or why there’s no airflow at the master bedroom furnace vent.
Home inspectors must have an inspection agreement signed by the client before delivery of the report. Only the client can sign the agreement unless the REALTOR® has a specific power of attorney. (A listing agreement or buyer’s agent agreement is not a power of attorney.) My agreement gives me permission to share the report with the client’s REALTOR®. Clients can sign the agreement at the inspection, but most inspectors prefer that the client receive the agreement ahead of time and review it. Email has made this easier. I provide REALTORS® with a blank copy of my agreement so they can fill in the address, client’s name and so forth. I suggest you get agreements from all the home inspectors you recommend.
Randy West has owned Professional Building Consultants in Prescott since 1993. He has performed over 6000 home inspections. He is an Arizona Certified Home Inspector and a Certified Member of ASHI. Randy is past president of the Arizona chapter of ASHI and serves on the Enforcement Advisory Committee and Home Inspector Rules and Standards Committee at the Arizona Board of Technical Registration.