Tina Gleisner, founder of Home Tips for Women, builds confident homeowners by providing helpful advice on many different aspects of maintaining a home. Because she has home inspection experience, we asked Tina about the overall process, the problems an inspection might reveal, and the questions to ask before hiring a home inspector.
Tell us a little about yourself. Why did you decide to start a home improvement blog?
After living and working around the world for 30 years, I wanted to do something in the community where I lived. I enjoyed the year we spent adding a four-story addition to our 100-year old Victorian home, and I was bored with technology. I decided to check off one more goal on my personal wish list, so I started a handyman business.
Other than when buying or selling a home, when should a homeowner have a home inspection performed?
First, let me emphasize that just because you’re buying a new home from a builder, it doesn’t mean that you don’t need a home inspection. When I had my handyman business, we did follow-up repairs for a builder and the punch lists were pretty long. Often, these were due to shortcuts taken in the last few weeks before closing, like not pouring concrete to support stair and deck posts to save a day.
Home inspections are a great tool for homeowners who don’t follow a rigorous home maintenance checklist schedule every year. We’re staying in our homes longer (10 plus years), so a home inspection every three to five years can identify hidden problems and help you predict when you’ll need to replace big items like your roof or HVAC system.
When looking at a completed home inspection report, what are some common issues that a homeowner can expect to see?
The most important thing you can learn from a home inspection report is how well the sellers maintained their home. Did the inspector find just a few problems, or were there 20, 30, or more problems like I found with the house we purchased outside Phoenix? When six out of eight smoke detectors are working and five out of six GFCIs are bad, you know immediately that the house has been neglected.
You might be surprised that we bought the house anyway. Under ordinary circumstances, we would have walked away – except the house was picked for the backyard where my husband built his observatory. I did make the sellers fix all the safety issues including electrical, plumbing and ventilation, and then had the inspector come back twice to make sure repairs were done right. We also required a home warranty, but later found out that these policies are useless except for band-aid repairs.
Common home inspection issues will vary based on where you live because cold and warm climates and dry and wet locales have different types of problems. In southern New Hampshire, the most common problems we repaired were:
– Exterior wood rot around doors, window sills, siding, and decks.
– Ventilation problems in crawl spaces, attics, and exhaust (kitchen and dryer) not going outdoors.
– Usability issues like doors that wouldn’t close properly
– Missing/damaged trim and screens
As the owner of a handyman service, what types of home inspection repair work do you avoid taking on?
Over the years running my handyman business, I learned which jobs we simply didn’t have the expertise or tools to handle efficiently. Things we simply referred homeowners to other companies about included:
– Appliance repairs which require specialized test tools and knowledge of brand parts distribution.
– Wood rot repairs involving mold remediation, as this requires special equipment and skills we didn’t have.
– Repairs requiring in-depth knowledge (like HVAC systems), and major problems or replacement of plumbing, electrical, or roofing systems.
How can a homeowner avoid a home repair horror story caused by a home inspector having a conflict of interest?
Too few homeowners get involved in the home inspection process. They should always participate in the inspection, and also let the inspector know this since some inspectors don’t like it. You need to find someone with good communication skills who isn’t afraid to answer your questions in real time.
The real conflict, though, is when a home inspector tries to recommend a single repair company. When a Realtor did this to me, and I figured out the painter was her husband, she lost the opportunity to list my sister’s condo. You are much better off getting referrals from your real estate agent, neighbors, or friends at work/school/church. And always get three estimates unless it’s something trivial like repairing a garage door opener. You’ll be surprised at how much you can learn talking to everyone and comparing estimates.
When it comes to glowing testimonials versus years of experience, which quality should a homeowner place more emphasis on when evaluating a home inspector?
While I do like an unbiased review site like Yelp, it’s too easy for someone to have their friends submit reviews. Website reviews are tough, too, as you’ve got to know how to read between the lines (what isn’t said) – and that’s a skill that comes with practice. Years of experience might seem logical, but what about the inspectors who have been doing it too long? They might not pay as much attention to detail as you want/need.
My recommendation would be to look at one or two sample reports – real reports done in your area within the last 12 months (obviously, it’s okay if the inspectors redact names and street addresses). How many photos did they include? How much detail did they provide on problems found and possible solutions? Other checks would be to see how quickly they return phone calls and perhaps even talking to a buyer who used their services within the last year.
What is the most important question that a homeowner should ask potential candidates when looking for a home inspector?
What I want to know is what they’re passionate about. For instance, “What do you like about being a home inspector? What do you feel you accomplish in your job as a home inspector? How are you changing the way homeowners view their homes or motivating them to do a better job in maintaining this investment?”
Finally, what other important research should a homeowner conduct when searching for a home inspector?
The home inspector you pick should be a member of an industry trade organization – either InterNACHI or ASHI. This will ensure that they’re continually building new skills in home inspection and building codes, both of which are constantly being upgraded. Another thing you would want if significant repairs will be needed is an inspector that knows the estimated life of major home systems and rough costs. This can help homeowners plan future expenditures and help buyers rethink whether they can afford a particular house.
Buying a home? Haven’t had a home inspection in the last five years? Find a home inspector near you today!