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Why should I hire a home inspector?

Peace of mind

A house is the largest purchase most people will ever make.  For a relatively small fee, it makes sense to have as much unbiased information as possible about the house you are about to buy.  Do you like expensive surprises?  It is better to know about certain issues before you sign a sales contract than to find out about them four months after you have been living in the house.  Very often you will need to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to put the house in proper and safe condition.  Here a list of concerns that are found on a regular basis during home inspections:
  • Improper and dangerous electrical wiring
  • Active water entry/leakage
  • Termite damage
  • Roof problems
  • High carbon monoxide content in heating system
  • Structural deficiency
  • Gas pipe leakage
So the money that you spend on an inspection you may end up saving many times over.

A unique discipline

Most people are not intimately familiar with the workings of construction and all mechanical systems.  A good home inspector has taken extensive training prior to entering the field and also undergoes on-going training in order to do this work.  As trained home inspectors, we have learned about the inner workings of different types of heating systems, air conditioning, roofing, building construction, plumbing, electrical, among the other things that are found in a house.

Can a contractor do a home inspection?

Not unless they've been trained to do home inspections. Even contractors will hire an inspector because of areas where they have limited knowledge, such as electricity or heating. Most contractors have not been trained in all of those areas and may be unable to provide critical information regarding a certain system.  Also, a good home inspector will use state-of-the-art inspection tools, such as moisture meters and combustible gas detectors, that many contractors do not own. Consider this: a good home inspector will see more houses in one year than many contractors will see over the course of their entire career. Moreover, if you are considering calling in a friend or relative who is a contractor, they may not want to undertake the responsibility of being the determining factor in your decision whether or not you buy a particular house.

Also, home inspectors are forbidden by the state to offer repairs services on houses they inspect. This is considered a conflict of interest. For example: "Yes sir, this house needs a new roof, and it just so happens that I install roofs." Get the picture?

Recent construction shouldn't need an inspection, right?

Just because a house is new doesn't mean that there are not safety concerns present.  A new house is not like a new car. Cars are manufactured on an assembly line with strict, well-tested quality control procedures in place. Home construction involves a series of tradespeople and their sub-contractors all working around each other and their work is only as good as their interest in doing good work. It can be affected by worker incompetence, emotional issues, and possibly that workers provided the lowest bid to a builder and were really in a hurry to get a job done so they could move on to their next job, no matter what corners needed to be cut. Unsafe wiring, plumbing leaks, and poor installations of roofing and various systems have been observed regularly. Also, municipal building inspectors do not do nearly as thorough a job as a professional home or building inspector...if they even show up at all. Make sure your interests are covered.

What about a co-op or condo?

We have seen water leakage, electrical problems, heating systems problems and more in these types of dwellings. Although co-ops and condos collect a monthly common charge, which covers certain maintenance and/or utilities, certain problems may not be covered. Also, some common charges do not cover interior damage caused by exterior roofing or siding failure. You need to carefully read the maintenance charge agreement to understand what is covered by the owners' association and you should have the unit professionally inspected to become aware of any problems.

Here are two examples of recently constructed apartments, which should put to rest any doubt that co-op, condo, and new construction inspections are important.
The builder of this apartment building constructed poor exterior wall details resulting in leaks over just about every window (only visible with the infrared scan, as water staining and mold growth was not yet visible). Not only is this a huge problem for the apartment, but it would likely be a major problem within the next 1 - 2 years for the building association, as all of the apartments probably had similar problems. The exterior building cladding for the entire building will require replacement.
The four black wires attached to the neutral bar on the left side of the box are supposed to be white. The plastic wire jackets have melted and blackened as a result of prolonged overheating, and were overheated the day of the inspection. The probability for an electrical fire here is quite high, but luckily the buyer had the apartment inspected. Lives may have been saved here.


Other uses for the report

A good inspection report can be used as a punch list of maintenance items that need to be performed, a written record of issues that may require further negotiation, or a reference of your house that can be useful for years.