The buyer generally pays for their due diligence actions such as inspections, etc. Being a first time buyer there are many things that are new to you, potentially confusing and traps to avoid. Here are some suggestions to follow, not only from an Inspectors point of view but also a buyer myself.
1. Consider have your home choice inspected by a licensed Professional Inspector rather than a licensed Professional Engineer (PE). An Inspector's fees are generally much less expensive than a PE and they can tell you more than enough to decide whether to purchase or not. Additionally a good Inspector will advise you when a PE is needed.
2. There are PE's out there that are performing home inspections and you must be careful of two things. Even a licensed PE is required to have a Professional Inspectors license (see the TREC Web site at http://www.trec.state.tx.us for rules and laws). Many PE's, that are licensed as Inspectors, will wear two hats. Unless you are aware of this they may approach your inspection as a Professional Inspector, perform the inspection as one, give you the required inspection report form and not sign or seal it as a PE. If you are going to use a PE for your inspection then require that they perform the inspection as a PE and provide you with signed and stamped report with their engineering seal.
3. Some PE's are running multi-inspector firms and also use PE's In Training (not fully licensed PE's) in their firm. The other Inspectors might not be PE's and are instead licensed Professional Inspectors. Ask and know who is coming out to do your inspection. You are after all expecting a a fully licensed PE to perform your inspection or you would not possibly have chosen that firm.
4. Option period times are not set in stone as to how many days you can request. Make sure you give yourself sufficient time to not only have your inspections performed but also time to bring in tradespeople for estimates in the event you need to. Think of it this way, if you request a "10 day" option period, and they agree on a Friday, you really only have 6 business days during that option period to have your due diligence performed. You can get Inspectors in on the weekends to perform the inspection but many other tradespeople might not be willing to come in over weekends to perform their estimates, etc. If you ask for 10 standard business days (Mon - Fri) then you have actually wind up with 12 - 14 days to perform the due diligence. This should be enough time to complete everrything.
5. Make a list of all of the trades you might potentially need to use, i.e. Inspectors, electricians, plumbers, general contractors, foundation repair people, roofers, PE's, etc. Make sure you have a list of 2 -3 of each that you feel comfortable working with. Do this before you make your first offer if at all possible. The last thing you need to do is run around looking for these people during your option period if you need them. If you need help find reliable people feel free to contact me with questions. There are plenty of ways to check these people out.
6. Good Inspectors will find and report any and all issues, regardless of size or cost, that are there in the home. Some Inspectors will prioritize issues or provide repair estimates. DO NOT rely solely on these prioritized or estimate lists! Costs and situations can change daily and what might be a priority or cost figure in the Inspector's opinion may not be in yours or a tradesperson who deals with those issues daily. Remember that the only thing you can count on in the future is your decisions and what is in the official report.
7. Regardless of what you are told by others, if you are comfortable with your chosen Inspector, PE, etc. then follow any advice in the report for further checks, tests, etc. A "good Inspector" is not going to be making multiple referrals to other trades unless the home has obvious problems or indications of potential issues.
If you ever have doubts about your Inspector, Realtor, Attorney, etc., then bring them forth to that person immediately and try to resolve the issue. If you can't you need to look elsewhere for help and if in, or after, your option period you need to do that fast!!
Good luck on your home search and feel free to contact me if you ever have questions.
Emmanuel J. Scanlan
PS Inspection & Property Services LLC
National Featured Realtor and Consultant, Mortgage Loan Officer, Lecturer regarding Credit Repair