Jim Fahs stares into the abyss of a crawl space on average ten, maybe twelve times a month. What he finds at the end of the tunnel is not often pretty. Sometimes, it’s downright horrifying. Like the time a homeowner forgot to mention he kept his pet wolf in the crawl space. Two glowing eyes in the dark nearly scared the pants off Jim. Needless to say, home inspection is not for the faint of heart. It requires an often overlooked skill set that many homeowners may not be aware of. With the help of Jim, we’ve come up with a set of questions to help you choose your home inspector wisely. We also want to share a few reasons why having the right home inspector matters for buying and selling a home.
One of the most surprising facts about home inspection in the state of Utah is that there are no rules, regulations or licensing guidelines. In Jim’s words, “the only prerequisite for being a home inspector is printing your own business cards.” When you are interviewing a home inspector for either a listing or buying inspection here are some questions you should ask.
How long have you been a home inspector?
Ideally, they should have at least 5 years experience.
What is your trade experience?
A home inspector should have a background in general contracting, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, or other comparable trade.
How much time do you spend on a home inspection?
You want your home inspector spending between 8-12 hours on your home. That includes on site and writing your report. Another question to ask relating to this is, “How many home inspections do you conduct a week?” Red flags should raise if a home inspector is doing more than 2 a day or 6 a week.
Will you be able to access my crawl space and attic?
Older homes in particular often have small and hard to reach crawl space and attic access. Make sure your inspector can fit into those spaces.
THE VALUE OF A LISTING INSPECTION
Traditionally, home inspection has been used exclusively for buyers interested in knowing the behind-the-scenes details of their investment. More and more sellers are now interested in knowing what is going on in their home before they sell. With prices soaring, and contract cancelations at an all-time high, sellers want the security of knowing their pricing strategy is on target and that last-minute negotiations and squabbling won’t derail their timeline. A small up-front investment in a listing inspection can save thousands, even tens of thousands, in purchase price and lost time. Here are a few things a listing inspection should include.
Crawl space and attic assessment
“You’ve got to get into these spaces. This is where you see it all,” Jim advises. In an attic or crawl space a qualified inspector will find: old live electrical wires (even if you thought they were all updated), water damage, roof issues, structural concerns, duct problems, inadequate insulation or ventilation, as well as evidence of rodents.
Roof, furnace, air conditioner, plumbing, electrical, water heater. These are systems that need renewal every 15-25 years. A home inspector can inform you of how these systems are holding up to that timeline and which might raise red flags for a buyer. They can also coordinate sewer and water line inspection.
Appliances and overall home condition
Think your 10-year old dishwasher is still in top shape? Maybe, maybe not. Appliance deterioration and overall home maintenance may raise concerns for a buyer. A few seemingly small things in a final home inspection can make or break a deal for someone who feels they are already paying top dollar for a home.
WALK-THROUGH VS. INSPECTION
Some aspects of home inspection, the overall condition of a home and age of appliances, can be assessed in a walk through. Harder to inspect items such as electrical, plumbing, crawl spaces, attic review, structural integrity, require professional assessment. The best way to know if you should conduct a listing inspection on your home is to consult an experienced realtor. A thorough strategy meeting will help determine the steps you should take before listing your home.
LET YOUR HOME INSPECTOR NIT PICK, AND YOUR AGENT ADVISE
Jim doesn’t have enough fingers to count the number of times a real estate agent has asked him, “not to nit pick.” Jim takes offense to this, “that is exactly what you want your home inspector to do. You want to know about the big systems and the hard-to-spot little things as well. A leaky dishwasher, a house full of ill-fitting doors and broken handles, deferred maintenance, a hundred little things can add up to a major expense.”
That’s not to say that an inspection report should be weaponized as a laundry list to beat a seller up. It is the inspectors job to point out all the issues and an agent’s job to evaluate the severity of the issues. An experienced agent will advise a buyer on a reasonable course of action. This could include prioritizing home improvements, assessing risk, and if necessary requesting safety items as concessions.
In Jim’s opinion, it is best to walk into any purchase with your eyes wide open. “And Karly [Nielsen] is a real pro at that. She cares about the details.”
Jim Fahs is the owner of Wasatch Home Inspection. He began his career in Ohio as a general contractor before moving to Florida, where he owned and operated a mult-inspector firm for 20 years. He has been living and working in Utah as an independent home inspector for the last ten years. You can reach him at 801-828-6842 with questions or to set up an appointment.