Hiring a home inspector

Hiring a home inspector

Although not required by Oregon law, it is crucial to get a home-inspection report, whether you are buying or selling a home. Some mortgage loans require it.

"If it is done for the seller, they can fix any problems ahead of time," says Don Coats, co-owner of Precise Home Inspections in Jacksonville. "When the buyer has it done, they know about any problems, they can ask to have them fixed or use it in (price) negotiations."

So what do you look for in a home inspector?

The first consideration is whether the inspector is licensed in Oregon. State law requires all home inspectors to be licensed and forbids them from doing any repair or contract work on homes they inspect.

The state's website is very helpful to consumers, allowing them to verify licenses and also giving the inspector's contract history — listing disputes, bonding, violations and certifications. It is recommended you verify the inspector is in good standing because, as the website states, "people lie about being licensed."

You can input any contractor's name, business name or license number at www.oregon.gov/CCB and find their history. Or call 503-378-4621.

There are other important considerations, as well.

"The first thing you want to ask is 'What does the home inspection cover, the inspector's background and experience, does he belong to an accredited, home-inspection organization?' " says Thorin Halvorson, owner of Southern Oregon Home Inspections in Grants Pass.

"The other thing really important to ask is if he follows State of Oregon Code of Standards and Practices." (This also is posted on the Oregon Construction Contractors Board website.)

Halvorson also recommends asking to see a sample inspection report. Reports can vary from a handful of pages to 30, and many inspectors now include digital photos of problems in their reports.

"Ask about continuing education," adds Halvorson. "That is very important because there are always new materials and rules in construction."

So what happens at the inspection? And should you be present?

"I feel it is always advantageous for the consumer to be there," says Richard Meyer of Valley Inspections & Pests Inc. of Grants Pass. "It gives them a chance to ask questions."

The consumer — buyer or seller — has the right to be present, but be aware that a typical home inspection takes two to three hours. But you don't have to climb on the roof or crawl under the house with the inspector. They'll tell you what they've found. And if you ask a question and the answer is too technical, ask for an explanation.

"I literally go through the house from the ridge on the rooftop to the crawl space," says Halvorson. "I check foundations, plumbing, roofing, electrical, heating and cooling — all visible, accessible and operable components. You can't physically remove anything, like a piece of siding or wall, but anything visible. Being a home inspector is a lot like being a general practitioner: They give you a general physical, then you can go to the right specialist."

"For the most part, they (the buyer or seller) will get the same, basic inspection. The question is, 'How thorough is it?' " says Coats. "One inspector might just turn on the heating system to see if it heats; another might physically inspect the heat exchanger inside.

"Do they test all the electrical outlets or just a couple of them? There are 270 or so points to look at during an inspection."

The Oregon CCB stresses that you should always have a signed contract for the inspection. This makes you eligible for the CCB's low-cost, conflict-resolution services if you find any flaws in the report within a year. You can download a complaint form on the website.

The board has another tip: Hire your own inspector if you are the buyer. Do not rely on one hired by a real-estate agent.

Home-inspection reports are a tool, and their usefulness depends on the quality of the report. For more help choosing an inspector, Oregon CCB has downloadable brochures on their site.

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