Questions to ask before you hire a Home Inspector

One of the biggest considerations when buying a piece of real estate, is its condition. How much can you find out in the short space of time you have. The vast majority of purchasers do not think about the inspection until they have placed an offer, leaving themselves less than 7-10 days to find the right company. When they do find that property, they then turn to the agent and ask for an inspector. Unfortunately this dynamic is riddled with factors that work against the best interest of the purchaser. To name a few:

  • Good inspectors are often busy and hard to get on their calendar at the last minute.
  • The inspector should always be an independent 3rd party that works exclusively for the purchaser. Many inspection companies subscribe to Realtor, “Preferred Lists”, a practice that invites a conflict of interest.
  • There is no time to get to know the individual that will assist you in making the biggest investment of your life.
  • Most inspectors are small business owners with no business experience

Many purchasers, lacking the knowledge, will tend to try to find the “best inspector”, but make their decision based on price. It is important to understand that unlike the other professionals involved in the transaction, inspectors¬†are not equal. The inspection industry is very loosely regulated, and as such there are significant differences between inspectors. Few people know that the vast majority of inspectors enter the industry without participating in an apprenticeship program, unlike electricians and plumbers and HVAC technicians where at least a 2 year apprenticeship is required. Advances in technology and the willingness of inspectors to invest in their companies also produces differences that customers should take into account.

The following is a list of questions customers should ask:

  • Are you licensed and in what states (DC does not require licensing)
  • How long have you been in business?
  • Can you get a copy of the inspection agreement?
  • Do you have a Limitation of Liability Clause in your contract?
  • Can you get a sample report?
  • What prior experience do you have that is related to home inspections?
  • Do you offer any Service Guarantees?
  • If you miss something what happens?
  • Are your inspectors IR certified?
  • Do you charge extra for the use of IR cameras?
  • How do you inspect tall roofs above 2 stories?
  • How is my report delivered to me?
  • How long does it take to get a report?
  • Do your reports use Video?
  • How much Gen Liability Insurance do you carry?
  • Do you carry Errors and Omissions insurance?
  • Do you have reviews on Angie’s list, Yelp and Google?
  • Do I get to choose the inspector I want?
  • Do you do Radon testing in-house?
  • Can I schedule any time or do I have to speak to someone?
  • What is the process for resolving a complaint?
  • Are they members of any Realtor “Preferred Lists”
  • Are they members of any national organisations (InterNACHI, ASHI)


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When Contractors Fail to Understand the Dynamics of Building Science

When Contractors Fail to Understand the Dynamics of Building Science, the results can mean long term headaches for unsuspecting home owners. Consider this bathroom vent thru a flat roof on a DC home renovated and put on sale for over $1M.

slightly better bathroom exhaust vent

Seems rather innocent to the untrained. However, the contractor has failed to consider the fact that this is intended to exhaust warm humid air from a bathroom. When this metal pipe is exposed to warm humid air on the inside, during freezing winter temperatures or 2 feet of snow, the inevitable condensation occurs. That condensation will flow back to the exhaust fan, ruin the fan, possibly cause an electrical short and damage the interior ceiling. The buyer thinking, ‘oh I need a new fan’, will replace the fan never thinking the cause has to do with the contractors bad decision to run a metal exhaust to the roof.

Unfortunately trade schools that used to teach this stuff no longer exist. It is very easy to become a “licensed contractor” in most states with little to no knowledge of building science. Far too often, we here, “the work was done by a licensed contractor” as the justification or proof that the work was done correctly.

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Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing (CSST) Bonding

The following is taken from CSST Safety website. Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing (CSST) is a flexible, stainless steel pipe used to supply natural gas and propane in residential, commercial and industrial structures. CSST is often coated with a yellow, or in some cases, a black exterior plastic coating. CSST should NOT be confused with flexible gas appliance connectors – the product that joins a moveable appliance to your home or building’s gas supply line.

Bonding is provided primarily to prevent a possible electric shock to people who come in contact with the gas piping and other metal objects connected to the grounding system. Nearby lightning strikes can result in an electrical surge that can potentially puncture a hole in CSST and cause a fire. Proper bonding and grounding will reduce the risk of damage and fire from a lightning strike.

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The Importance of Proper Venting of Orphaned Water Heaters

The importance of proper venting of gas appliances cannot be understated. With the increased efficiency of today’s furnaces and water heaters, venting into older masonry chimneys designed for low efficiency furnaces and water heaters, can create unsafe conditions. In many older homes, new high efficiency furnaces are being installed which no longer use the old masonry chimney, leaving the orphaned water heater to vent into a flue that is over sized. This condition can result in exhaust fumes entering teh home each time the water heater is used. For more on this we have attached a report from WSSC.

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