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What You Should Know About Your Home Inspection: An Interview with Dale McNutt of Integrity Property Inspections

By Dale McNutt

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

Integrity Property Inspections is a full-service inspection company that offers detailed information for those clients that demand more than just the minimum. Commercial, light-industrial, retail, multi-unit, SFR, and even condos are in our wheelhouse. Using photography as the primary method of reporting, a written report by Integrity Property Inspections strikes the correct balance of written text and photos. The photos are not 'brochure" shots. Any photo used is edited to effectively convey a defect or concern. Considerable time and effort is reflected in each report with minimal use of canned phrases or boilerplate.

What are two or three of the most common repairs that are needed on the houses you've seen in the Southern California area?

Nationwide, the most common defect is drainage. In Southern California, the mention of drainage is usually met with disinterest or apathy. That is, until something bad happens. Then drainage is a big deal. Houses built in the mid-seventies to late eighties are historically the most problematic on the exteriors. In that era, the builders used exposed wood liberally and in many cases embedded the wood into the stucco. Proper flashing was often omitted. If regular maintenance was not executed, many of these homes became maintenance intensive. Health and safety issues should always be a priority for every inspector. Electrical defects are by far the most common.

What should a standard home inspection cover?

Basically, anything that is visible with the exception of highly technical or specialized systems. Sprinkler systems, alarm systems, smoke alarms, low-voltage systems, etc., are typically excluded. Regardless of who does your inspection in California, they should adhere to a reputable inspection association's standards of Practice. More experienced and knowledgeable inspectors often exceed the standards in an effort to raise the bar on service or what is often referred to as a standard of care. I have the credentials to provide very reliable information to my clients. Some builders build to minimum code because legally, that is all that is required. Other builders build to the highest quality standards. I compare myself to a quality builder that wants the finished product to be a testimony to their overall professionalism.

How long should it take for homeowners to receive their inspection report?

My reports on a standard home are available in 24 to 36 hours. I put in extensive "desk time" on behalf of my clients. I would advise anyone looking for an inspector to use caution when considering an inspector that advertises on-site report delivery. I tried that many years ago and quickly discovered that method was not for me. It is too rushed and forces an inspector to use plug-in phrases or boilerplate in their report. Repetitive, vague descriptions are used because there is just not time to study key conditions or defects

Should a quality home inspector also provide repair work? What are some of the reasons why or why not?

An inspector fixing discovered defects is a definite conflict of interest. In fact, referring friends for repair work is also a gray area. In order for an inspector to be effective in providing information, he/she should be totally independent from other interests. this includes repeat business from agents. I have some wonderful associations with agents that I known for a long time. They know that the facts speak for themselves on any inspection I perform. If the buyer decides to walk away based on the facts, their attitude is "we will find a better one soon."

What are the certification requirements in Southern California? What are a few benefits of hiring a certified and trained home inspector?

Anyone can pronounce themselves an inspector in California. All you need is a printer and a fictitious name statement. When I was president of my inspection association chapter, I knew of brand new inspectors that were visitors who had websites that were totally misleading and misrepresenting. The website made claims that just were not true. What we find is that it is just too easy to use a webmaster and a slick website to make you appear bigger and better than what you are. At the minimum, you should choose an inspector that is a member-in-good-standing of CREIA or ASHI. I am a member of both.

If a home inspector misses a major defect, do home buyers have any recourse?

My answer is simple. Inspectors get sued constantly, nationwide. Your best defense as an investor is to choose the most competent, experienced and qualified inspector possible. Try not to make your first question, "How much do you charge for an inspection?" Instead, start out by finding out about the inspector. Check references. Look at a sample report. Make sure that the inspector you are talking to will be the one actually doing the inspection. Can anyone make a mistake? Of course. But why shop price first when you are paying for information. This is not like shopping for a major appliance. The value of any words on a page is the person behind those words. One key defect discovery can more than pay for the fee of a quality inspector.

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