Home Inspectors and Home Inspections The Once-Over

In the 1940s comedy, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House,a wealthy ad executive played by Cary Grant hires a famous bridge and tunnel engineer to look over his new house in the country; as it turns out, the "dream house" is more trouble than it was worth—but that's just Hollywood. To buy a condo or townhome, you might not have to go to the extreme of a Hollywood movie, but it's become de rigueur to get a professional's advice before the papers are signed and the sale finalized, to make sure the property is structurally sound and free of unseen problems that would likely cause you headaches after the ink dries.

Enter the professional home inspector. In the late '70s and '80s home inspection emerged as a new profession, and nowadays, getting a professional home inspection is a must, not only for buyers who want to make intelligent decisions, but also for an increasing number of sellers.

Inspect To Protect

In New Jersey, home inspectors are licensed by the Home Inspector advisory committee. According to the New Jersey State Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors—the advisory committee's parent body—new home inspectors must have spent a year in training as "associate home inspectors," and must have done 250 inspections under the supervision of a full-fledged inspector. The rules allow for longtime home inspectors to be "grandfathered" in.

According to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), while home inspectors can come from any professional background, the organization's Web site (www.ashi.com) says that past experience in engineering, architecture or construction is a plus for inspectors, as well as good communication skills, good computer skills, and familiarity with real estate practices and building codes.

How do you find a home inspector? Through referrals from real estate agents, friends and attorneys, through the Yellow Pages, and, increasingly, online. "I get most of my business through the Internet," says Frank Tiedeken of Engineering Inspection Service in Wall.

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