Awareness Home Inspection Services, LLC

"A comfortable house is a great source of happiness. It ranks immediately after health and a good conscience." ~Sydney Smith
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Home      FAQ

Do I really need a home inspection?     Legally they are not required, but all smart home buyers include a home inspection in the purchasing process.  Buying a home could be the largest single investment you will ever make. To minimize unpleasant surprises and unexpected difficulties, you’ll want to learn as much as you can about the newly constructed or existing house before you buy it. A home inspection may identify the need for major repairs or builder oversights, as well as the need for maintenance to keep it in good shape. After the inspection, you will know more about the house, which will allow you to make decisions with confidence.
What can a home inspection do for me?     A home inspection should make you aware of  the condition of many of the basic systems of a home.  As soon as you buy the home, you need to start maintaining the home. Will the water heater die next week? It would have been nice to know it was 20 years old before you signed on the dotted line. You can turn the thermostat up or down and hear and feel if the furnace and A/C respond, but how old are they? You should be aware if they are old and may need replacement soon. What kind of electrical wiring is in the home? Is the roof in good condition? Do you know what polybutylene plumbing is,  and the problems with it? Was it used in your home? A professional unbiased home inspector should be able to make you aware of many things that you, and many times the current owner,  probably don't know are issues. Bottom line - issues  can cost money or cause injuries.
So home inspections are guarantees that nothing is wrong with a home?      NO, home inspections are NOT guarantees, warranties, or insurance policies. A home inspection is simply a visual inspection to help make you aware of the current conditions. A home cannot be graded as "Passed" or "Failed." Things can fail, and do fail, at any time in a home and you have to be prepared for that to happen. No one can predict when a light bulb will burn out. The light may work for me today,  but the bulb may burn out the first time you use it. Knowing how old something is can at least make you aware of when it may fail. However, no home inspector can see or predict everything. As an example, in colder weather, we cannot turn on the A/C system as it may damage the outside unit and so it cannot be inspected. For this reason, I strongly recommend all home buyers secure a home warranty. I do not sell these but most realtors can assist you in finding these programs.
Exactly what gets inspected?     In Maryland, there are Standards of Procedure (SOP) that all licensed home inspectors must, at a minimum, follow for a proper inspection. These SOP call for a visual, non-invasive inspection that will cover the condition of the home’s heating system; central air conditioning system (temperature permitting); interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; the foundation, basement and structural components. Also, anything that an inspector believes is a current safety concern should be pointed out to you. The safety standards we currently expect in new homes simply doesn't exist in older homes and you need to at least be aware of these improvements.
If all inspectors have to do a Maryland inspection based on the SOP, aren't all inspectors and inspections the same?     No. Each inspector has different life experiences that they bring to the inspection. Some inspectors used to sell cars and learned how to inspect from a 72 hour class. You may be their first inspection.While some of these inspectors may be quite good, when you say "This is my first home" do you really want to hear "Wow, this is my first home inspection." I bring over 40 years of construction building and inspecting experience.
          Inspectors don't have to all inspect the same way, they just need to tell you how they did the inspection. Example - inspectors are required to tell you how they inspected the roof. From the ground with binoculars, or did they actually walk it? I walk 90% of the roofs. (I won't walk slate, metal, or wood shake/shingle roofs or very steep roofs.)
     Many inspectors take advantage of the  "inspect a representative number of doors and windows, electrical receptacles and lights" clauses in all of the SOP and only look at one or two of each of these items. I look at as many of these items as I can get to and operate.
Why should I care about ASHI and ASHI certification?
     As a home buyer who wants a thorough home inspection, you need to find an unbiased, ethical, professional home inspector with experience. A home inspector who is ASHI Certified has  passed the National Home Inspection Exam, passed a written exam on ethics,  and performed at least 250 independent fully paid inspections. It is your assurance that your inspector knows what they are doing. Other certifications can't always be trusted.  Only ASHI uses an outside certification oversight agency. There are other organizations and franchises which give the "certification" title just for attending the 72 hour class with no actual inspection experience. 
Are inspection reports on standard forms like car inspections?     No. The inspector is required to provide you a written report but some inspectors still write their report on notebook paper, some use pre-printed forms that they either bought or designed themselves and fill in, while others, like me, have turned to the computer for our report. I like the computer because it removes the issue of my hand writing being legible, each copy I print looks like the original (versus the last copy of that pre-printed checklist), I love to add digital photos, especially of the items that you couldn't see such as chimney cap problems, and I can e-mail it if needed. Take a look at my sample report for a representation of what you will receive from me.
    Another thing to consider is how well your home inspector and you can communicate. Having worked for a major University for 30 years and having to describe building problems to all sorts of people that have no initial idea of what I'm talking about has honed my customer service skills and I'm sure you'll find my communication skills are in great form. For this reason, it is very important that you get to actually speak with any inspector whom you will be hiring before making your decision on who to hire.
So why is there such a difference in cost?      The franchises have to pay back to their parent company as much as 18% of the inspection fee so they have to charge more. Will their inspection be any better? Not because it costs more. Again, it boils down to the actual inspector who is assigned your home inspection.  You probably won't be able to talk to that person until you get to your inspection so you won't know if you will be comfortable with your inspector or not.  When you call me, you talk to me. I believe good home inspectors are consumer advocates first, business people second. Ask any questions you like.
     The larger independent home inspection companies don't have to pay the franchise fees but still have higher overhead costs with multiple inspectors and office staff. And again, you probably won't be able to actually talk to your inspector. Usually, the one-person independent inspectors such as myself can offer the best pricing as our overhead is more manageable and we are usually easier to actually have a conversation with prior to making your decision. Remember, a higher price will not get you a better inspection  -  the inspector's experience , methods, and communication skills  get you the most thorough and understandable inspection.
Do I need to be there?      No, but I certainly prefer you be there.  I believe that you should take advantage of me to learn all you can about your home and home maintenance. Let this inspection be educational for you. I want you to see first hand where the main water cut-off is located even though I will tag it for you. I want you there to see what I  can see ( and not see), to let me add more detail to the issues than I can in a written form. If for some reason you can't actually attend, the inspection can still occur, but you'll be missing out on a lot of "extra" info on your new home.
How long do home inspections take?  That can't be easily answered as each home is different with different circumstances. A  garden style condo may only take 2 hours but town homes and single family homes typically require at least 3 to 4 hours but the time involved cannot be predicted ahead of time. Older homes or custom built homes will certainly take longer, as will homes with multiple heat systems, detached garages, etc.  You should be very wary of any inspector who tells you they will be done in less than 2 hours. or gives you any guarantee of a completion time. (There is a least one franchise service that brings out multiple inspectors so they finish quicker, but you can't possibly be with all of them at the same time so you lose that first hand experience.)
* I have borrowed liberally from the FAQ of the ASHI website and want to give them credit for many of the above sentences.
      In addition to my FAQ, here are links to some different FAQ pages on home inspection that I believe you will find to be helpful. 
Sincerely, Charlie Rice, A.C.I.

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