How to ask for a home inspection may sound like a silly blog topic, but in today’s frantic home buying market, where home buyers 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. So in the interests of helping home buyers understand how to ask more specifically for a scope of service they want from a home inspector, 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 even 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 inspection 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 confusion, so 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. 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 helps home inspectors feel that their clients 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. Generally, pre-offer inspections come in two basic forms:
Generally, pre-offer inspections come in two basic forms:
• Verbal inspections
• Full inspections with a full report – just like a regular home inspection
Some inspectors may offer other versions 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 short report. The variety of various limited-scope inspection services now offered shows just how new and unproven this part of our industry is at the moment.
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.
As I keep emphasizing, verbal inspectors are pretty new to the industry, so we still seem to be trying to come to 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.
Scopes of services
Perhaps we could try and 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.)
2. Pre-offer inspection (inspection 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 very valid points of view on this subject.
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 www.dylanchalk.com. He is also the founder of ScribeWare inspection report software offering innovative and simple report-writing solutions – www.getscribeware.com and he is the owner of Seattle-based Orca Inspection Services LLC.