When 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.
A 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
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."
After 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.
Home 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.
Home 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."
About 90 percent of home inspectors run their own businesses. Often, they
work out of their own home-based offices.
Home 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."
Most 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.
Professional 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.
The 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.