HGTV has given us some great shows. One of our current favorites is Holmes on Homes. Holmes is THE knight in shining armour who swoops in to rescue distressed homeowners from shoddy work and unscrupulous contractors. He does a fair amount of detective work and he really knows his stuff.
Most of his efforts focus on rehab projects and he uncovers a lot of problems along the way. This kind of detective work is informative and certainly entertaining to watch, but one downside is that many viewers now make assumptions about home inspections in general and inspectors in particular during the buying process.
We’ve asked our inspector, Michael Dominianni of Cornerstone Home Inspections a few questions to help us understand the initial inspection process a bit more…
Michael, what is the main purpose of a home inspection?
The purpose of the home inspection is to make the buyer aware of their purchase. It is an education process. The inspector spends between 2 and 3 hours looking over the home, its structure and its mechanics. Often a wood destroying insect inspection (sometimes referred to as a termite inspection) and a radon test are also performed as part of the service. The prospective buyer is encouraged to follow the inspector around while providing tips on maintenance, repairs needed, safety issues and environmental concerns. At the very least the buyer will be able to spend those hours familiarizing themselves with the home that they may have only spent 15 minutes looking at previously.
What is the greatest misconception potential buyers have about your job or inspections in general?
Most buyers think the inspector can “foresee the future”. They also are prejudiced with TV shows like…”Holmes on Homes” that often indicate the inspector is inspecting to a Municipal Code or that the inspector should remove wall surfaces or dismantle part of the home to find its defects. Home inspections, especially in New Jersey, are highly regulated. There are Standards and Practices that the Home Inspector must follow to perform the inspection. The inspections are visual inspections and not technically exhaustive. Another misconception is that the Home Inspector will provide you with estimates for repairs. The Inspector is not a contractor and is not allowed or qualified to give an estimate. He is prohibited from performing repairs according to his license.
What are the biggest red flags that you typically uncover for home buyers?
Foundation failures and water issues rate at the top of most peoples concerns and are common issues found in many homes. When a buyer is looking at a home, they should be looking for musty smells and stains in the basement. If possible, try looking behind finished wall surfaces that may be visible in the basement. Water lines are a dead give away along with musty odors. Horizontal foundation cracks are most concerning. While no one wants cracks in their foundation. Horizontal cracks can mean the foundation is caving inward or outward. They should be further evaluated by an inspector or structural engineer.
What is your funniest or weirdest home inspection story?
While inspecting a fireplace on a vacant property, I was surprised by an uninvited guest. I opened the fireplace damper door to examine the flue. To my surprise, a family of raccoons was sleeping and woke up staring me ( about 1′ away from my face). I screamed and ran from the fireplace, but had to then return to close the damper door so the raccoon could not enter the living room.
Thanks Michael! Folks, tune in next week for another Q&A from another industry professional…