Prevent headaches with a home inspection - East Valley Tribune: At Home

Prevent headaches with a home inspection

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Posted: Saturday, August 18, 2007 4:20 am | Updated: 5:33 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

I moved into my house about a year ago, and at the time my real estate agent suggested I have the home inspected again just before my one-year warranty expired.

My house was new, and she said doing it this way would give the home time to “settle” and offer me a chance to get to know the house.

Home inspections aren’t just necessary for old homes, said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List, the online rating system for home improvement service companies.

“Newer homes can have just as many problems as an older home,” she said. “And if you are building a home, inspections at key points during construction should be a part of the process.”

I began researching inspectors on the Internet. I didn’t know much about what to look for, but I searched for someone who had completed a lot of inspections and was associated with several professional organizations.

As it turned out, this was a good approach.

Hicks said looking for an inspector who has completed around 1,000 inspections and who has the proper certifications is key. She added that Arizonans are fortunate to live in a state that requires home inspectors to be licensed, which makes it easier to find a qualified one.

I hired Richard Dale, of Chandler, owner of An Eye for Detail Home Inspections.

He scheduled an appointment for the next day at 8 a.m. and said it would take about three hours. He asked me the square footage of my house and other questions about the property, and he quoted me a price based solely on square footage.

Hicks said the average inspection costs between $300 and $400.

Dale showed up with several bags and set up a mobile office in my kitchen. This, he explained, was so that he could print a full report for me.

He asked if I had a list of items I wanted him to look at.

“Should I have done that?” I asked.

“No, we’re going to check everything today,” he said. “Some people just have a list, so I thought I’d ask. It doesn’t hurt to write things down as you notice them.”

Dale ran through his checklist, moving outside to examine spigots and the irrigation system, lights, stucco and a laundry list of other items.

Hicks said it’s a good idea to be present at the inspection and to know what an inspector should be looking for. This includes structural problems; roof damage; fire hazards such as improperly vented chimney flues; electrical safety issues, including old wiring; and problems with plumbing and major appliances, including the HVAC system and water heater.

“Going along on an inspection is a great way to get to know your new house,” she said. “You learn things like where the emergency water shut-off is.”

Dale not only didn’t mind me tagging along, he encouraged me to ask questions and provided me with information about my house. I learned I have three types of vents in my attic (bird vents, dormers and roof vents) and two types of insulation (blown-in cellulose and bat insulation). Common problems in an attic include lack of proper insulation, broken trusses or bad wiring, none of which existed in my home.

After about three hours of Dale checking every outlet, light switch and dark corner, he presented me with a summary of what he found. There wasn’t much. There was a hole in the stucco, a three-way light switch that worked only two ways, a missing screw on my switch box and other small things that might have needed fixing.

After Dale left, I realized I was aware of all but one of the problems before the inspection. Why did I just pay $225?

In talking with other people around the Tribune, I learned I was lucky not to have significant problems. Colleagues told me of home inspections that revealed wiring problems, poor insulation and structural issues the builder fixed while the homes were still under warranty.

The biggest problem Dale found at my house was the excessive number of cricket droppings around the outside of it. Gross, but easy to fix.

Looking for a home inspector?

Check your home inspector’s credentials. Ask to see proof of state certification or proof of membership in the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI) or the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI).

Check their experience: NAHI and ASHI require a minimum of 250 inspections. Most professionals will say it’s better to find someone who has performed at least 1,000 inspections and has at least three to five years of full-time experience.

Are they insured? Do they have general liability and errors and omission (E&O) insurance? Ask to see physical proof of coverage.

Get involved: While it’s not required that you attend the inspection, it’s a good idea that you’re there to ask the inspector any questions about areas that need repair. Typically, a home inspection takes two to four hours.

Ask to see the home inspection report. Many inspectors provide the report the same day as the inspection. The report should be thorough and easy to understand. If the inspector notices problems with the house, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy the home — you’ll know in advance what to expect, and the seller may agree to make repairs.

Source: Angie’s List

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