Bargain hunting for a home inspector

Don't assume cheap means best

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Sep. 29, 2010

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Don't assume cheap means best

Barry Stone
Inman News

DEAR BARRY: I am buying a home and need to hire a home inspector, but they are so expensive. How can I find an inspector who charges a reasonable price? --Elenor

DEAR ELENOR: How would you define a "reasonable price"? Is it the lowest price possible? Or is it a fair price for the quality of service that you receive? Consider what is at stake. You are about to make one of the largest financial investments of your life. You want this to be a good investment, without any negative surprises.

You don't want unexpected repair costs after you buy the property. In short, you want the most thorough and experienced home inspector you can find, regardless of price.

When people price-shop for a home inspector, they assume that all inspectors provide the same degree of disclosure and that the only difference is price. This is a mistake that has saddled many homebuyers with costly regrets.

Home inspectors do not provide equal degrees of disclosure. In fact, the differences from one inspector to the next can be startling and significant. Some of this is due to individual ability, but most of it is due to varying levels of experience.

With rare exceptions, a home inspector with many years of experience will provide more details about the condition of a home than an inspector with few years in the business. And in most cases, the more thorough and experienced a home inspector is, the more money he is likely to charge for his services.

If you hire a less experienced home inspector, you might save $100 on the inspection fee and be stuck with thousands of dollars in undisclosed defects after you purchase the property.

Home inspectors who charge the most are likely to cost you the least. Don't short-change yourself by hiring a cheap inspector.

DEAR BARRY: We bought our home 10 years ago and did not know that plaster contains asbestos. Last year, we had a plumbing leak. Some of the plaster came loose and had to be removed, but we were unaware of the potential danger. Now we're planning to sell the house and are concerned about the danger to future owners and what we should disclose as sellers. What do you advise? --Al

DEAR AL: Asbestos in plaster is not a significant danger because plaster is not friable. In other words, it does not crumble easily and is not likely to emit fibers into the air. Besides this, most plaster does not contain asbestos, so don't assume that because it is plaster that asbestos is necessarily present.

If you are concerned about seller disclosure, send a few samples of the plaster to a certified environmental lab to see if asbestos fibers are detected. If so, you can simply disclose this to buyers when you sell the property.

Some buyers will be concerned about it, and some will not. Buyers who plan to remodel the interior would have reason to be concerned because removal and disposal of asbestos-containing materials will increase costs. As long as buyers receive full disclosure, they can make an informed decision and you will have done your ethical duty.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

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