|Integrity Engineering, LLC||P.O. Box 3350||7809 Wellington Ave., Margate NJ 08402||Phone/fax (888) 272-6999|
The home I am buying was just built. Why do I need a home inspection?
Many buyers of new or recently built homes believe that since the home they are buying was inspected by local code officials, that the home is free of defects. Actually, I find that many new homes have more problems than well-maintained older ones. This is due to two reasons: First, the code officials are extremely busy and cannot spend the time they would like to thoroughly inspect the home's construction - code inspections average 10-15 minutes. Second, A new home, like a new car, may look good on the outside, but it needs to be run through its paces. A code inspector checks to see that the building and its components are installed according to the building code, while a home inspector visually inspects and components, appliances and systems for function and safety.
My Realtor did not include you on the list of inspectors they recommend. Why?
Not being on the Realtor's "short list" may be as simple as the agent not being familiar with my work, or a concern that as an engineer, I may be to technically exhaustive and perhaps jeopardize the successful conclusion of their real estate deal. Or, with large real estate agencies, the Corporate office may provide to their local branches a list of "preferred" home inspection companies, which are often national franchises who market heavily to the big real estate players.I am also aware of some inspectors who offer financial or other incentives for agent referrals or as a reward for pushing them (a practice that is prohibited by NJ law), a highly unethical practice which I do not subscribe to. While the extra business resulting from real estate agent referrals would be nice, my clients appreciate my independence as I am not beholden to anyone except the client.
What are your fees for a home inspection?
My professional service fees are based on the size of the property, which is the fairest method, although perhaps not the easiest to remember. For a thorough home inspection, detailed report and continuing service after completion, I charge a base fee of $300 plus $50 per bedroom for single family homes or townhouses, where there is no condo fee assessed. So, for example a 3-bedroom home inspection would be $450. Two unit buildings like townhouses, duplexes and side-by-sides are generally handled the same as single family homes, since defects in any areas designated as "common" such as the roof and foundation would be an issue between both unit owners with typically no reserve fund for repair or replacement (such as fee-based condo asociations).
For condominiums where an association fee is assessed, my fee is $250 plus $25 per bedroom - a reduced fee since common elements such as heating system, exterior components, hot water heater and often other items are the association's financial responsibility. As an example, a 2-bedroom condo inspection would be $300. For a list of my fees, click here.
How long do your inspections take on-site?
Of course it varies due to size, complexity, and age of the home, but the range is about 1 1/2 hours for a 1-bedroom condo to 4 1/2 hours for a 5-bedroom single family home. And, when clients accompany me, something I encourage, inspections take longer because I take the time to explain and educate.
Some inspectors will provide a report on-the-spot when they finish the inspection. Do you?
It is not to your benefit to be given a finished report immediately upon the conclusion of the inspection, however beneficial it may be to the inspector to offer this service. Inspectors who want to do as many inspections as they can in a day prefer to punch out reports on site, whether a simple checklist or a heavily standardized computer-produced report. I prefer to give value to my clients by going the extra mile. I merge annotated digital photos into my reports to clearly identify the items being reported so you can fully understand the item identified. I will also contact municipal code officials when appropriate, equipment vendors, or experts in particular issues following an inspection to clarify items and provide better advice. My reports are completed either the same day or the following morning, which will be more than sufficient for ample review prior to presentation to the seller. Of course, I am always available to summarize a list of my findings verbally upon completion of the inspection, prior to providing the final inspection report.
Some inspectors I have found charge less than you. Can you give me a price break?
Except in unusual cases, such as when clients do not wish a full inspection, or when I work with clients who do repeat business with me, I do not negotiate my fees. This is because (1) my inspection fee is priced fairly using a scaled (based on number of bedrooms) rather than a flat fee, (2) as a NJ licensed inspector I incur additional costs, including errors and ommission insurance, licensing fees, and the cost (in time and tuition) of 40 hours of mandated continuing education, and (3) my service is highly personal, including customizing my reports with photos, and encouraging client participation in the inspection. My typical 3 bedroom home inspection takes 3 hours plus an additional two hours in report preparation. Keep in mind that "volume" home inspectors will price lower so that they can churn out 3-4 inspections a day, using simple checklists, discouraging time-consuling client participation, and taking little time for followup.
Do home inspectors need to be licensed?
Yes. In New Jersey, effective 12/31/05, all home inspectors operating in the state must be licensed. However, the state indicated that as a consequence of the timing of the enactment of recent changes to the licensing law, they will not actively pursue unlicensed home inspectors until April 26, 2006. Home inspectors currently practicing without a license risk prosecution, the invalidation of their insurance coverage by their insurance carrier, and place their clients and referring real estate agents at risk. So, when you select a home inspector, verify that the home inspector you are considering is licensed. Click here for the most recent state-published list of home inspectors.
One home inspector presented himself as "certified". Does this mean he is licensed?
Certified does not imply licensed. Licensed inspectors have to meet stringent state requirements, must have a minimum amount of E&O insurance, take continuing education courses, and maintain a high ethical standard of practice. While there are excellent inspectors out there who are certified, the certification requirements for organizations and franchises varies. And, being certified has no bearing on whether the state will approve a license application.
Do I need a professional engineer to do a home inspection?
No. New Jersey's home inspection licensing law will permit anyone meeting the state licensing requirement to be a home inspector. About 15% of NJ licensed home inspectors are professional engineers, of which I am one. There are some excellent home inspectors who learned their profession with hand-on construction trades experience. Likewise, there are many engineers who, with their specific technical training, advanced education, and experience, can bring skills to the inspection process that many clients find are an important advantage, especially when they are spending many hundreds of thousands of dollars on a property.
My real estate agent thinks an engineer will "over-analyze" the property's condition. Is your report overly technical or complicated?
Despite my technical background and experience, my inspection report is designed to educate and make clients understand and feel comfortable with the condition of the property I am inspecting, not confuse or scare them with technical jargon. I use photos to assist in this understanding. My inspections are not technically exhaustive evaluations, as they conform to the state Standards of Practice for visual home inspections.
As an engineer, do you perform structural inspections along with your home inspections?
Although I am a consulting engineer with a civil engineering degree, I choose not to perform structural inspections in addition to home inspections. By state law, a structural inspection must be performed outside the home inspection function as a separate service and with separate agreement. Engineering inspections involve a different insurance risk than home inspections, so I would not be covered by my home inspection insurance policy if I were to perform these additional services. Othewise, I would be obliged to carry separate engineering errors and omissions insurance having an annual premium ($20,000+) that would far exceed the fees generated from part-time structural inspection work. So, if I determine through visual inspection that a further engineering evaluation is warranted, I will so note in my inspection report, and can, upon request, provide you the names of some highly qualified local structural engineers who can meet your needs in this area.
Do you perform mold inspections along with your home inspections?
Like structural inspections, mold inspections require alternate insurance and are a completely separate function from home inspections. I have attained certification as a mold inspector through the Environmental Solutions Association, but I choose at this time not to perform mold inspections as a service. I believe it is important for me to understand mold and recognize the conditions that promote mold growth, which makes me better able to identify problems in a home as part of my home inspection service. However, I am required to disclaim mold in my inspection reports as a condition for maintaining my home inspection E&O insurance. If I see evidence of fungal growth, I will recommend that you seek the services of a qualified mold inspection services company that can properly test for the presence of mold and offer remediation recommendations should it be found.
Some home inspectors advertise they are members of ASHI. Are you?
No. ASHI is a fine national organization with high standards of practice for members and a stringent Standards of Practice. There are several other national home inspector organizations as well. As a NJ licensed home inspector, I follow, and often exceed, the mandated New Jersey Standards of Practice which are derived from, and virtually identical to, ASHI's standards. Rather than joining ASHI, however, I choose to belong to the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI), which is a fast-growing grass-roots organization with a dedicated membership committed to supporting its fellow members through sharing of experiences, education, training and other areas. For more information on NACHI, visit www.nachi.org.
Isaac G. Lilienfeld, PE, CEM, NJ Licensed Home Inspector serving Margate, Egg Harbor Township, Brigantine, Ventnor, Longport, Atlantic City, Somers Point, Linwood, Northfield, Sea Isle City, Avalon, Stone Harbor, Wildwood, Mays Landing and Cape May