PODCAST - Buying a Home: How a Home Inspection Works

PODCAST - Buying a Home: How a Home Inspection Works








Have you ever wondered what happens in a home inspection?

In this episode, I interview Scott Hodgson of The Full Storey Residential Home Inspections. Our team has worked with Scott and his dad, Mark, for many years as our go-to home inspection team.

We talk about what a home inspection actually entails, certifications and regulations required, tools of the trade, home maintenance tips, how to get the most out of working with a home inspector on your purchase or listing, and more.




NICK: Scott, What does a home inspectors day look like?


SCOTT: So for me, we like to get to the house a little bit early. Both myself and my dad, who conducts the inspections, prefer to show up about 15 to 20 minutes early, get a good feel for the house, walk around the outside, and get up on the roof. You know, from working with us, you usually show up and we're pretty close to finishing the outside. So that's how we like to start our inspections.

We like our clients to follow along with us as we go through. And after that, we get into the basement, we start getting into the electrical panel, furnace, hot water tank, the structure. A lot of the basements are finished, so we don't get a great look at the foundation, but we have different tools to help us along with that.


Tell us a little bit more about those tools.

So, we use moisture meters down in the basement, in which you put the meter up against the wall and it reads a little bit in behind the drywall for moisture. Usually, you get about between 5 and 12 to 13% moisture readings, and that's stable material, okay. If you're looking at wood products for hardwood floor installs, stuff like that, around 8% to 10% is what they look for to be installed, so that's not an alarming number. When you get into the 20 to 50, 60, 70%, that's when we start looking a little bit closer at things.

So, for the moisture scans, we do the entire basement. If it's just a regular foundation that we can see, we don't typically scan the foundation because you're able to put your eyes on it rather than try to read them behind the material. The moisture meters also have a probe setting, which allows us to poke into spots if one, we’re allowed to, and two if we have to dig a little bit further. So it gives us a pinpoint, which we'll use in ceiling stains and stuff like that.

We do electrical testing of all the outlets that we can gain access to. We open up the furnace. We open up the electrical panel and continue through the basement until we're finished answering all the clients questions.

Moving on to the main floor, and on the main floor we're opening windows, we're doing ceiling scans with a flashlight, continuing with electrical testing, checking over the floors.

In a home inspection, we generally don't pay attention to minor cosmetics. So if you're into paint chips or scratches on the floor, unless they're really major, our scope of work is to give you an idea of what's wrong with the house. Not only that, but talk about regular maintenance items.

Going back down to the basement, we try to point out water shut offs. We explain different ways breakers get reset. We try to give people a good idea of how their house functions as a whole instead of just pointing out issues that are going on.

So, jumping back upstairs, we have a tool called an infrared camera. So infrared thermography shows temperature differences. And basically, when pointed at a wall, it can show you moisture, missing insulation, a couple of other different things, but you'd need to have that temperature difference. If it's 30 degrees outside and 28 degrees in the house, you're not going to get a good contrast. So coming into this time of year or houses that are air conditioned through the summer, they give us a good contrast to use that tool effectively through the main floor, upper floor, and scanning ceilings where the attic is.

The second floor is a lot like the main floor on a two story house where we're into window testing, we're into electrical testing. We turn on all the taps. We check toilets to make sure there's no leaking. We look underneath sinks, and then we finish up the inspection in the attic.

We look for any rodent infestation in the attic, we look for moisture, water staining on the sheeting, make sure roofs aren't leaking. We check insulation levels, we look for different types of insulation as well. Asbestos, things like that that can be hiding up under layers of insulation. It's common practice for us, even in houses built up to the 1980s, to dig right down to the vapor barrier to make sure there's nothing hiding underneath there. That's pretty much a home inspection in a five minute spiel.


Now, for somebody who's never done it before, how long should a home inspection last? How long do they usually take? Say a three bedroom townhome, which might be a common thing that somebody's buying as their first home.


So, if I'm doing them by myself, a three bedroom townhome, I mean, if I'm doing it with no clients, it's about an hour and a half. It depends on the client because some will have more questions than others. I would say two to two and a bit hours for a townhouse, two to 3 hours for a single family home.

But like I said, with the clients following us around, we've had inspections where they don't have many questions or there's not a whole lot going on with the house and we're done in an hour 45. There's other ones, the same house with a different client, if they have more questions, they're learning as they go, we spend a little bit more time with regular maintenance, furnace, filters, stuff like that, it can take two and a half, 3 hours.


And I've been on both of those with you guys, with both types of clients, but that's good. And one of the things that, again, that I do really like working with you guys is that you welcome those questions. You welcome having the buyers come along with you and you answer in enough detail so that the new home buyer is satisfied and they have a little bit more comfort knowing what they're going to get into.

Now, my next question is, what is different about a home inspection from what a lot of people think it is. Now, I'll start this by saying a lot of people in their first home inspection want to know whether the home has passed or failed a home inspection. And I always tell clients, we're not there for that, really what Scott and Mark are going to do is they're going to go through the home with you and they're going to give you a list of every problem that they can find that's not cosmetic. And then you guys can have a talk about what you want to do about it.


Yup, and you're absolutely right from when my dad started doing this years and years ago, there's no pass or fail for us. I mean, there are different houses where our comfort level is not the same, and we will tell clients that we're not overly comfortable with you moving ahead with this purchase. But I mean, it's all up to the client. It's their tolerance level.

We've had clients where they are going, “Yeah we plan on owning this house for five years and then tearing it down, so we know the foundation is in rough shape, but we're okay with that.”. And we've also had clients go, "Absolutely not, asbestos around the heating ducts? I'm moving on." And that's perfectly fine.

It's their investment, right. So within the inspection, like you said, we tell them everything that we can find. I think one common misconception is we're able to find everything. We're limited with the amount of time in the house, we're not allowed - we're not supposed to move furniture, we're not supposed to take things apart to look at things. We're not allowed to open up drywall. We can't see behind the drywall. We have the best tools, some of the best tools in the industry to help us with that, but there's going to be things as homeowners that will come up that are kind of out of our control, right.

It's kind of like owning a car. If you buy a brand new one from a dealership, you're going to have to do brakes. There's regular maintenance stuff that you're going to have to do, which the inspection doesn't cover you for that, right. It's more to protect what you're buying and making sure you're not buying something that's going to be a liability.

But, windows and roofs come up, that's part of home ownership. There are certain situations with water in the basement. If we have a dry, dry year and then all of a sudden the heavy rainfall, that basement may have not seen water for 15 years or ever, and all of a sudden it happens. That's not really something we can predict. So, we try our best but, I think if answering that question honestly, that's going to be one of the things.


So, for a home buyer, someone on the purchase side, how can they get the most out of working with a home inspector?


So, I think ask, go online, do your research. We love clients with some knowledge. The shows on TV usually set people up with some pretty good questions. Hold us accountable, right. There's nothing better than somebody who will ask the questions, especially the hard ones that make us think. It's great. It keeps us sharp, it keeps us motivated. I love it.


It gives you guys an opportunity to demonstrate that you know what you're talking about.


Yeah, for sure.


On the home seller side, we have you sometimes work with us. What are some ways a home seller can use an inspector? Because a lot of times you don't think of that on the seller's side. People think of it as something that the home buyer hires.


Yeah. Well, this morning is a prime example, actually, the house we did out in Prescott, it was a pre listing inspection, and it was two lovely ladies selling the house.

They had some electrical issues, and they used our inspection. Before the end of the inspection they were on the phone with the electrician. There was some ungrounded wiring so they were going to have him switch outlets anyway to kind of spruce things up, and within the same phone call they're putting in GFCI outlets to try to deal with that. It gives people an idea of what they're selling, right.

People often live in their home and they don't pay too close attention or update throughout the years. So, with that on the selling side, you kind of eliminate a little bit of a negotiation for people coming in may be doing their own inspection.

No house is perfect either. I mean to go through a pre listing inspection and you have items that come up, and then you can show receipts for work that you've done or things that you've repaired, I think shows a lot to a buyer. I mean, for myself, if I was buying and I saw that, that would add a bit of confidence.


Yeah, so shameless plug both to Scott and to my team here, I actually hire Scott and his team every time we list a home, and that's to do a pre-list inspection. And what that means is that Scott will come to a full inspection of the houses we list so that we can provide that both to the home seller so they have an idea of what problems they might want to get ahead at.

Like you said in Prescott with those GCFIs and the ungrounded outlets, but also it's because of their great reports that we can provide to a potential home buyer to say, "Hey, you still may want to do your own inspection with your home inspector, and that's fine. But we have also done it with a very good inspector to give you a little bit of confidence, if it's helping you decide what side of the fence you're on, whether you're making an offer or not.".

Your inspection reports are great. I might link one of them in the show notes just to show the links that you have in yours to different kinds of maintenance and things like that. I think that the visuals in those are excellent.


Yeah, a report software, if you don't mind if I add on to that a little bit. I mean, for the people that like reading, our reports are generally between 30 and 45 pages. They're electronic, so PDF files or they're through an e-mail link, and they're saved for as long as I'm in business. So, if you lose your report, you just send me a quick email or text message, we can get you another copy. And that's, on the pre listing side, things can also, you know, if things are updated, things can change in the report.


So, you talked a little bit about certifications before, and I know that the industry as a whole is not regulated, you don't have to have a certain level of certification to be a home inspector, but you guys do. And what kind of certifications are out there and what do you find are useful? What's the organization you're certified under?


So mine is the National Association. I have a certification, so does my dad through, basically a company through the states. There's a national test that you have to take, it's all proctored, you go to the College. And then you can decide if you would like to join an association.

Now, the associations are changing a little bit, some of them are amalgamating. There's a Canadian Association, which is the biggest one, which my dad and I were part of. There's a few others, there's NACHI, there's InterNACHI, they all run on different standards. There's standards of practice, which we follow, and that's about it. Most of them require insurance and you're on your way.


So the role of a home inspector, now in the time that you have somewhere between one and a half, 3 hours for most home inspections, you have to be a little bit of a generalist. So you're touching each of the different certifications. Sometime,s my experience has been that it will stop and there's going to be the odd thing that might be kind of beyond the scope of what you can really dig into. What kind of things might someone want to come back with more of a specialist?

Now, the example I would give is say, like a flat roof, where you've got a good general level of expertise on like a flat tar and gravel roof, but I've actually had you guys say, "Well, you know what, to get a really precise age and what kind of shape this is in, here's a company I might recommend.". What are some other ones like that?


Yeah, we recommend things when it comes to furnaces. When we get into different things with furnaces, flame patterns, stuff like that, we will recommend getting an HVAC tech out to do carbon monoxide checks, to do a full service on the furnace.

Another one, depending on what it is, I mean, I've seen in basements before where jack posts are moved and a structural engineer is needed.


Are those like the steel ones?


Yeah. Posts that go underneath beams, we've seen those moved in basements. We've seen foundations that, like I said with the relationships we built on the construction side, had phone calls right during the inspection with foundation experts. "Yeah, we'll be there within the next day to come out and take a look and give the client a quote."

Foundation experts, HVAC tech, like you said, flat roofing companies, structural engineers, those are kind of, I would say the top four that when they're out of our scope of work, we kick those up to.


So you work with a lot of REALTOR®S. And, actually I know that there's a bunch of Realtors that subscribe to this podcast. So as a Realtor, especially if you are a new Realtor, how can they help or hinder the process for you? Like basically, should they be getting out of the way? Is there any way they can help? What kind of things can a Realtor do to be an asset to you during this?


So for most Realtors, you guys are great. A lot of them will follow along and you get so much from the inspections, I feel anyways. A lot of Realtors like to follow along to try to learn a few things so they can kind of prep their clients next time. The best thing I think for a Realtor is to be within earshot, kind of keep an eye on how things are going, and then just kind of let us do our thing.

Sometimes it gets tough with people that try to talk over and give their input on certain things. You know, I respect the job that you guys do, you're great at your real estate stuff, and I don't try to get in on the deals or anything like that. Just let us do our thing!


Yeah, for sure. That was so nicely politically worded. Basically, what Scott is very nicely saying here is Realtors, if you're listening to this, get out of the way.

You know, my role as a Realtor is not to be an expert at the home inspection, this is the same reason I don't do photography or videography or do staging myself. I contract people who are experts like you in your field. And I think that for new Realtors looking out there, we're looking to you for your expertise, and then we can have a separate conversation with the clients afterwards to say, "Okay, here's our list of problems, what do we think about that?". Is there anything that's to walk away from? Is there anything that we can just live with? Is there anything we renegotiate?


And for us, during the inspection, if there's something that major, you know, Nick, we stop the inspection at that point and we'll have a serious discussion. The input at that point is super valuable for you guys because you know your clients, you've worked with them a lot longer than we have, so, you know their comfort level, that's a huge role for you guys at that point. We certainly appreciate it. We've had many inspections with great agents and they go, we'll say foundation issues or structural issues and the real estate's grabbing the client, walking out the door before we even continue going, so they know their clients really well.


So, the last question I want to ask is just sort of a value add for somebody who owns a home, out of all the inspections you've done, what are some tips? What are some really good tips, general tips that people have for maintaining their home? What are some things you say to have people have their home and the systems in it lasts longer, as in what kind of things get neglected the most, what are the most expensive mistakes that people aren't paying enough attention to?


So what I tell people is to get familiar with their home, right. Your house is a system. It functions as one. You don't really do something in the house without affecting something else.

So, for example, filter changes in your furnace, that helps with your air conditioning, it helps with your heating, it helps with efficiency.


How often should you change it?


I usually tell people ten to twelve weeks, but check it once a month. If it's clean, put it back in. If it's dirty, switch it out. It's a very cheap way to keep things running properly. Usually we tell people after the five-year mark, have the furnace serviced once a year. They check for carbon monoxide, they make sure it runs properly. Those small tweaks, back to the cars, I compared it to oil changes in the car, right? You do that regular maintenance, grading and drainage on the outside. Make sure your down spouts are extended. If there's no water that's coming down near your foundation and footing, you're a lot less likely to have a leak, so make sure your lot is sloping away from the house, your downspouts are extended, go around once a year, and I tell people even during the inspection, when you're cutting your grass, look around, check out your windows, look for caulking, look for things that weren't there before.

When you're, say you have a downstairs laundry unit, walk through the furnace, listen, get familiar with how things sound, how things are supposed to sound. So when they don't sound the same, you know to call or check things out.


It's very Mr. Miyagi of you. “Become one with your home.”


That's it, that's it! It's most people's biggest investment in their life, so you know, you'll take your car for an oil change every 5 to 8000 km or when it tells you to, but you leave a furnace filter in for three years.

And I've been guilty of it, too. I do this for a living and I've definitely been guilty of leaving it too long.


So, if somebody wants to hire you, and they should, in the Ottawa area, where can people find you?


So we have a newly started Facebook page. We're getting a little bit better with our social media. We're going to start doing a bit more marketing, have a better online presence. We have a website that's old, so we're right in the middle of getting a brand new one. So through either text message, Facebook, The Full Storey. We're looking at setting up an Instagram page. 


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