Several factors can affect the cost of your home inspection. Here are a few:
Local market: Like any other business, home inspectors need to pay attention to what the competition is charging and set their prices accordingly. That being said, in every market there is the “$199 inspector” who will undercut everyone else to get the work. More about choosing an inspector strictly based on price a little later. In the Richmond, VA market, home inspections generally start around $300.00.
The inspector’s training and experience: Experienced and well-trained inspectors may charge a bit more than the new guy who is just starting out.
The inspector’s pricing structure: How does the inspector determine their fees? Some inspectors do it by square footage. For example, a house between 1200 – 1500 square feet might cost $350.00 to inspect. Other inspectors may charge extra for inspecting a crawl space or detached outbuilding with electricity.
Add-on services: Services such as radon testing (which by the way IS NOT a required part of a home inspection in Virginia), mold sampling, and sewer scope inspection are offered by some home inspectors and will obviously add to the cost of your inspection.
The inspector’s service area: Most home inspectors don’t mind driving, but if the job is outside their normal service area a mileage fee may be added to the base price.
Dos and Don’ts:
Conclusion: Shop carefully, choose wisely, and hire the home inspector who will get you and your family off to a great start in your new home!
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Here is some information to help you understand your home inspection agreement.
Minimum requirements (see Part IV, Section 120):
Some of the items that a Virginia home inspection should contain are: (1) A listing of all areas and systems to be inspected, including those inspections that are either partial or limited in scope. (2) A statement that the home inspection does not include a review for compliance with regulatory requirements (Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code or other codes, regulations, laws, ordinances, etc.) (3) Any exclusions or exceptions, such as the condition of systems or components that are not readily accessible, the remaining life of any system or component, the causes of any condition or deficiency, and predicting future conditions or failure of any system or components.
I strongly suggest that you click on the above link to see all of the items that Virginia home inspection agreements are required to have. This will better prepare you to understand your agreement and reduce the likelihood of unpleasant surprises.
Additional language and requirements: Most liability insurance carriers that work with home inspectors require additional liability and coverage-specific language to be in the inspection agreement. This is to protect the inspector from frivolous complaints and help the client set and manage reasonable expectations.
Timing: Most, if not all, liability insurance carriers will not cover the inspector unless the inspection agreement is signed before the inspection begins. Most inspectors use software programs that allow them to email the agreement to the client ahead of time so the client can read the agreement and call with any questions. The program I use, ISN (Inspection Support Network) allows the client to sign the agreement digitally and receive a copy for their records.
1. Read your inspection agreement thoroughly (I can’t stress this enough).
2. Don’t stress over the language.
3. Don’t alter or modify the agreement.
4. Don’t hesitate to contact your inspector with questions or concerns. They should be willing to help you understand what you are signing.
Conclusion: The home inspection agreement is an important part of the inspection process. Reading and understanding your inspection agreement will help you have a less stressful inspection and get a jump start on enjoying your new home.
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Standards of Practice from the Commonwealth of Virginia establish the minimum standards for a home inspection in Virginia. The two primary professional associations for home inspectors, InterNACHI (International Association of Certified Home Inspectors) and ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors), also have Standards of Practice which govern their individual members.
The “How We’re Different” page on our website has a link to the Virginia and InterNACHI Standards of Practice as well as a slideshow with photos from some of our inspections.
In addition to what the inspector should do, the standards note some things the inspector is NOT required to do as part of the inspection. A diligent inspector who wants to protect themselves from liability and help you manage expectations should note limitations and exclusions in the inspection agreement, which should always be signed before the inspection.
So this means all home inspections are done exactly the same, right? Yes and no. “Yes” in that the inspector should at a minimum check the areas and components that are spelled out in the Standards of Practice. “No” in that some inspectors adhere strictly to the SOP and others choose to go beyond them. For example, the InterNACHI SOP only requires the inspector to check a “representative number” of electrical outlets and switches. Most inspectors check every accessible outlet and switch for obvious reasons. If the inspector chooses to exceed the SOP, it should be done consistently and never in a way that exceeds the inspector’s knowledge or skill level. The choice of whether or not to exceed the minimum standards is one each inspector must make for themselves.
If you’re considering hiring a certain inspector, check out their sample report (hopefully they have one) and see how it stacks up against the Standards of Practice. As we suggested in our February, 2022 blog post “How to Hire the Right Home Inspector,” you can call them and ask some questions. Any home inspector who wants your business should be happy to talk about their process with you.
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What are anti-tip brackets and why are they needed?
Anti-tip brackets are small metal devices designed to prevent freestanding ranges from tipping. They are normally attached to a rear leg of the range or screwed into the wall behind the range. A unit that is not equipped with these devices may tip over if enough weight is applied to its open door, such as that from a large Thanksgiving turkey, or even a small child. A falling range can crush, scald, or burn anyone caught beneath.
According to the 2021 Product Instability Report by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were some 900 tip-over incidents involving appliances, including ranges and stoves. 28 of those incidents involved fatalities, most of them children. Out of curiosity, a small child might stand on an open range door in order to see what is cooking on the stovetop and accidentally cause the entire unit to fall on top of him, along with whatever hot items may have been cooking on the stovetop. The elderly also may be injured while using the range for support while cleaning.
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) created standards in 1991 that require all ranges manufactured after that year to be capable of remaining stable while supporting 250 pounds of weight on their open doors.
InterNACHI-certified inspectors are trained to look for and confirm proper installations of an anti-tip bracket on free-standing ranges.
The inspector may be able to see a wall-mounted bracket by looking over the rear of the range. For ranges with removable drawers, the drawers can be removed and a flashlight used to search for the bracket. A visual confirmation does not guarantee that the bracket has been properly installed.
To determine if the bracket is properly installed and connected, the inspector can firmly grip the upper-rear section of the range and tip the unit. If equipped with an anti-tip bracket and the bracket is properly installed and connected, the unit should not tip more than several inches before coming to a halt. Before tipping the range, the appliance should be turned off and all items removed from the stovetop. This test can be performed on all models and it can confirm the functionality of a bracket.
If no anti-tip bracket is detected or a bracket is present but improperly installed, the inspector should recommend that proper correction or installation is made.
Clients can contact the dealer or builder who installed their range and request that they install a bracket. For those who wish to install a bracket themselves, the part can be purchased at most hardware stores or ordered from a manufacturer.
Anti-tip brackets are an important and inexpensive tool to help homeowners keep their loved ones safe. Your InterNACHI inspector is trained to confirm the presence and proper functioning of the anti-tip device in your kitchen.
There is no “one size fits all” answer. Here are some factors that can affect the duration of your inspection:
Size and layout of the house:
A smaller house will usually take less time to inspect. A house with an unusual floor plan may take a little longer because the inspector will want to ensure they are not overlooking any of the rooms.
Condition of the house:
Regardless of size, an empty house in good condition may take less time than a house that is packed with furniture and personal belongings or a home that is in poor condition.
Inclement weather can slow things down a little. For example, during one of our inspections it began raining heavily, so I waited until the rain stopped before inspecting the roof. It was worth the wait because the rainfall alerted me to several roof leaks as well as a leak in the ceiling of one of the bedrooms.
It is understandable that the client wants to be at the inspection and I’m fine with that. I help my clients help me by talking with them before the inspection and tactfully explaining that by allowing me to work uninterrupted, the inspection will not take too long. I encourage them to make a note of any concerns and where they are located, and save their comments or questions until we get to that location and then we can discuss. That keeps the client involved without breaking my flow and dragging out the inspection.
Newer inspectors may take longer because they are still in the learning curve and want to get it right (which is a good thing). If contractors or workmen are on-site that can add to the length of the inspection.
Taking into account the above factors, most home inspections will take between two and four hours to complete. We allow at least three hours per inspection, but in every instance take the time needed to do a thorough job. Quality is always job #1 with us.
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There is a great deal of discussion among home inspectors about whether or not to get on the roof during a home inspection. Some inspectors feel that you cannot do a thorough and proper inspection without getting on the roof and they are entitled to their opinion. My goal here is simply to provide some insight as to why some inspectors choose not to walk on the roof.
Getting on the roof – Positives and negatives:
Is the inspector required to get on the roof during an inspection?
Here are excerpts from the Standards of Practice for the three organizations that Virginia home inspectors answer to: (1) International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) – “The inspector is not required to walk on any roof surface.” (2) American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) – ASHI Standards of Practice only state that the inspector is required to inspect the roof system, nothing more. (3) Commonwealth of Virginia – “The method of inspecting the roof covering shall be noted and explained in the home inspection report. If the roof covering cannot be inspected, the licensee shall explain in the home inspection report why this component was not inspected.”
None of the Standards of Practice require the home inspector to get on the roof. It is a personal choice made by the individual inspector.
But there is one more thing to consider. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of four feet in general industry workplaces, five feet in shipyards, six feet in the construction industry and eight feet in longshoring operations. So as I read that requirement, the home inspector who climbs on the roof without fall protection would be in violation of OSHA regulations (unless you have a roof that is less than four feet from the ground). I have had inspectors become angry with me and insist that the OSHA regulations do not apply to home inspectors. I respectfully asked them to provide proof of such an exception, and I’m still waiting.
Methods for inspecting the roof without getting on it:
(1) Binoculars from ground level (2) Ladder placed at roof edge (3) Drone (4) Extension pole with wireless camera (5) Upper-level windows looking down on lower-level roof surface. The savvy inspector uses a combination of these methods to get the job done. I have two extension poles, one 24-foot and one 30-foot, and have achieved excellent results using the extension pole with a wireless digital camera. I can zoom in on plumbing vents, flashing and individual shingles to get great photos. I’ve had more than one client and realtor comment on the “cool pole” or ask how I got such great roof shots when I didn’t get on the roof.
A word of caution about drones – if you hire an inspector who uses a drone, confirm that they are properly licensed through the FAA and have the appropriate insurance coverage.
The inspector can also tell a lot about what is going on with the exterior of the roof by doing a thorough inspection of the attic interior. For example, water stains on the roof decking inside the attic may alert the inspector to problems on the exterior roof surface.
In my humble opinion, it is possible to do a proper and adequate roof inspection without getting on the roof. Don’t refuse to hire an inspector just because they don’t walk on roofs. And don’t hire one just because they do.
Single-strand aluminum wiring was sometimes used in place of copper for electrical branch circuit wiring in residential construction between the mid-1960’s and mid-1970’s. Since about 1973, use of single-strand aluminum wiring has largely ceased due to problems with the material.
Problems with single-strand aluminum wiring
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), homes wired with aluminum wire manufactured before 1972 are 55 times more likely to have one or more connections reach "fire hazard conditions" than a home wired with copper.
Some of the common problems with single-strand aluminum wiring are: (1) Electrical current vibrates as it passes through wiring. This vibration is more extreme in aluminum than it is in copper and over time can cause connections to loosen. (2) Aluminum wire is more susceptible to oxidation than copper wire. The aluminum oxide formed by the oxidation process can deteriorate connections and present a fire hazard. (3) Aluminum is more susceptible to fatigue and failure from bending and other forms of abuse than copper. Metal fatigue causes the aluminum wire to break down internally and increases the wire’s resistance to electrical current, leading to a buildup of excessive heat. (4) Contact with moisture or dissimilar metals can cause the aluminum to corrode. (5) Single-strand aluminum wiring can be damaged by over-tightening screws that connect the wiring to breakers or other electrical components. The wire will continue to deform even after the tightening has ceased and this creates a loose connection and increases electrical resistance in that location.
Identifying Aluminum Wiring
Standards of Practice for the Commonwealth of Virginia and the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) require the home inspector to report on single-strand, solid conductor aluminum branch-circuit wiring, if observed by the home inspector.
One clue for the inspector will be the age of the house. Homes built or expanded between 1965 and 1973 are more likely to have aluminum wiring than houses built before or after those years. On visible sections of wiring, the plastic wire jacket may be marked with the word “aluminum," the initials "AL," or a specific brand name, such as "Kaiser Aluminum."
Evaluation and corrective action
Aluminum wiring should be evaluated by a qualified licensed electrician who is experienced in evaluating and correcting aluminum wiring problems. Not all licensed electricians are properly trained to deal with defective aluminum wiring.
Aluminum wiring can be a fire hazard due to inherent qualities of the metal. Inspectors may suggest that their clients talk with their insurance agents about whether the presence of aluminum wiring in the client's home is an issue that would require changes to their policy language.
Call us – we’ve got experience in locating and identifying single-strand aluminum wiring.
Polybutylene piping, also known as PB or Poly B, is a plastic material used for water service and distribution piping. PB piping was used in houses from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s. PB service pipe is often blue but may also be black. Distribution pipe is usually blue-gray in color but cream color is possible, especially in early installations. PB piping can sometimes be identified by the marking “PB 2110.” The PB piping in the photograph was distribution piping in the crawl space of a house we inspected.
Reported problems: Some PB piping from the 1980s was prone to leakage at the fittings, with the blame placed on design / manufacturing defects or faulty installation. A class action lawsuit regarding PB was settled in the 1990s and settlement funds have been exhausted. PB piping is known to degrade when exposed to sunlight and chlorine in the water will weaken the tubing walls. Later versions of PB are usually less problematic.
Are Virginia home inspectors required to look for polybutylene piping? Not according to Standards of Practice from the Commonwealth of Virginia, InterNACHI (International Association of Certified Home Inspectors) and ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors). The InterNACHI SOP specifically lists PB piping as an item the inspector is not required to look for and the other two SOPs do not mention PB at all. All three SOPs require the inspector to inspect the plumbing system so hopefully the presence of PB piping will be noted.
Will my inspector look for and report on polybutylene piping? It depends on the inspector you hire. Nothing in the SOPs prohibits the inspector from looking for or reporting on PB piping. This is one of the questions you can ask your prospective home inspector when you interview them. At Premier Inspections LLC we search for PB piping on every inspection. We’ve done inspections where PB piping had been replaced but the PB fittings left in place. We had to look a little harder, but we found the PB fittings and alerted our client.
What will my inspector say if they find polybutylene piping? Again, it depends on the individual inspector. First of all, the inspector needs to be able to recognize PB piping and confirm that it is indeed PB before they call it out as such. If the inspector is not careful (or is inexperienced) they could confuse polybutylene piping with blue PEX plastic water piping. Inspection report comments for PB piping vary widely from inspector to inspector. Here are our comments when we find PB piping during an inspection: (1) ATTENTION - MONITOR: Monitor closely for change in condition and need of repair by qualified licensed plumber. Polybutylene piping or fittings. Some early versions of polybutylene piping developed leaks because of defects with the pipe material. No evidence of leaking at time of inspection. In addition to close monitoring, recommend evaluation by a qualified licensed plumber. (2) ACTION - REPAIR: Recommend repair by a qualified licensed plumber. Polybutylene piping or fittings with active leak at time of inspection. PB piping and fittings from some manufacturers developed leaks because of defects with the pipe material and fittings. Determining if this particular piping and fittings was materially defective is beyond the scope of this inspection.
In all instances the inspector should be seeking to educate the client, not alarm them.
Conclusion: Having PB piping in your home is not the end of the world. It just needs to be closely monitored or repaired, whichever is appropriate.
The home inspector did a great inspection and you were happy. But as time passed, you began to notice things in the house that the inspection report didn’t mention. So you call your inspector and after telling them what is going on, ask “why didn’t you see that?”
Our last blogpost, “What Did You Expect,” talked about the importance of managing expectations. But sometimes despite the best efforts of all concerned, issues are discovered after the inspection that may make it seem as if the home inspector didn’t do a good job. Here are some things to consider when those “why didn’t you see that?” issues come up:
Conclusion: When issues are discovered post-inspection, the inspector and client should be willing to listen to each other and discuss the issues calmly and reasonably. The objective is to do the right thing for everyone involved.
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Managing expectations is one of the most important parts of a home inspection. Failing to help clients set and manage their expectations can cause problems for both client and home inspector.
What a home inspection is – A limited, visual, non-invasive examination of the condition of a home as it was on the date of inspection. Let’s break this down:
What a home inspection is not:
How the home inspector can help the client manage their expectations. (1) Have a clear understanding of what the client’s expectations are. Ask questions to clarify and confirm details. (2) Discuss the client’s expectations and clarify what will happen during the home inspection. The home inspector needs to be patient, diplomatic and a good listener. Ensure that the client understands what will and what will not be done as part of the inspection. Document any conversations for the protection of all parties. (3) The inspection agreement should clearly set out what is and what is not covered in the inspection. For example, the client may think that the home inspection will automatically include mold, termite, and radon testing. The savvy inspector should make every reasonable effort to ensure the client reads and understands the inspection agreement. (4) The inspector’s website should have a link to the applicable Standards of Practice the inspector works under. Some inspectors also have a link to SOP in their reports.
Conclusion: Helping clients to manage their expectations will help them have a better inspection experience and reduce the likelihood of complaints for the home inspector.
Call us – We’d be happy to help you have a great home inspection experience!