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Vetting Potential Home Inspectors: An Interview with John Woodmansee of The Home Inspector

By John Woodmansee

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.

I entered the profession like a lot of us did, as a building contractor doing remodeling and repair work. That kind of work background is a pretty good place to start. Contractors learn from experience lots about homes as they age, sag, rot, leak and creak. Remodeling and repair means getting dirty, wet and exposed to the less-than-romantic side of a home with their bad odors, abuse, bugs, mold, etc. Good home inspectors are used to unpleasant, adverse conditions in their daily work, but we work safely and wash our clothes often.

How to Find a Great Home Inspector:

  • First, ask about experience. How many years doing this? Do you do this full time? Do you offer repairs or remodeling services on the homes you inspect? The answer to this last question should be "No, that would be a conflict of interest for me and potentially unfair to you."
  • Then ask: How long will the routine take? A thorough inspection takes more time than commonly thought. You want the inspector to find everything that could cause you grief after you move in. Even the smallest home can easily require three hours onsite. Older or larger homes with more complicated heating /cooling systems will take more time. Homes with additions and remodeling work require more time. So when the inspector says 3-5 hours, think of that as a sign that you will be getting a quality job.
  • All of us must follow the Standards of Practice set by our State licensing board. Think of that as the minimum to expect from a home inspection. But great inspectors don't think a minimum inspection is a good enough. Ask what the inspection will cover beyond the Standards. A great inspector will be delighted to tell you how he exceeds the minimum requirements. And you should let the inspector know that you want as much information as possible about the house. Encourage your inspector to be thorough and detailed in his report. You can handle the news, whether bad or good.
  • Much like a family physician, the home inspector is a generalist expert who must understand every aspect of a home's construction and how aging and use affect its condition. This is a daunting task, and great inspectors know a lot about everything related to homes. In addition to great savvy about house details, you want someone who can respect the place you want to live in regardless of its present condition and appearance; so look for an inspector who respects you, your dreams about what this home will become, and your affection for this home. Ask if it's OK to tag along during the inspection and ask questions.
  • One last thing. Good inspectors want to know what led you to call them. Hearing that we did a great job for someone else is like sweet music to us. But maybe you are not calling because of a referral, so you could ask for the names and phone numbers of a few recent clients.

Important Things to Know about NC Home Inspectors:

  1. We are all licensed by the NC Home Inspector Licensure Board (NCHILB). North Carolina was the second state in the U.S. to license home inspectors (1994). Everyone must pass a written qualifying test to be licensed. There was no "grandfathering" of existing inspectors. All of us had to pass this rigorous exam. Each year we must take 16 hours of continuing education, carry personal injury and property damage insurance, and show evidence of certain financial assets. The NCHILB disciplines inspectors and deals with complaints against them. The Board is under the umbrella of the NC Department of Insurance which also deals with fire and building code requirements.
  2. Our NC Standards of Practice are similar to those written by the American Society of Home Inspectors. Several rules are somewhat unique to North Carolina. One is the requirement to have a written contract between the inspector and client. Another is the inclusion of an Inspection Summary that lists only the non-functional items, things needing further evaluation, or anything affecting the habitability of the home (including safety concerns). The inspection report must be written and delivered in a timely manner.
  3. Expect the inspector to list problems that you may consider insignificant. It is up to you to make the decision about the importance of the findings. The only exception is when we find something that is an imminent hazard, for example "live", exposed electrical wires or a serious gas leak. In such cases we will take protective action on your behalf.
  4. When you read an inspector's report, expect it to objective, dispassionate and written in what seems like a protective way. You may find that the inspector reminds you again and again that he could not access something or his routine excludes certain things. This is protective language because we want you to understand that our inspections do have limitations. Even great inspectors cannot find every defect, every time.
  5. We inspectors may not be afraid of spiders and snakes, but we worry greatly about overlooking problems that you may assume we should find. So we write our reports in a very guarded way because we are phobic about you concluding that we have been negligent. The stakes are high for us, since you are relying on us to find the costly troubles that could haunt you later. Don't assume that we inspectors have insurance that covers our "errors and omissions". Some of us do; most of us don't. It is not required; it is there to protect the inspector against the crippling cost of a legal claim.
  6. The NC State Statutes that define our Standards of Practice gives the client and the home inspector a benchmark set of rules and limitations to which we both can turn to define what a home inspection is---and is not.

What is the easiest way for people to contact you or your business?

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About The Author

John Woodmansee, NCHI #4 was one of the first licensed Home Inspectors and served for...

Phone: (336) 768-5992

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