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How to Choose a Reliable Home Inspector: An Interview with David J Smith of Home & Stucco Inspections

By David J Smith

Tell us a little about your company and the services you offer.

Home & Stucco Inspections of Georgia, based in Athens, has been inspecting properties across Georgia since 2003; we offer comprehensive home, multi-family, light commercial, and mold inspections. We are also known and utilized across Georgia for our comprehensive stucco and moisture intrusion inspections. I hold the EIFS/stucco industry's two highest certifications for stucco quality control and moisture analysis and testing (EDI and Moisture Free Warranty). Our inspection reports are clear, concise, full of photos and easy-to-understand with detailed explanations of all the buildings major systems and components. Our biggest compliments come from the many testimonials we receive each year from our clients and the realtors who represent them.

What qualifications should all home inspectors have?

In Georgia, a home inspector does not have to be licensed, certified, or even qualified to legally inspect homes. Let me say that again: although a contractor has to hold a contractor's license to build a home, the inspector who inspects the contractor's work for quality control does not have to hold a license or even be certified. Keeping this in mind, here are some qualifications a home should have:
1. At a minimum, the inspector should have been trained and certified by an industry-recognized home inspection school. These schools are usually affiliates of ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors), NACHI (National Association of Certified Home Inspectors) or some other professional organization.
2. The more inspections the inspector has personally performed, the better inspection your likely to get assuming he or she is acting as a true 3rd party unbiased inspector.
3. Code certified inspectors have undergone intensive testing and are among the best in their field, but fewer than 20% of inspectors are code certified.
4. Diversified but relevant experience in addition to professional home inspection training, such as contracting, remodeling, and engineering make a great inspector.

What are some of the best questions for prospective customers to ask before hiring a home inspector?

There are several questions to ask a home inspector you're thinking of hiring:

First and foremost, "what is your experience and credentials?" A good inspector will be able to give you the specifics of his or her schooling, number of inspections personally conducted, and other relevant experience. Second, if you're buying a specialty home such as stucco, a log cabin, or smart home, ensure the inspector is certified or at least familiar with the type home your buying. This one can really hurt you if the uncertified inspector tries to "fake it" through say a stucco inspection. Also bare in mind if you're buying an old home, foreclosure, or distressed home, you may need a mold inspection in addition to a home inspection, so try to get an inspector with multiple certifications to circumvent having to hire multiple inspectors. Also ask for several references; the more the better. If you want to cover all your bases, ask if the inspector is insured and whether they've made any claims. Ask for their website address and do the research yourself to ensure you are hiring a qualified and respected professional to conduct your inspection. The last thing you'll want to ask is price. A good inspector is probably not going to be the cheapest, but the most expensive inspector may not necessarily be the best. Again, do your research. Don't opt for a less experienced inspector just to save $50. It may come back to bite you later on.

How can people judge the quality and reliability of a home inspector they don't know?

Google their name with some other key words such as "inspector in Athens", "stucco inspector in Valdosta", etc. and then try to gain information about the prospective inspector online. Ask to see a sample report from the inspector. This will tell volumes with regard to their professionalism and competency. You can ask your Realtor about the reliability of the inspector, but this is not always helpful since some inspectors try to "please" their referral resources. Likewise, some great inspectors are not liked or referred by the Realtors since they can upset the deal. Try to ask friends or other professionals for a good honest referral. Most good inspectors are affiliated to at least one professional organization such as ICC (International Code Council), ASHI, or NACHI, as well.

Is there generally any type of guarantee or warranty associated with a home inspection?

No, not usually. However, some inspectors do offer satisfaction guarantees where they will refund your money for the inspection if your not happy with the inspection. Most inspectors have disclosures and contracts built into their reports in order to protect themselves, should a system that they said was fine, suddenly break after you move in. And besides, is it really fair to expect an inspector who spent only 2 or 3 hours inspecting a hundred or more systems and components of the home for only a few hundred dollars to warranty the home at no additional charge? There are home warranties out there and some inspectors offer free 90 day home warranties, but is there really anything free? These warranties often have a lot of fine print and disclosures, making the warranty limited in value. The bottom line is do your research, don't scrimp on price, and don't expect to buy a "perfect" home. The home inspector, should however, keep you from purchasing a money pit.

What advice would you give people who need to have a home inspection done as soon as possible?

Ask your Realtor for qualified referrals. Sometimes an inspector will try harder to service a referral source such as the Realtor, and may put you ahead of the line. You may also contact your mortgage lender, closing attorney, or close friend for possible leads and then follow up quickly. The best way to ensure you aren't left scrambling two days before your due diligence period ends is to start looking for an inspector as soon as the contract is signed. Don't expect an inspector to be able to drop everything at the last minute to get your inspection done on time.

What's the best way for people to contact you and/or your company?

The best way to find us in online at www.homeandstuccoinspectionsofga.com. You can also email David Smith personally at Inspectorman2003@aol.com or contact by phone at (706) 248-3596.

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