Many people are surprised to learn that home inspections are not code compliant. Code compliance is the responsibility of the local municipality’s building inspector during construction. After a house is completed, important systems such as wiring, plumbing, and HVAC may be concealed behind walls which make them difficult to inspect. What home inspectors are really offering you is their opinion on the condition of a house and its systems at a certain period in time.
The home inspection industry has largely resisted corporatization. Small inspection companies or individual inspectors must compete for your business. Because no one company has dominated the industry you may find that the quality of home inspections varies. Some home inspectors write reports on their phone by checking a few boxes and spend just an hour or so on site doing the inspection. Other inspectors may spend several hours on site and then two or three hours more writing a report. They might even refer buyers to other professionals for items such as sewer scopes and environmental testing. A structural engineer may be called in if the stability/integrity of a home is in question. Quality inspectors will also have excellent communications skills to be certain their clients are educated about what they are buying. There is no one correct way to do an inspection, though the client’s interests should always be paramount.
Prices for home inspections can vary widely. I often get phone calls from people who are price shopping for a home inspection. While paying more for a home inspection does not guarantee a quality inspection, hiring the least expensive home inspector you can find is a great way of ensuring a poor outcome. Some inspectors will compete on price and charge less and typically deliver less. An inspector might do multiple jobs a day and write a quick report. An inspector running this type of business is more vulnerable to missing something important. Other inspectors might charge more and deliver carefully written reports, doing fewer inspections being more careful and thoughtful about the inspections they choose to do. Some inspectors advertise a lot and market to real estate offices and may even have several employees. Other inspectors are one-person operations and let their work speak for itself and can stay busy simply by doing a good job. Home buyers must decide what type of inspection service best suits your needs.
A few home buyers may hire two separate home inspectors on the off chance that one or the other may miss something. They are extremely concerned about knowing and understanding exactly what they are buying. This level of due diligence is not for everyone but highlights the need to investigate your new house at a level that makes you comfortable. Buyers should understand that even the most diligent inspectors may miss something. Buyers need to select a thorough inspector (or two) to work with.
It is helpful to identify what level of risk you are willing to take with your house purchase. Some home buyers are risk-tolerant and may just buy a house and deal with issues after the purchase. Other homebuyers such as first time buyers or those with young children may have much less tolerance for safety issues or unexpected repairs. Shopping for the least expensive home inspection, in this case, is likely a poor choice.
Hopefully these insights will help you make an informed home inspection choice.