No house is perfect. From a home that has been lived in and tenderly cared for by a family for 20 years, to a new build or the supposed “dream house,” it is inevitable there will be some flaws and necessary maintenance.
That is where a home inspector steps in.
Home inspectors are charged with finding the smallest to biggest problems with the interior and exterior of a home for a prospective buyer in hopes of helping them make the most informed decision and offer on a potential purchase.
“It is never a bad idea to get a place inspected, even if it’s brand new,” said Jeff Vietzke, a certified home inspector and owner of Home Inspections Maintenance and Management LLC. “You might think you have a lot of knowledge, but when it is someone’s job, it may not be pleasant, but it is money well spent. Going to that length can tell you a lot about your future in a home.”
Vietzke said he looks at everything he can during an inspection – without being destructive – from mechanical and plumbing systems, doors, windows, electrical panels, attics, crawl spaces and the roof. He also looks for signs of water damage or moisture intrusion as well as missing or falling insulation.
“That’s the meat and potatoes of an inspection,” he said.
Brandi Graham-Snow, a Realtor and broker with Windermere Real Estate in Spokane for 10 years, recommends all of her prospective buyers schedule inspections.
“You always do a home inspection. I don’t care what you’re buying,” she said. “In all my years, I’ve only had one that didn’t have anything come up.”
Graham-Snow said buyers have a 10-day window following an offer’s acceptance to schedule an inspection. From there, buyers are able to respond to what was found and send any requests for fixes to the seller. The seller then has three business days to respond to the requests. The buyer then has three days to either accept or reject that counteroffer.
A sale can be made or lost in the inspection process, but it all depends how much work the buyer is willing to put into their new home. Graham-Snow said she recommends as a baseline to have at least $7,000 set aside for a $120,000 home.
Aaron Storer, certified inspector and co-owner of Golden Star Home Inspections, said big things that can make or break a sale are cracks in the foundation, leaning walls or mold – fixes that are going to be costly. He also looks for add-ons that either weren’t professionally done or properly permitted by the city, Storer said.
Erich Prahl, certified home inspector at The House Inspectors, said every inspection is different, depending on how and when a home was built and how it has been cared for over the years.
“We don’t have the superman powers to see behind walls,” he said. “There are some tools we can use, such as thermal imaging, to see if there is some insulation missing or water or moisture in an area you can’t visually see.”
“It’s always good to call out more than not enough,” Vietzke said, adding inspectors can also defer suspect things to another expert for further evaluation.
Even new builds are recommended for inspection.
Storer said he goes to new constructions often, where a home inspector will be a lot pickier with things in their report – little defects in paint, scratches on countertops, and all items a person can ask the builder to fix before taking ownership or getting the occupancy certificate
With a new build, Storer added, there are a lot of different contractors running through a house that could result in finished products that conflict.
Word of mouth, recommendations and personal research are among the better ways to find the best inspector, according to those in the field.
Graham-Snow said she has a list of inspectors with whom she has developed relationships and will recommend to her clients. But it is still their decision to decide who will best fit their needs.
Prahl said it also is important to know state laws and regulations. For example, is an inspector licensed? In Washington, licensed inspectors go through both state and national exams, but in Idaho, inspectors are not required to take the same certifications.
The Washington state Department of Licensing lists the rules on its website, but Prahl said many inspectors also will add some of their own that clients should be aware of. For him, he requires the buyers to be present at the inspection because he views it as more of an education process than anything else.
Storer advised buyers to read online reviews and come up with some questions to help get a feel for the company. He said is it important to ensure the company will provide the attention, work and customer service the buyer expects.
“As a home inspector you are kind of carrying the most amount of liability because you are the last word whether to buy or walk,” Prahl said. “So you have to be very detailed to people about what you present and how you present and explain it.”
Storer said he gets asked a lot, “Would you buy this house?” His answer: “Everybody’s situation is different and that we are there just to give them all the information we can, but it is up to them to make the decision.”
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