Home Inspector  What They Do

Just the Facts


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dotWhen you're looking to buy a house, you contact a real estate agent. You may not realize it, but the real estate agent is really working for the seller of the house, not the buyer. Furthermore, most real estate agents are not experts on the topics of foundations, construction, boilers, plumbing or roofing. So who can a buyer call who will not be on the seller's side?

A home inspector.

dotA home inspector will look through the house and check the wiring, plumbing, roof, heating system, walls, doors, windows, chimney and the air quality. They will also detect gas and water leaks, wood rot and look for rodents and pests.

Then they will prepare a report for the client detailing everything they've found out during the inspection.

"The essence of home inspection is to describe and communicate what I observed and what it means to my client in a manner the client can understand," says inspector Moe Madsen. "They will be in a better position to make an informed decision in regards to the house."

dotAfter a home inspector has thoroughly inspected the house, the client should know everything there is to know about the house. The buyer can then decide whether they want to purchase the house, renegotiate the price or walk away from the deal.

dotHome inspectors also do inspections for the person who wants to sell the house. The seller might not know all that is wrong with the house. Having an inspection may give them a better idea of what price to ask for the house. It also reduces the real estate broker's liability.

dotHome inspection is a relatively new profession.

"When I bought my first home I didn't have a home inspection," says Jeff May, a home inspector in Massachusetts. "In 1987, my wife, who was a real estate agent for a short time, suggested that I become a home inspector. I'd never heard of the profession before."

dotAbout 90 percent of home inspectors run their own businesses. Often, they work out of their own home-based offices.

dotHome inspectors have to know their stuff. If they do a bad inspection, buyers or sellers could hold them liable for losses. For example, if a buyer is unhappy with the inspection, they will phone the inspector to complain or try to get some money back.

"We all live in fear of the telephone call that begins with: 'Remember that inspection you did on Grove Street?'" says May. "The biggest drawback to the business of home inspecting is the vast liability we have."

dotMost home inspectors write up reports in the evening and do inspections on the weekends. Because many run their own businesses, they can choose their own hours. However, they must be able to work when buyers can find time to view the house. That often means evening work and work on weekends.

dotProfessional inspectors work full time, says Pam Wall, a home inspector. That's because courses, insurance and memberships in professional associations are very expensive. "There are a lot of people out there and a handful are qualified," she says.

In other words, someone doing inspections part time would be hard-pressed to support themselves and maintain their professional status.

dotThe physical requirements of this job can be quite demanding. Home inspectors have to squeeze behind cabinets. They have to undo rusted bolts. They have to lift heavy panels or pieces of plumbing. They have to crawl through hot and stuffy attic spaces. They have to run up and down stairs. While some of their work is done seated at a desk, most of it is physical work.

At a Glance

Inspect the condition of a house on behalf of clients

  • This can be a very physical job
  • You'll have to prepare reports
  • It takes experience, training and expertise to become a professional home inspector