Getting Independent Home Inspectors to Work for You

by : Rick Zwierzynski

Who Needs a Home Inspection Anyway?

Buying a home is one of the most important purchases you will make in your lifetime, so you should be sure that the home (house, condo, townhouse) you want to buy is in good condition. A home inspection is an evaluation of a home's condition by a trained expert. During an independent home inspection, a qualified inspector takes an in-depth and impartial look at the property you plan to buy.

The home inspector will:

* Evaluate the physical condition: the structure, construction and mechanical systems.

* Identify items that should be repaired or replaced.

* Estimate the remaining useful life of the major systems (such as electrical, plumbing, heating, air conditioning), equipment, structure and finishes.

After the inspection is complete, you will receive a written report of the findings from the home inspector, usually within 24 hours.

Finding a Qualified Independent Home Inspector

As the homebuyer, it is your responsibility to carefully select a qualified inspector. I stress that it is "your" responsibility, and not your agent's. After you purchase your new home, your agent will not be responsible for paying the unexpected repair costs that result from non-thorough home inspections. Any unexpected repair costs will be your responsibility.

Understanding the Home Inspector / Realtor Relationship

For your protection, hire an independent home inspector, instead of a home inspector who is recommended by your real estate agent. Here's why:

Most home inspectors solicit real estate agents for work, hoping that the real estate agent will exclusively recommend his home inspection services to all the real estate agent's clients. Agents work with many home-buyers throughout the year, and each home-buyer will eventually need a home inspection in order to close the sale. So, it originally made sense for an agent to find one or two home inspectors that he/she could regularly recommend to clients. However, this Agent / Home Inspector relationship carries a conflict of interest.

Here's why:

(a)Real Estate Agents make commission when their client buys the home.

(b)A client will only buy if s/he finds the home's condition acceptable (Among other reasons)

(c)So, a negative home inspection can stop a home sale (and the Agent's commission)

Now, this is not an accusation of any Agents or Home Inspectors. However, in this relationship, the Home Inspector may feel stated or unstated pressure from the Agent. There may be pressure to deliver positive home inspection reports or the agent may pressure the home inspector to produce inspection reports in less time at the expense of performing a more thorough inspection. After all, the Agent could easily replace the Home Inspector with another who may write more lenient reports. To be honest, there are many other Home Inspectors who would line up to get a steady flow of new clients from the Agent.

The Bottom Line: Spending Hundreds May Save Thousands

When you make a written offer on a home, you should insist that the contract state that the offer is contingent on a home inspection conducted by a qualified independent inspector of your choice. Independent home inspectors are hired by you, and they do not have a relationship with the real esate agent. Hiring a qualified independent home inspector could keep you from buying a house that will cost you many thousands of dollars in repairs down the road. Only after the independent home inspection is complete and you are satisfied with the results of the inspection, your real estate purchase offer can proceed.