The home inspection is a valuable experience from which buyers can draw a lot of information—not only to use to get to closing but also to use as they turn their new house into a home.
District Real Estate™ sat down with home inspector Will Whittaker of District Home Pro to talk about how buyers can and should make the most of their home inspections.
DR: Hi Will! Thanks for taking the time to speak to us. My first question: how does someone who is buying a house or condo find a home inspector?
WW: This is where you really start getting the value of building a relationship with a quality real estate agent; you tap into their business network. They have the capability to refer you to reputable professionals with which they have a strong relationship. Since you trust your agent, and your agent works with inspectors they trust, your relationship with your home inspection can start with trust.
When you’re inviting someone into a process as important as purchasing your next home, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to invite a stranger. So, although you could scour the internet for a reputable business with positive reviews, the better option is asking your real estate agent to help you find an inspector who is a good fit for you.
DR: How can you tell a “good” home inspector from a “bad” one?
WW: One of the best indicators is the amount of time they spend looking at the home. If an inspector fully investigates and analyses their findings in a home and then carefully communicates with you about your concerns, then you have an inspector who is investing their time into quality work. They are using their time to help the client truly understand the home they are buying, and will provide you a home inspection checklist.
You should also look for a home inspector with a calm and respectful demeanor. Inspectors have a captive audience during an inspection–the buyer who hired them. An inspector who enjoys the performance above the client’s priorities will tend to get dramatic about problems in a house. But every house has problems.
A good home inspector will calmly share their concerns with you and listen to your questions, so that they can help you anticipate the challenges that exist for homeowners and can help you develop strategies that you will use to manage your home’s specific problems.
DR: I noticed on your website that you treat first-time homebuyers a bit differently. Why?
WW: Most buyers don’t have someone in their lives to teach them how to use a house properly and the internet isn’t really a great resource to learn about a house’s systems.
I have a theory: A home is a sophisticated tool that humans developed to help us regulate our internal body temperature. Think back to before we had houses, tepees, or caves; getting cold was dangerous. It was even more dangerous if we got wet. That is why we started putting roofs over our heads. Then we started keeping things that we use frequently under this roof, like heat, water, and food; our possession and our entertainment. That way we don’t risk going out and getting cold or wet nearly as often.
All of these systems we keep under our roofs—heating, plumbing, electricity and entertainment—are practical applications of sophisticated science. Most of us think that we have a passing understanding of these systems because we’ve lived with them for so long, but we don’t often see the science and the engineering that goes into them that help us stay warm and dry.
Which means that houses are not as easy to understand as they may seem. I like being the person who helps new homeowners learn how a house works and what they need to know so they can use it effectively.
DR: Are you communicating differently with buyers because of COVID-19?
WW: Totally. Normally, an inspection is a real-time discussion of what I’m seeing as I’m seeing it, followed by an immediate face-to-face review of my report. Inspections like that are obviously not optimal during the pandemic. Alternatively, I do the inspection without the buyer present and then we conduct a detailed review of my report over the phone or FaceTime. My reports include many pictures, so in about 45 minutes I can clearly walk a client through my findings and point out the major issues or problems. Some people even ask that I do the inspection alone, but that they show up for the last hour or so for a walk-thru at the property.
DR: Should a buyer be present during the inspection?
WW: It’s okay if they are not present, but they will not have a better opportunity to see inside of the guts of the house and ask questions of someone who knows the answers.
That being said–this is a large investment that they’re making, and home inspections can be nerve wracking. Some buyers expect something terrible when they see me pick up my flashlight or get down on my hands and knees to examine things up close. Examining things up close is literally what I do during the whole inspection. For those people, being present may not be the best idea, and it is perfectly fine for them to await my analysis later.
DR: If a buyer is looking at a condo property, can an inspector help with the home elements located outside of the unit?
WW: Absolutely. Frequently buyers don’t realize what they do and don’t own in a condo or what that kind of ownership means. For example, many people can’t imagine that they don’t own their windows or that they do own A/C equipment outside. A real estate agent may mention it to them, but I can really show you the details. Moreover, when I do a condo inspection, I almost always look at systems common to the condo community. Just because you don’t own something in your community doesn’t mean that it won’t affect you!
DR: Got it. And are you in contact with some of the buyers after the sale?
WW: Yes, lots of them. At the end of every house inspection, I always give them my phone number and tell them that they can call me and ask me questions. And I invite them to use me as a resource for when they need work done on their home. I’ll never forget being on the phone with a woman who was weeping because she needed a new water heater, had called a plumber and was distraught that she didn’t have $12,000 to get this guy’s help. And I was like “What, are you buying 12 water heaters?” Based on our advice, she was able to get a hot water heater replacement for less than 10% of the original quote.
DR: That’s shameful.
WW: But that’s what I like out there – some contractors will try to take advantage of people who don’t know any better.. I like getting in there and protecting people.
District Real is proud to consider District Home Pro as one of our preferred home inspection partners. To learn more about Will and his company, visit his website at districthomepro.com.