They cannot predict with accuracy, however, when things will go wrong because they can only account for variables present at the time of inspection. For example, you may buy a home with a roof that’s seen better days. The home inspector reports there is no sign of water damage and in the first winter you experience major leaks from ice dams. It isn’t due to faulty inspection services even if the inspector agreed you could probably put off getting a new roof for a few more years. The inspector will only report wear and tear on the existing roof and provide you with recommendations for the lack of improper attic insulation - the cause of the formation of ice dams in the first place.
To put expectations in perspective, Goldstein reminds consumers to keep in mind, “A home inspector doesn’t have X-ray vision and can’t see through walls and floors. A home inspection is not an exhaustive engineering analysis, nor will your inspector take apart components for inspection. It’s a snapshot – a professional observation of existing conditions by someone with a trained eye.”
He also recommends reading the inspection contract, as some may not include inspection for pests such as termites, well/water conditions or septic tank failure. These may be optional extras not included as part of the standard contract. Controlling termites in Southern climates like Dallas can be difficult, so it is worth the extra cost to invest in these optional extras, especially if you live in a region where the houses are prone to these issues.
MYTH: All home inspectors are licensed and my inspector says he’s certified -- so I’m safe.
FACT: Only 30 states require licensing, but even licensed inspectors will vary in their qualifications. Many inspectors receive training and certification through various programs, but it isn’t always a guarantee of competency. Goldstein is acutely aware of the discrepancies putting the consumer at risk. “Anybody can say their certified, but by who? Some inspectors get all their training online and never complete a field test or take a comprehensive examination.”
To set the standard of performance high, ASHI has varying levels of certification, with full certification achieved only after an inspector has been able to pass a proctored exam and completed a minimum of 250 inspections. Have a detailed discussion with any home inspector you want to hire and find out their qualifications including training and experience. Ask for an example of a complete home inspection report prior to cutting that check so you can see how comprehensive (or not) the report will be.