As I headed toward Richmond, VA on my second day as an intern at U.S. Inspect to observe a home inspection being done by inspector, and long-time family friend, Steve Bowles, I was thinking about how I can't wait to be walking through the front door of my own first home sometime in the near future! As a 21 year-old woman about to start my fourth year in college, I often daydream about what it will be like to own a home and raise a family there. I ponder what my house will look like, where it will be and how I'll decorate it. I was about to find out there are many necessary steps in the process of buying a home. One of the steps is learning about the condition of the property by hiring a home inspector. Growing up as the daughter of a home inspector, now Regional Manager Bill Conner at U.S. Inspect, I already knew a little bit about the process, but I learned lots of valuable information following along with Steve and experiencing what it would be like as if I were the home buyer.
By the time I arrived at the home, the initial meet and greet between the inspector, the Realtor, and the buyers had already taken place. Steve was preparing for the 2 1/2 to 3 hour inspection and was already in action. I entered the elegant, 2000-square foot home built in 1938 on Park Avenue where a young couple was meeting with their Realtor, Will Dwyer, to discuss closing on the house. I introduced myself as an intern with U.S. Inspect, there to observe the experience of a home inspection as part of the overall home buying process.
Steve explained that inspectors usually ask the buyers to follow along with them during the home inspection. In some instances they do and it's an educational time for them particularly if they are first time home buyers. This particular couple was talking with a mortgage broker about financing on their home and I was told this doesn’t usually take place at the site of the home or during an inspection. This worked out great for me as I followed Steve as if I were the home buyer armed with lots of questions!
I observed closely as Steve made his way through the house. I asked various questions about the types of things he was looking for and about the functions of the instruments and tools (such as a laser thermometer and a reverse polarity detector) that he was using. Many different components of the home are assessed by the inspector such as the structure, roof, plumbing, heating and cooling systems, and the interior and exterior. I found out that safety in the home is a huge concern for particularly first time home buyers and is part of an inspection and how Steve routinely views a home. For someone like me who doesn’t know much about home maintenance and all the elements of a home, it was comforting to know that safety was one of the top priorities. I also realized the broad spectrum of topics a home inspector has to be knowledgeable about in order to deliver a thorough and efficient inspection to the client. Trusting the company you hire, and the inspector doing the job, is very important. I was confident that Steve knew what he was doing and that I'd get more education about a home than I bargained for.
I had a chance to talk to the buyer’s agent, Will Dwyer from First Choice Realty, about his role in the inspection process. Steve has inspected many properties where Will served as the buyer's agent. They have worked together for about a year now. Will stated that he is confident in Steve’s experience and knowledge as a home inspector and knows Steve is well versed in what to look for (especially in older homes) and how to effectively communicate the condition to the buyer. Will and Steve make a great Realtor/inspector team, and this helps the buyer feel more confident about this step in the home buying process.
At one point during the inspection, the buyers asked Steve, “How’s it looking so far?” and he replied “So far, so good!”. The interaction between them was friendly, yet professional. Steve offered valuable suggestions and recommendations (such as a chimney cleaning) throughout the process to ensure safety and quality in the home. The buyers were pleased with his recommendations and had some questions of their own. As part of the process, I was informed that the seller is not usually present which helps the buyer feel more comfortable asking questions.
As I sat at the top of the stairs listening to the chatter of the buyers and Realtor below and the footsteps above as Steve made his way to the attic, I looked down at the front door thinking again about how it will be when I purchase my own home. I picture myself greeting guests at the door and welcoming them into my home. This thought made me realize how valuable a home inspection is to assuring safety and comfort.
As we continued through the home to the second floor bedrooms and bathroom, Steve found some small issues and defects. He took pictures and wrote down important information that he would later use in his final report. I was curious about some of Steve’s personal experiences with 14 years under his belt as a home inspector. He said he loves being a home inspector because “it’s like going to a different office everyday.” He also likes meeting and interacting with different people. He said some of his worst experiences has been in bad crawl spaces. For those of you who don’t know what a crawl space is, it’s (to me) a creepy unlivable space between the ground and the floor of the house. Luckily, the house we were at did not have a crawl space. I was certainly glad that I did not have to make the journey into one.
At the close of the inspection, Steve used his laptop to write up his report. The inspection report is a detailed explanation of what was found during the inspection and includes all the information that was gathered during the process. After Steve completed his report, the payment was collected and the report was presented to the buyer. The home inspection fee depends on various factors such as the size and age of the home. Steve reviewed the report in detail with the buyers and their agent. He showed them the pictures he took, and explained what he found in the house. He carefully went over the list of defects and recommended repairs, helping the buyers understand the condition of the property. A copy of the report was then emailed to the real estate agent and the buyers for their records.
After tying up loose ends and answering last minute questions, the inspection came to an end. Not only is there a lot involved in the inspection process, but I learned there are many more elements involved in the entire home buying process than I was previously aware of. I now know that obtaining a home inspection is a vital part of the process, and that there are many different types of inspections offered, such as termite inspection and testing for radon.
Lots of valuable information for the buyer was discovered during this inspection and this ultimately helps the realtor with his sale. In the end, inspections help create great business relationships and repeat business if the clients are satisfied. Although I learned a lot that morning, I still have much more knowledge to acquire about the home buying process before I can achieve my ultimate goal of owning my own home. And, I need to finish college first! One thing I know for sure is that I will have my first home inspected. I hope that it will be carried out by someone as competent and capable as inspector Steve Bowles, with U.S. Inspect.
Thanks, Steve, for a great learning experience!