Before you make your final buying decision, you should have the home inspected by an experienced educated professional in home inspecting. An inspection can alert you to potential problems and allow you to make an informed decision.

Q1. Will your inspection meet recognized standards?
A: Ask whether the inspection and the inspection report will meet all state requirements and comply with a well-recognized standard of practice and code of ethics, such as the one written by the California Real Estate Inspection Association - 'CREIA'. Customers can view CREIA's Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics online at www.creia.org.
Q2. Do you belong to a professional home inspector association?
A: There are many state and national associations for home inspectors, including the one mentioned above. Unfortunately, some groups confer questionable credentials or certifications in return for nothing more than a fee. CREIA is a reputable, nonprofit trade organization; request to see inspectors current membership ID.
Q3. Does the Inspector carry current Errors & Omissions insurance?
A: He should! Ask him to provide current certificate of insurance.
Q4. How experienced are you?
A: Ask how long inspectors have been in the profession and how many inspections they've completed. They should provide customer referrals on request. New inspectors also may be highly qualified, but they should describe their training and let you know whether they plan to work with a more experienced inspector.
Q5. How do you keep your expertise up to date?
A: Inspectors' commitment to continuing education is a good measure of their professionalism and service. Advanced knowledge is especially important in cases in which a home is older or includes unique elements requiring additional or updated training.
Q6. Do you focus on residential inspection?
A: Make sure the inspector has training and experience in the unique discipline of home inspection, which is very different from inspecting commercial buildings or a construction site. If your customers are buying a unique property, such as a historic home, they may want to ask whether the inspector has experience with that type of property in particular.
Q7. Will you offer to do repairs or improvements?
A: Some state laws and trade associations allow the inspector to provide repair work on problems uncovered during the inspection. California Real Estate Inspection Association does not allow its members to do repairs, as it is thought to be a conflict of interest.
Q8. How long will the inspection take?
A: On average, an inspector working alone inspects a typical single-family house in two to three hours; anything significantly less may not be thorough. If you are purchasing an especially large or old property, the inspection time will lengthen to 3-5 or possibly 5-8 hours all depending on square footage, age and condition of the home.
Q9. What's the cost?
A: Notice that one of the most asked questions is #8 and for good reason. Costs can vary dramatically, depending on your region, the size and age of the house, and the scope of services. The national average for single-family homes of 2,000 square feet is about $320, but customers with large or old homes can expect to pay considerably more. Customers should be wary of deals that seem too good to be true. A good inspection isn't cheap and a cheap inspection isn't good!
Q10. What type of inspection report do you provide?
A: Ask to see samples to determine whether you will understand the inspector's reporting style. Also, reputable inspectors do not issue a report on site but compile the report back in their office and most inspectors provide their full report within 24 hours of the inspection.
Q11. Will I be able to attend the inspection?
A: The answer should be yes. A home inspection is a valuable educational opportunity for the buyer. An inspector's refusal to let the buyer attend should raise a red flag.

Interview with Mike Holmes of Holmes Inspection
By Rick Bunzel, ACI

I have to admit that after watching a few episodes of Holmes Inspection I wasn't a big fan. I had to keep reminding myself that this is reality TV and most home inspections are boring to the typical television viewer. Television producers will cherry pick from hours of video to get the juiciest sections to create a show that captivates the audience. In preparation for my interview with Mike Holmes, I went over his background and I have to admit my opinion of him changed. Mike started his first construction company when he was 19. In 2001, he rose to media fame with Holmes on Homes which ran for seven seasons and was broadcast worldwide. In 2006, he started the Holmes Foundation to promote trades to young people and assist the impoverished who have had bad renovations. In 2009, he started the TV shows Holmes Inspection and Mike Holmes Inspection.

Bunzel: Can you tell us how the inspection side of your business came about?
Holmes: The number one complaint from homeowners during the seven seasons of Holmes on Homes was poor home inspections. After we did four different shows that had to address issues missed by home inspectors, we came up with the idea of basing a show around it and Holmes Inspection was created.

Bunzel: Is there such a thing as a perfect home inspection?
Holmes: Absolutely. Most aren't done correctly. Most inspectors don't have the knowledge to do good inspections. The number one step is better education. Two is having the proper background. We need to upgrade the industry. Home inspections should be more thorough and cost more. Most inspectors don't charge enough for their work. I think homebuyers should recruit an inspector before they start looking. Take the Realtor out of the loop. Re-evaluate how it is done. Buyers buy on impulse. Consumer education is key. Charge the right amount of money. The fees for a home inspection should start at $1,000. Inspectors should have tools to look into walls and pipes. On most inspections I do, I use my IR camera and snake camera. When inspectors see renovations they should be checking with the building departments to see if permits were pulled and approved.

Bunzel: As the owner of a multi-inspector company, what do you do to ensure the highest quality inspections?
Holmes: Any inspector we consider must have a background in construction and completed at least 1,000 inspections. We then send them into our training program which includes getting Level 1 IR Certified. We then observe them for 20-30 inspections before they go out on there own. We also have relationships with plumbers, electricians, HVAC and roofers that we can call in on issues where we need to go further. We can afford to do this because our basic inspection starts at $595 for a 2,500 square-foot home and the enhanced inspections (with IR inspection) start at $925.

Bunzel: Most home inspectors perform visual inspections- you routinely go beyond that, why?
Holmes: On the show we are usually going in after the home is purchased and issues are present. Is that realistic in a real estate transaction? No, it is not realistic. However IR and snake cameras can see issues into walls which help.

Bunzel: Do you encourage your inspectors to join professional organizations? Which ones?
Holmes: Yes - there are three in Canada. I encourage my guys to join all of them (the Canadian Association of Home Inspectors, American Society of Home Inspection, and the Ontario Building Inspectors Association).

Bunzel: How do you feel about home inspector licensing?
Holmes: Totally necessary. Licensing brings a minimum level of education and certifications are also key. I would like to see a national license for Canadian home inspectors.

Bunzel: Many home inspectors feel Holmes Inspection is disparaging to home inspectors in general and promotes your own company, how do you respond to them?
Holmes: Holmes on Homes had the same issue. Contractors now appreciate the visibility. I was raising the bar and became a voice of the industry. The same thing is happening here. I am highlighting the fact that there are inspectors out there who don't look deep enough to identify issues that affect people's lives. Home inspectors will come around just as contractors came around.

Bunzel: How do you like being a media star?
Holmes: I appreciate being in the position to educate people on what's right, whether it's how a home should be constructed or how it should be inspected. We are doing some good things here- Skills Canada, Building Initiatives and our Holmes Foundation work.

About the Author Rick Bunzel is the principal inspector with Pacific Crest Inspections and an ASHI Certified Inspector #249557. He holds a BA in Business Marketing. He is past Chair of the Marketing and Public Relations Committees for a national home inspection organization. Locally, he Chairs the North Puget Sound Board of Realtor's Communications Committee and is a firefighter/ EMT with the Mt. Erie Fire Department in Anacortes, WA.