WBRC FOX6 On Your Side Investigation: Putting home inspectors to the test

WBRC FOX6 On Your Side Investigation: Putting home inspectors to the test

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - It’s one of the most important and expensive decisions you’ll ever make, and often a home inspector is the last set of eyes standing between you and what could be your dream home.

You pay hundreds of dollars for a home inspector to give your potential purchase a top to bottom checkup in a matter of hours, but how good are they at catching problems?

“We often find they miss big big things,” says Kevin Brasler, Executive Editor at Checkbook.org. “We see that in the feedback we get.”

The consumer advocacy group put a dozen home inspectors to the test by finding, and in some cases creating, 28 problems in a test home, then letting each inspector have at it, with hidden cameras capturing the action.

None of the dozen inspectors caught every problem, but that’s not what bothers Brasler.

“It wasn’t that the inspectors missed things, it wasn’t that they missed what I thought were sometimes obvious things like a leak we created under the sink,” Brasler says. “If they’d just run the water for 5 seconds instead of 1 second and turning it on and off, they would’ve spotted the leak.”

In one case, an inspector walked right past a moldy basement wall on his way to the furnace, missing the potentially major problem.

“It can’t test you for being rigorous or conscientious, and that’s the big problem we had,” Brasler says. “Yeah, it may have been the inspectors who did lousy inspections for us had the knowledge, they just didn’t bother applying it, they didn’t bother putting in the work. Our feeling is if you’re paying $500 for a home inspection, then open and shut every window. That was really what was frustrating for us is they didn’t do the little things.”

“Good home inspectors will be very structured,” says Birmingham-based home inspector Jim Waddell of AB Home Inspections. “We’re going to go through the electrical system in an organized fashion, just like we do the plumbing and insulation, and pretty much everything we can in the house through that 4 hour period.”

Waddell says there’s no replacement for experience, and that’s why he’s glad the state is stepping up its requirements for new home inspectors. Starting next year, new home inspectors in Alabama will have to go on 35 ride-alongs with seasoned veterans and do at least 14 hours of continuing education.

“It helps an average inspector be a good inspector and a good inspector be a great inspector,” says Waddell.

So how can you make sure you're entrusting this major decision to the right person?

“Ask a co-worker, Hey where did you get your home inspector and were you happy with it?” Waddell suggests.

“Ask for sample reports,” is Brasler’s suggestion. “The best home inspectors will gladly show you previous reports they’ve done. They can show you work they typically do for other customers for houses like yours, and a really long, thorough report, it’ll be evident when you compare the report.”

The State of Alabama’s Building Commission keeps a database of licensed home inspectors here where you can search your inspector’s records to make sure they’re licensed and see the requirements.

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