A good home inspector will be extremely competent, honest, and will understand that he or she works for you, not anyone else involved in the transaction. Washington state strengthened its laws regulating home inspector qualifications starting in 2009, and many licensed home inspectors are also licensed Structural Pest Inspectors as well. (Not all are, however, so it’s worth checking.)
The Structural Home Inspection
Your home inspector typically starts on the outside, going up on the roof unless it’s a condo, and examining the exterior and perimeter for flaws and signs of drainage issues or water penetration. Inside he or she goes room to room looking for anything not structurally sound, for example:
- Checks gas fireplaces and ranges for gas leaks.
- Checks plumbing to the extent it’s visible.
- Runs the heating system.
- Runs the dishwasher.
- Turns on the kitchen stove and range.
- Evaluates water pressure.
- Examines electrical panel.
- Checks furnace and water heater.
- Looks for any sign of wood-destroying organism (i.e. mold, rot, termites, carpenter ants).
- Looks for any sign of water penetration anywhere.
- Checks garage door and sensors.
- Checks the crawl space, if present.
- Checks the attic space.
That is not an all-inclusive list, but gives you an idea. For a typical 2400 square foot house an inspection will last approximately three to three and a half hours.
The Home Inspection Report
These days most Seattle and Eastside area home inspectors will send you the inspection report the next day via email. They almost always include digital photos, although I did run into one in the last few years (picked by my clients) who did not. I always tell my clients to take the time to read through the report and make a list of items in order of priority based on what’s important to them. I do the same based on my own experience as a realtor, then we get together and come up with a response to send to the sellers.
Home inspections typically run in the $250 to $500 range, and the inspector usually gets paid by you at the time of service (this is not part of your closing costs). The inspectors I recommend would charge around $450 for a 2400 square foot home. It’s definitely not a time to try to save $50 or $100 by going with someone you’re not completely sure is reliable.
How to Choose a Good Home Inspector
It’s a good idea to get recommendations from people who have used an inspector rather than picking one from some organization member list. From personal experience I’ve learned that just because someone is a member of ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) doesn’t guarantee that they are a good home inspector. Here are some questions to ask:
- How long have they been a licensed inspector?
- Are they also a licensed structural pest inspector?
- Do they include digital photos with the report?
- How soon will the report be ready? (Typically it is the next day.)
- Is the report written out in paragraphs, or is it checkbox style with brief notes? (I think the paragraph style ends up being more thorough.)
- Will they be available for questions after the report is completed?
- How much will it cost? (The range is generally $250 to $500 for a mid-size home. Somewhere in the $400′s is reasonable for a solid inspection.)
- Can they provide a sample report that you can look at?
Here are some Seattle and Eastside home inspectors I trust and recommend:*
Larry Howe, The Inspector Guys (360) 941-6040 www.theinspectorguys.com
Ron West, R.W. West Consultants (425) 885-0722 www.rwwestconsultants.com
(Just a note that R.W. West’s reports now are in an online format that includes a summary page lumping small issues, i.e. a hornet nest, in with large ones when it lists a numerical total of problems. In my opinion this no longer provides a balanced perspective, even though the issues are explained in detail throughout the report.)
*I recommend the best people I know, but please always use your best judgment. I appreciate your feedback on any of my recommendations.
Other Seattle Area Home Inspections
For homes that are on sewer it’s an excellent idea to also get a sewer scoping inspection (again, even if it’s new construction), and for homes on septic it’s smart to get your own septic inspection, even if the sellers have already had one. That way you can be sure the field was inspected and a drawdown test was done (if applicable to that system). Twice expensive mistakes were discovered through septic inspections that I advised my home buyers to have done in addition to the seller’s pre-listing septic inspection. In one of these instances the necessary fix was a $10,000 system replacement that the sellers took care of. Sewer problems can be very expensive as well, and often are not covered by home insurance. For sewer scoping I’m a fan of Hydro-Physics Pipeline Inspection, at (425) 775-8445, and Action Jackson, at (425) 877-5601.
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