Not every home owner takes the important precautionary step of having their new home inspected before closing, but it’s a wise idea. Well-trained inspectors today can detect more problems with their high-tech reports and exacting diagnostic tools, as well as allay concerns about the many parts and systems that comprise every home.
An inspection just makes sense. After all, who wants to plunk down big bucks, only to learn that beams have rotted due to termite or carpenter ant infestation that is hard, if not impossible, for the average home owner to spot? Or, how about that roof that has become worn over time, so it only has a few more years before it serves as an insulation barrier and starts to leak into rooms beneath?
Inspectors know how to "dig" with their eyes, ears, noses as well as use their arsenal of tools. They know that discoloration may indicate that moisture hasn’t dried out due to poor ventilation and that mold may lurk. Or that a bad odor may also be due to mold.
There are so many good home inspection companies to consider as the industry has grown to $3 billion annually, with a yearly rate of more than 4.4 percent. Some continue to be Mom and Pop operations, which is how the industry started, and some are huge firms. But even better than size is that more are coming under state regulations as New York, Texas and others require professional inspectors to possess a license. Industry associations such as ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) also set standards.
The biggest influence by far is the increased use of technology to present information. Instead of the old hand-written reports that may have gone on for pages, today’s reports are electronic—and may scroll on for many "pages".
Pillar to Post® was the first company to computerize home inspection back in 1999, Steward says. Besides speed in providing data, it also tries to make the information presented easier to digest by summarizing the contents in the first one to two pages of the report in two main sections: first, what’s not safe—perhaps, an unstable glass shower door that could hurt a user—and second, what are important necessary repairs such as a leaky roof, a furnace nearing "end of economic life," or a cracked foundation.
Another significant trend is that inspectors have become better snoops, thanks, in part, to their growing bag of diagnostic tools. Infrared thermography lets them see moisture even before a brown spot may show up on a ceiling or wall. "If a leak has started it will read as cool, so it’s a way to get in front of problems before they worsen," Steward says. His team also uses tools to diagnose electric problems before circuits get overloaded or fires occur.
Other Times to Call in an Inspector
The most common time to bring in an inspector is after a buyer has a bid accepted—or even when eager to make an offer but concerned about some issues related to the home. But today, more home owners are calling in an inspector before they list so they can correct problems in advance. This avoids having them become part of the negotiation process, Steward says.
"I’d say this is now about 15 percent of our business, but it’s growing and becoming almost standard operation in some markets. We call it a ‘pre-listing inspection’. He adds, "It’s a way for a home owner to represent their product—their house—with a greater feeling of confidence and authenticity. They might proactively offer the buyer an allowance of $4,000 toward a new furnace. This is preferable to having the buyer want to take more off the asking price and be concerned about the hassle of replacing the furnace soon after they move in."
Using a home inspector is simply another way of being safe rather than sorry when it comes to owning a home.