Recently, we caught up with our favorite home inspector, Jessie Tait, to learn more about home inspections. Specifically, how to find a good one, and what items on your inspection report are quite common.
Before we dive into what we learned from Jessie, we want to give you a quick background of Jessie's history in this field, and why she is our go-to expert for questions and information on all things inspections.
Jessie spent years as an architectural engineering consultant. She has worked with architects in designing electrical and lighting plans for buildings and amusement parks around the world. When she moved to Pittsburgh, her many projects included work on Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital and a new Westinghouse building. Her favorite project was working on lighting for a new building for the School of the Blind. There she learned how to create signals for the students through light and temperatures.
Back in 2018, she had accepted an offer on her home that she was selling, but ran into an issue when the buyer was not able to schedule an inspector in time. That is when she saw an opportunity to start her own inspection company. Using the profits from the sale of her house, she took her years of experience and began to take educational courses on home inspections. She opened her own Pillar To Post Franchise in 2018 and has been inspecting homes ever since.
So how can you find a good home inspector?
They should have a license or a membership to a self-governing organization.
First, start by checking to see if your state requires home inspectors to have a license. You can click on the map above to find more details on your specific state requirements. If you are in a state that does not require a license, then you want to find a quality inspector that is a member of a self-governing group such as ASHI or InterNACHI. While both organizations are good, Jessie prefers ASHI as they require inspectors to go through extensive training, ensure that you mentor with an experienced inspector, and require continual education.
They should carry insurance.
While inspectors should carry this insurance, some do not, so be sure to ask. Specifically, you want to ask if they carry general liability and E & O insurance. The E & O Insurance ensures that you can be covered for anything significant and overtly missed by the inspector.
They should have mostly positive reviews but do not be discouraged by a few bad reviews.
Look for an inspector that has an average positive rating. However, know that some bad reviews do not necessarily mean that the inspector is terrible. An inspector's job is to show you what is wrong, which can be hard for sellers to hear negative feedback about their home they love and have lived in for years.
Questions to ask a home inspector before hiring them?
How long have you been in business, and what is your background?
As stated above, some states do not require a license to become a home inspector. This is why it is essential to make sure that whomever you pick has an extensive background in construction, home improvement, and other areas of the industry. While years of experience can be important, someone that has only been an inspector for a few years, but has an extensive background in quality construction, might be just as qualified.
What types of homes do you usually inspect?
If you are purchasing a home built in the earlier part of the 1900s, it would be beneficial to find an inspector that has inspected a fair amount of historic homes. The same goes for new construction. Find an inspector that has inspected new construction builds in your area and knows what to expect from each local builder. Some builders are better than others, so having an inspector that knows the local builder landscape will be helpful as they should know what to be looking for before even setting foot in the home.
What do you look during the inspection?
Different home inspectors will charge different pricing, so be sure to understand what you are paying for. You will want to know if they look for code violations and safety issues, or if they also let you know about deferred maintenance issues and longevity of certain pieces in the home (furnace, roof, etc.).
Have you ever discovered illegal additions or illegal construction?
You will want to know how they discover these types of issues and what their protocol is when finding something that was not constructed correctly or was not permitted. Un-permitted work can cause a significant problem with your lending process and insurance coverage, so make sure to verify that everything was added to the home correctly.
Can I attend the inspection?
The answer to this question might vary based on your current COVID-19 requirements. If there is a safe way to do so, attending the inspection could be very beneficial for you to understand the current condition of the home, learn about issues they find, whether the problems are major or minor, and learn where essential items are in the home, etc. If you do attend, do not bring a crowd with you. It should just be one or two people at the most. If your inspector prefers to work on their own, ask if you can meet them for the last 20 minutes to walk through what they found or to show you essential pieces of the home. If the inspector is not comfortable with you attending, ask if they will spend some time with you on the phone reviewing the report so that you fully understand the major and minor issues of the home.
When should you start looking for a home inspector?
If you are actively searching for a home, it is best to start researching inspectors now so that you are well prepared when the time comes. Things will move quickly once your offer is accepted, so you need to be prepared to act fast. While most agents will refer you to a home inspector after you make an offer, and some might be great, you will still need to interview them and other inspectors, to ensure you find a highly qualified inspector that its right for you and home you are looking to buy.
Always check for the things listed above, even when the inspector is referred to you by your agent.
Most agents will give you a list of some great inspectors. However, you want to make sure that you check their insurance, license (or self-governing membership), and reviews to ensure that you are comfortable with the inspector and that they will give you an unbiased report of your home.
What are the most common things found in a home inspection that might not be a big deal?
According to Jessie, in Pennsylvania, more than 90% of homes have or have had a mouse living in their home. Mice do not have a preference for homes, so whether you a $1,000,000 home or a 40,000 home, there is a good chance you have a furry friend living with you. They get in typically through the eaves, and the most common area to see evidence of mice would be in your attic. You will usually see holes within your insulation, which is how they get around throughout the attic.
The other problem she consistently sees with Pennsylvania homes are issues with grading. This is important because grading decides where stormwater will flow. The simplest way to avoid grading issues is to walk around your home with dirt and re-slope the dirt against the wall of your home a few times a year. If you plan on mulching this year, remember that mulch holds moisture, so keep a 6-inch gap from the house to prevent moisture build-up against your home.
Lastly, she recommends that you check your gutters as clogged gutters are one of the leading causes of foundation issues. Make sure that you check them often and that your gutters and drains are connected and are properly discharging water at a minimum of 4 feet from your foundation.
You can contact Jessie Tait
at any time with questions about the process, or even questions about more common findings in inspections. Simply click her author icon below to submit your questions.