How should I ask a home inspector for an inspection?

p1040303How to ask for a home inspection

How to ask for a home inspection may sound like a silly blog topic, but in today’s frantic home buying market, where house hunters are often forced to compete against 10 or more offers for the chance of “winning,” a house, getting and asking for a home inspection is more complicated than ever. In fact, many home buyers now approach home inspectors by asking for a scope of service that does not exist. This can lead to confusion and frustration on all sides and can be especially unsettling for first time home buyers. So in the interests of helping home buyers understand how to ask more specifically for a scope of service they want, I am focusing this blog on how to request an inspection from a home inspector.

I recently wrote a blog titled, Limited Pre-Inspection?, where I provided some insight into the relatively new practice of verbal inspections. By way of a quick review, there is not a lot of national precedent for verbal home inspections; this is a scope of service that is pretty unique to the Pacific Northwest. Home inspectors in many parts of the country cannot believe that inspectors would offer verbal inspections due to the liability and lack of accountability and in some states licensing laws prohibit verbal inspections completely. My insurance agent has informed me that home inspectors who perform verbal inspections are completely uninsurable for such a service even if they carry insurance.

Despite the misgivings of the national industry, in some of the red-hot markets in the West, like Seattle, verbal inspections, and limited scope inspections have become common. The reason? Inspectors have been asked to innovate less expensive and more cursory inspections to try and meet consumer demand to keep up with the frantic pace of home buying.

The burden on home inspectors

I receive many phone calls a week from clients asking me for “pre-inspections.” This is frustrating because there is not a scope of service that is a “pre-inspection,” yet many, many people in the industry use this term and many of our clients call asking for a scope service that does not exist.

This is exasperating for home inspectors because we have to spend a lot of time simply trying to clear up the confusion, in the hopes that our clients understand what they are getting and what they are asking for with a given scope of home inspection service.

This is important. I do not believe that limited scope services are a good idea for home buyers. These are riskier services that invite expensive mistakes and have no national precedent. Houses today are not only very expensive, they are extremely complex and we demand much more from a house than our grandfathers did. In my book The Confident House Hunter, I go into detail on the many complex systems most homes have today; they cannot be inspected quickly and the house hunting client needs to understand what he is buying with a full report on the house. I understand the desire to have a less expensive service for multiple-offer situations, but it is critical that if home buyers are requesting a less thorough more cursory inspection service, they use vocabulary that indicates  they understand what they are getting or NOT getting for their home inspection dollars.

Let’s clear up some confusion

Most people who call for “pre-inspections,” are wanting some version of a pre-offer inspection. This means the home buyer is not under contract, but they are hoping to get the inspection done prior to making their offer, so they can waive the inspection contingency on their offer; thus making their offer more competitive.

When it rains this face of the building will get very wet. With all the windows and balconies this envelope will be challenged.

Generally, pre-offer inspections come in two basic forms:

  • Verbal inspections or limited inspections and…
  • Full inspections with a full report – just like a regular home inspection

Some inspectors may offer other versions of  limited inspection as well. For example, you may be able to get a report later if you pay an additional fee or you may get some type of cursory report. The variety of limited-scope inspection services now offered shows just how new and unproven this part of our industry is at the moment and it reflects the different approaches inspectors are taking to try and solve this problem.

Some callers asking for “pre-inspections” are actually home sellers. What they really want is a pre-listing inspection. These are done by sellers so they can facilitate discovery and avoid having a big problem throw a monkey wrench into the middle of a transaction. These are always done with a full report.

As I keep emphasizing, verbal and limited scope inspections are relatively new to the industry, so we are still trying to find a consensus on what we should be calling these things or how best to serve these frantic real estate markets. Below, I have proposed a set of more accurate terms that I hope might help.

Scopes of services

Perhaps we could get the following 4 terms more widely applied in the industry to better describe the various scopes of services home inspectors are offering today?

  1. Pre-offer verbal consultation (no report or very cursory report. Risky scope of service and only allowed by state licensing law if you are not under contract.)
  2. Pre-offer inspection (inspection that is done prior to making an offer, but includes a full report)
  3. Home inspection (regular inspection, under contract)
  4. Pre-listing inspection (regular inspection for a home seller)

I hope this helps clear up some confusion and makes your home buying process more clear and transparent. Comments are welcome as I am certain there are some other valid points of view on this subject.

Dylan Chalk

Author: Dylan Chalk

Dylan Chalk is the author of The Confident House Hunter – a book to teach home buyers how to look at and understand houses: Cedar Fort Press In June of 2017, Dylan's book The Confident House Hunter won the Silver Award from the National Association of Real Estate Editors. He is also the founder of ScribeWare inspection report software offering innovative and simple report-writing solutions - and he is the owner of Seattle-based Orca Inspection Services LLC. In early 2017 Dylan became the Vice-President of Western Washington chapter of (ASHI) American Society of Home Inspectors.