Using Online Listings to Prepare for Home Inspections

Home inspectors work long, hard days. In addition to inspecting several spaces in a day, most return to their offices to write the necessary reports and distribute to waiting clients. The less time you spend on a single home, the more efficient you can be. One strategy to help you save time is to review the online real estate listings for the property the night before an appointment. By pre-documenting this information, you can have access to key information, which you can then verify or disclaim once on the job sight. Here are a few things to keep in mind while previewing the home.

 

Remember the Details

Online listings are an excellent tool for collecting basic information to include in your report. Use the photographs and public assessor’s records to determine details about the house you’ve been hired to inspect. Include these details in your report the night before so you can devote less time to information-gathering on the day of the job.

 

Keep an Eye Out

Online listings can help you determine essential details, like missing devices, water supply information, and building materials. Keep an eye out for roof covering materials, exterior cladding, vegetation touching the exterior, foundation type, heat method and fuel source, the cooling method, and if a fireplace is present. These observations will be necessary for your report and compiling them in advance will save a lot of time.

 

Internal Factors

The listing page is an excellent place to collect information regarding the home’s age, the number of stories, whether the house is on a sloped or flat lot, and what comprises the driveway’s materials. You should also be able to determine if the range is gas or electric, whether the home is vacant or occupied, and what type of permanently installed kitchen appliances are available.

 

Trust but Verify

While you can use the listing page as an excellent source for your report, it is essential to check for the existence of every detail you record. You can’t fully rely on the listing agent’s sales pitch or the details therein; you must verify those elements in order to include them as facts in your report. If you can’t verify a listing detail, consider attributing a comment in the report.

 

How Smart Home Tech is Changing the Industry—And What You Need to Know

Smart home technology is becoming increasingly popular—so popular that many new builds are incorporating such systems into their structures. If you’re a home inspector, you will need to know how these technological advances change the nature of your work. Like any new technology, problems are bound to arise. Luckily, you can anticipate several common issues and familiarize yourself with the technology to help frustrated clients. Here are the top most-common problems with smart home technology—and how to troubleshoot them.

 

The Smart Home Devise Drains its Batteries too Quickly

Wireless smart home products are fantastic until you recognize they require maintenance. If a homeowner is leaving behind these pieces of their smart home build, you’ll need to troubleshoot battery-saving techniques for the new homeowner. Door sensors and other low-energy products will typically only need fresh batteries every year or two, but cameras and motion sensors can burn through batteries very quickly.

 

Troubleshooting this issue is fairly simple. Check the device’s settings to ensure you’re in range of a good Wi-Fi signal. These devices will run their batteries dry faster if they’re consistently looking for a signal. Digging into the devices themselves will also reveal a wealth of battery-saving options. Toggle off all option features to increase efficiency.

 

The Smart Home Device is Difficult to Control

This is often the most common complaint for those with smart home systems—especially those moving into a new space with pre-installed devices. While it can be a great convenience to control the temperature or lights from anywhere in the world, it can be a chore to figure out how to make simple adjustments to the living space.

 

To troubleshoot, make sure the smart devices have easy-to-access physical controls, and inspect that area thoroughly. Consider telling your client to invest in a few smart switches. In fact, the best smart devices—thermostats, door locks, and the like—have traditional controls that work in conjunction with their companion apps.

 

READ NEXT: Using Online Listings to Prepare for Home Inspections

Construction Industry Boom to Create Further Crimp for Home Inspectors

Have you heard the news? The construction industry is booming. One of the inevitable side effects of this industry boom is an increased demand, and thus a higher price for, certain kinds of services including home inspection. Especially in markets where there’s already a shortage of home inspectors.

 

 

It’s both a short-term and a long-term problem. In addition to making it harder to find and more expensive to hire home inspectors, an industry boom may pull more people with construction industry experience out of the home inspection market. Indeed, while accountants, decorators and people with all sorts of professional backgrounds may enter and succeed in the home inspection industry, it’s also true that a lot of time, the construction and real estate industry needs these cross-trained professionals to manage the workload of home inspection requests—again, at least during peak times.

 

It’s easy to think that a booming construction industry makes it easy to start your own business in pretty much anything related to real estate, including home inspections. On balance, of course, it is better to start during good times with strong demand, but it’s far from a can’t-fail situation, and even booming times can present their own obstacles.

 

The Big Takeaway for Homebuyers

When reading home-buying guides and online tutorials, it’s commonplace to discuss the potential shortage and scheduling delays associated with the home appraisal. And this is a fair point, but don’t assume that scheduling the home inspection is going to go off without a hitch just because it’s supposed to be the easier one to get done.

 

What about after closing? Wondering what sort of home inspection steps you should take in the future? Why not start with creating a DIY Home Inspection Checklist?

 

READ NEXT: How Smart Home Tech is Changing the Industry—And What You Need to Know

 

How Much Should YOUR Home Inspection Cost?

There are a couple different ways to answer this question. In the broadest sense, a home inspection might cost anywhere from $150-$750. The vast majority of home inspections fall somewhere between $200-$500, and a simple average is probably somewhere between $300-$325.

 

One of the most common ways that people find and choose their home inspector is through their realtor, but this path isn’t always available. If you’re just trying to get a ballpark number, we can help you create a reasonable expectation with just a few minutes of research. If you’re looking to save every last dollar you can, there’s really no substitute for getting estimates from multiple home inspectors.

 

The good news is that there’s not always a strong correlation between the cost and quality of the inspection. Even some of the most experienced and knowledgeable home inspectors out there charge very reasonable prices, and just because a home inspection is relatively inexpensive doesn’t mean it won’t be thorough.

 

Location and Market

As with pretty much anything, where you live has an impact on how much things cost. The average cost of a home inspection in Manhattan, New York is considerably more than the average cost in Manhattan, Kansas. The relative temperature of the local housing market—and the sales volume in particular—may also have an impact on cost and availability, especially if it’s not met by a surge in the number of inspectors operating in that area.

 

For these local market factors in particular, a realtor can typically help you understand what to expect. Often times, the realtor may put a premium on making sure their clients’ can get on the home inspector’s schedule, rather than price, but the realtor may also explain this fact and encourage you to look for your own home inspector if you so choose.

 

Size and Age of the Home

Even within the same housing market, there can be considerable differences in the cost of a home inspection based on the size and age of the home. It makes sense, right? The bigger the home the longer the inspection is liable to take. And while it’s still important to have newer homes inspected for their own set of vulnerabilities—most notably, inadequate ventilation from over-sealing the home—it is true that these inspections usually go more quickly per square foot. At the same time, there is no standard fee schedule or pricing policies for home inspectors—some of whom may charge a flat fee up to a certain size, or they may charge by room, or by square feet.

 

Outside Resources for Estimating the Cost of a Home Inspection

 

What the Industry Says

If you’re looking for official guidance from, say, the American Society of Home Inspectors, you’ll get referred to the Department of Housing and Urban Development who will quote you the $300-$500 figures.

 

What the Market Says

The consumer-driven websites that track the actual costs their customers are paying for home inspections suggests this range might skew a little toward the high side, and that the actual average cost of a home inspection nationwide is likely somewhere around the $324 mark cited by HomeAdvisor (the last time we checked). Thumbtack is another great way to look for average home inspection costs in your area.

 

Math and Demographics

It’s nearly impossible to find a quality home inspector for less than $200. A small, newer condo inspection from an inspector who’s familiar with that condo community and can go through one of the units in 90 minutes might be an exception that proves the rule.  It’s also true that a relatively small number of expensive homes could inflate the simple average cost. A several million-dollar home built decades ago on the edge of a seaside cliff will likely experience a series of various home inspections whenever the property is put on the market and sold.

 

For those of you who speak statistics, the median average for a home inspection is almost surely lower than the mean average because the distribution curve is skewed toward the more expensive end. This, too, helps explain why some sources suggest the average cost of a home inspection is between $300-$500, while others suggest it’s more like $250-$400 for most typical homeowners.

 

READ NEXT: Construction Industry Boom to Create Further Crimp for Home Inspectors

Don’t Forget the Basics of a Home Inspection

Matching the home inspector with the home is our number tip and golden rule, but this assumes you’ve found a qualified inspector who is already going to be sure to cover the essential aspects of a home inspection. Even within these basics, there is plenty of potential for complications.

 

Roofing: The roof is the most underrated component of a home’s overall structural integrity. It’s easy to imagine a roof springing a leak, patching the leak, and calling it good. What’s just as common is a leak that runs down the side of the home into the basement and foundation and wrecking the structural integrity of the entire home.

 

More than just the home inspector’s knowledge, you have to think about the roof’s accessibility. At the very least, be sure to communicate to the home inspector if the roof provides limited access. Specialized equipment may be needed to visualize certain areas of the roof. What you want to avoid is a home inspector who says something like, “Well, I was able to get up there and see most of the roof, except on that southeast side, and from what I saw, the roof looks to be in good shape.” In cases in which the home has a specialized and/or especially difficult to access roof, a separate roof inspector may be needed to feel 100% confident about the home’s condition.

 

Foundation: The roof and the foundation are elements 1A and 1B for the exterior condition of the home. The age and design of the foundation can help determine if the foundation has finished settling and what, if any, ongoing vulnerabilities the foundation may face—from the surrounding soil as well as from the home structure itself. The importance of the foundation can be seen throughout the home. Even a slightly shifted foundation can cause windows and doors that no longer fit right in their jambs. In this way, the entire home inspection serves as an inspection of the foundation. If the foundation has seen repair work before, the home inspector will assess the condition of the repair work. An epoxy filler, for example, should be monitored periodically to see if the crack around the epoxy has grown. The home inspector should thus take a meticulous measurement of these types of foundation cracks.

 

HVAC: Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning is a fundamental component of any home, but these systems have a large amount of variety all on their own. It’s also been one of the areas of home construction that has experienced and continues to experience a lot of research and development of new technologies. Evaluating the condition of solar panels is different than geothermal systems is different than heat pumps is different than forced-air heating, not to mention the ductwork, steam pipes, radiant flooring that goes along with these systems.

 

Inspections on older homes tend to be more focused on air leaks and draftiness, whereas inspections on newer homes tend to focus on the installation and condition of HVAC systems, including assurances that the home has adequate ventilation. What, if any, home improvements might make sense strictly from the energy-efficiency/utility bill savings? What, if any, improvements might make the home more comfortable to live in?

 

Plumbing: Knowing whether the home has modern pipes and the general condition, design, and gradient of the home’s plumbing is crucial to plan for the home’s future maintenance and/or renovation costs. In some cases, the potential for major plumbing failures might intersect with vulnerabilities in the foundation that could raise a serious red flag. The same goes for water heating system. For some properties, it may also be necessary to get someone to run a camera line through the mainline out to the city sewer line. For other typically more rural properties, part of the inspection may include an evaluation of the water well or septic tank system.

 

Electrical: Here, the potential risk goes beyond mere property loss. Worn, torn, corroded, or outdated wiring can be a huge fire hazard. Inspection of the home’s electrical system—or other kinds of home energy systems—is standard, but it shouldn’t be taken for granted, either. Is there one outlet in the home that looks sketchy compared to the rest? How hard would it be to install an additional outlet in this room? How hard would it be to install a dimmer switch in the kitchen? Know what the deal is with these questions before the inspector leaves.

 

READ NEXT: How Much Should YOUR Home Inspection Cost?