By Keith Boggs
Posted March 15, 2020 at 10:00am CT
Buying a home is one of the biggest investments you will likely make in your lifetime. It can also be scary. What if it turns out to be a lemon? What if it becomes a money pit? This is why the home inspection is one of the most crucial activities during the home-buying process. It can help you make the decision to move forward with peace of mind or walk away with the knowledge that you have made the right choice.
And while home inspections are relatively inexpensive when you consider the size of the investment you’re about to make, all potential buyers should strive to get the most value out of the process. Here are our top tips to ensure that you do.
Tip One: Hire a Trusted, Experienced Home Inspector
In Texas, all home inspectors are required to be licensed by the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC). TREC sets the rules of engagement for all Texas home inspectors. It provides guidance for what and how a property’s components must be inspected and details minimum requirements for what must be included in the home inspection report. So, you may be thinking it doesn’t matter which home inspection company you hire as long as the inspectors are licensed by TREC.
Know this, however: Home inspection companies come in all shapes and sizes and with all levels of experience and service. To get the most value from your inspection, it’s important to find a firm with experienced inspectors who will go above and beyond TREC’s minimum requirements and provide stellar customer service. Here are a few things to consider:
- The company’s size: Is the firm large or small? Large companies tend to hire less experienced home inspectors while small ones are usually run by experienced inspectors who are actively working in the field.
- The company’s owners: Are they experienced home inspectors? If not, they may not be the best people to run a home inspection company. Are they still actively inspecting? If not, they may not be keeping up with the latest developments in the industry.
- The company’s inspectors: Are they experienced? If not, it will be difficult to ensure that the individual who performs your inspection will provide the most value. Proficiency comes with time in the field, and when you’re considering spending hundreds of thousands on a home, you deserve a certain level of expertise.
- The quality of the report: Some home inspection companies create their reports simply to meet TREC’s minimum requirements, which involves only providing pass/fail checkmarks, minimal commentary, and no photos. Others deliver detailed reports of 60 to 100 pages that include dozens of photographs and videos.
- The tools they use: Some companies offer the use of industry-leading technology, like carbon monoxide testers, ZipLevel foundation measuring equipment, and FLIR E6 infrared cameras. Others don’t, which means hidden defects, for example, water damage, foundation issues, or life-threatening carbon monoxide levels, are more likely to be missed.
Bottom line, the home inspection company you select and the skill level of the specific person who inspects the property will determine the quality of your home inspection. Look at Better Business Bureau ratings as well as ratings and reviews on Facebook and Google — but don’t fall for the search engine tricks that some companies use to place themselves in the top spots on the maps. Use the “show more” link to display more than just the top few companies and look for companies with high ratings given by a large number of reviewers. Also, use this list of questions you should ask home inspection companies as you decide which one to hire.
Tip Two: Do Your Research
According to Benjamin Franklin, failing to prepare means you’re preparing to fail. Abraham Lincoln said if you give him six hours to chop down a tree, he’d spend four hours sharpening the axe. Spending a little time learning about how the home inspection process works will pay off exponentially in helping you understand its outcomes. This research will also prepare you to have the most productive discussion with your home inspector after the inspection takes place. You’ll also have a better understanding of the inspection report. And that means you’ll have better information to make decisions as you proceed with negotiations.
Start with these simplified checklists: one for buyers and one for sellers. They will help you establish a foundational understanding and provide links to areas you may want to drill into in more detail. If you’re feeling particularly geeky, review TREC’s guidelines, which provide more detailed information on each component the inspector is required to evaluate and how, as well as what they must include in their report. They also detail what the inspector is not required to do, which can be particularly important to understand as you consider this purchase.
Tip Three: Be Your Own Detective
As you walk through the house and around the property during your tours of the home, put on a Sherlock Holmes hat and grab a flashlight, magnifying glass, notepad, and pen. Then do your own pre-inspection, ideally with a family member or friend who can provide an extra set of eyes. This serves a few purposes: It helps you develop a list of questions about anything that may appear to be “off” in some way. It identifies areas that you can ask your inspector to pay extra attention to. And it just gives you a better understanding of how your family may function in the home and yard.
Go through each room of the house and look at every element in detail looking for:
- Signs of water damage: stained walls or ceilings, buckling floors, missing or loose grout or caulking, damp carpet, rusty pipes or water heater, or a general feeling of dampness or smell of mold.
- Evidence of foundation movement: drywall cracks, nail pops, cracks along grout or caulk lines, or misaligned doors or windows.
- General condition and functionality: the functionality of electrical fixtures, light switches, appliances, toilets, showers, sinks, and faucets.
Do a detailed inspection of the property outside as well, looking for the general condition of the roof, chimney, foundation, landscape, and outbuildings. Take your notes home and talk through them with a family member or friend to come up with a list of topics and questions to discuss with your home inspector before the inspection occurs.
Tip Four: Attend the Inspection
Be there for the home inspection. You don’t have to be there for the entire process, but you should be there toward the end of the inspection, when your home inspector should make time to preview what he has learned. You’ll get his first impression and be alerted to any potentially major issues. You can ask him specifics about the areas you identified during your pre-inspection. If he’s a top-notch home inspector, he will offer to walk through some of the photos and videos he took during the inspection. This interaction with your home inspector will help you better understand the inspection report when you receive it.
Tip Five: Get All the Follow-Up You Need from Your Inspector
Once an inspection is over and the report has been delivered (ideally within 24 hours), keep in mind that your home inspector is still there for you. Email or call him to clarify his findings and answer questions. Ask his advice about potential approaches to fixing defects. Talk with him about any need for reinspection of components that you’re planning to ask the seller to fix. If you’ve hired a trusted, experienced home inspector, the company and the person who inspected your home will be prepared and happy to stay connected with you after the home inspection.
About Keith Boggs
Keith Boggs is the owner of Stonebriar Property Inspections. He is your personal home inspector, and his investment in the company will be reflected in the quality of your inspection. Mr. Boggs’ inspection reports are professional, comprehensive, detailed, and clear. They average about 70 pages and include 80 to 100 color images and include detail findings and recommendations along with tips and best practices for maintaining your home. Stonebriar Property Inspection’s customer reviews speak to Keith’s reputation as an ethical, reliable, and courteous Dallas home inspector. Stonebriar Property Inspections is fully licensed by the Texas Real Estate Commission for home inspections and the Texas Department of Agriculture for termite/wood destroying insect inspections.