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I'm purchasing my first house, and I'm researching into the inspection process.

I'd like to ensure a good inspection/inspector:

  • Reading reviews could be valuable, but given that defects may not reveal themselves until years later, reviews may just be based on how good their customer service was
  • Some sort of certification would be great, but my state (Utah) doesn't require any, and I have no idea if there is some sort of "standard certification"
  • There appear to be different types of inspection (I've heard of "general", "visual", or various topical ones like "mold" or "electrical").

How should I select a good inspector? Does this matter, or are most inspectors pretty reliable? Is there anything I should avoid?

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  • ASHI inspectors, Mold checks termite / pest inspection are separate you must ask specifically for that and make sure it is in the sales contract. Home warranties do not mean much either, don't be taken in by them (unknown condition coverage - not warranted - it was not maintained prior to ..so it is not covered ). Good Inspector -Does this matter, or are most inspectors pretty reliable? IT MATTERS and most is subjective - You want yours to be Reliable regardless of whether most or only a few. See my answer as an FYI. – Ken Apr 7 '18 at 13:53
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I've recently been through this process, and here are a few things to look for.

Some home inspectors will use some more high tech equipment such as IR/Heat cameras and provide additional services like foundation level checking. I saw some inspectors that offered free (short term) home warranty's with their inspection which can be a good added value.

Ask about additional services like Wood Destroying Insect inspection. Some inspectors are licensed to do this work themselves, and some will have to call in a partner company to do that work. Depending on the house and financing type this could either be a good idea, or a hard requirement. If the home has a pool or detached building, these will be extra costs, and some inspectors may not be very good at pool inspection. If this is a concern, find someone that claims to have experience with pools or whatever other unusual feature your home has.

I had an inspector say they couldn't inspect the roof because their ladder wouldn't reach... They knew it was a two story house beforehand, so I was disappointed, but at that point I didn't really have any recourse or time to schedule another inspection. Ask if they will be able to reach the roof or the attic or the crawlspace before you schedule them.

Finally, know that once you get your report, there will be quite a bit of stuff that they list based on their checklist that may not really be that important. Know going into it that the report is going to be long and point out a lot of "technical" issues that may or may not be a big deal. Their job is to point out all the small stuff, then you decide how much you care. For instance, one inspector found a window that was a few inches too high based on todays code, but not the code when it was built. I guess that's nice to know, but it really doesn't matter, and the whole "window" section of the report has a "deficient" mark on it for that one thing.

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In the past I have used inspectors certified through The American Society of Home Inspectors:

Why Choose an ASHI Inspector?

Only an ASHI inspector can provide your customers with a professional, personalized inspection that combines more than 40 years of the highest technical standards, adherence to a strict code of ethics and the very best in customer service and education. We call this “The ASHI Experience”.

When you choose ASHI, you’ll be working with professional home inspectors who have passed the most rigorous technical examinations in effect today, including inspectors who are required to perform more than 250 professional inspections before they’re even allowed to call themselves ”certified”. No other professional society can match the credentials of an ASHI inspector.

Help your customers obtain an inspection that is valuable, informative and educational. Recommend ASHI inspectors.

Regarding the types of inspections you reference in your question:

What does a home inspection include?

The standard home inspector’s report will cover the condition of the home’s heating system; central air conditioning system (temperature permitting); interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; the foundation, basement and structural components.

The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) publishes a Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics that outlines what you should expect to be covered in your home inspection report.

Their website can help you find an inspector in your area.

Rgarding what to avoid, look to the ASHI code of ethics:

C. Inspectors shall not directly or indirectly compensate realty agents, or other parties having a financial interest in closing or settlement of real estate transactions, for the referral of inspections or for inclusion on a list of recommended inspectors, preferred providers, or similar arrangements. ...
F. Inspectors shall not repair, replace, or upgrade, for compensation, systems or components covered by ASHI Standards of Practice, for one year after the inspection.

  • I plussed your answer because it provides some very good guidelines for choosing an inspector and the certification. I posted an answer more as an FYI for the op - I do think the Op should choose an ASHI Inspector for the mere fact there are more requirements , training and standards of practice that they must adhere to. They also have their own website for Q&A and given the questions I have seen on their I think they are intent on doing the right things.. – Ken Apr 7 '18 at 13:44
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Not a definitive answer but more than a comment. But I wanted to share some mistakes/regrets I've had with hiring inspectors and the inspection process so hopefully you at least can avoid these mistakes.

  • Don't rely on handy friend/family member as your lone inspector. By all means get their input, but don't limit your inspection to their review. Later if you have issues with some aspect of the house that seemingly should have been discovered at inspection, this will strain your relationship with them.

  • Don't just use whatever inspectors your realtor recommends. Even if you trust your realtor to recommend good homes, any inspector who has a working relationship with your realtor is biased toward helping your realtor sell that house to you. You want inspectors 100% committed to your interests and nobody else's.

  • I've noticed a trend among the home inspectors I've met--they seem to have started their careers as general construction laborers, which makes them more like generalists/carpenters, and rather than being experts of the systems most likely to require attention or fail (AC, electrical, plumbing, foundation, septic). So you might want to consider hiring specialists to inspect these systems, especially if you have any concerns.

  • If there is a crawl space or attic--don't hire anyone who doesn't guarantee you they will go into these spaces and look around.

  • Write down as many questions as you can think of in advance and ask them. Don't assume you'll remember them all in the moment.

FWIW, I have had good experiences with electricians. If I were to hire only one specialist, I'd hire an electrician. If I hired only two, the second would be a good HVAC tech with remodeling experience. A lot of HVAC systems seem to be poorly installed or poorly refitted, especially if they started as heat only.

Aside. If the home has a septic system.....learn as much about that thing as you can: age, location, working condition. I wish I'd asked my septic guy (over the phone) if he'd give me a discount on my first pump out if I used him for the inspection.

Good luck with the process!

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Just going to share my experience with home inspectors and give you some information on conflicts of interest.

Real estate Agencies make recommendations for these home inspectors, there is a huge conflict of interest because the inspector if he says too much and the sale does not go through - well you guessed it - he is off the list of recommended inspectors. Make sure your inspector is not on their list of recommended inspectors. Be with the Inspector when they check out the home !!!!!

Some inspectors put such a disclaimer on their contract that it is worded like entertainment purposes only - you might even find that in the very fine print on some - make sure you really read that contract.

I had an inspector for my current home. Well I should have done the inspection myself but thought a pro would be more able and knowledgeable about structure etc..) and also a contract where the home must pass inspection can have certain ramifications if I did it myself.

The home passed his inspection. I had pictures of all of the appliances and dates of manufacture.

The Furnace did not work when we moved in a week later (it was cold outside too) - I had to fix it.

The Garage door practically fell on top of me as I opened it from the inside - it fell out of the tracks.

All of the 3 way and 4 way light circuits - I had to fix.

The Dryer breaker I had to replace.

The refrigerator I had to fix the ice maker and water dispenser.

The drains had to be repaired - I had to repair the sinks as well.

The windows would not open.

And a littany of other things that had to be taken care of. It was the biggest waste of money I had made.

Further the Inspector passed the home - but a Real Estate Agent chosen by the Bank to inspect had an issue with a ceiling leak.

So I would advise to follow the advice and insight of others on this forum as well.

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