Home Buying in 94109>Question Details

Abby Donte, Real Estate Pro in San Francisco, CA

Should a home inspection be done by a general contractor or a regular inspector?

Asked by Abby Donte, San Francisco, CA Wed Jul 18, 2012

We were in the market for a new home and finally found one in San Francisco near downtown, had few buyer's inspections done but noted that regular home inspector was not as knowledgeable as an inspector who was a general contractor before, the inspection reports were really different where a regular home inspector referred to every questionable item in terms of (contact electrical inspector) or (contact roofing inspector), the inspector that was a general contractor actually gave us a solid opinion on a possible nature of the problem, what to do and who to believe is the question.

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Inspectors used to be anyone who hung out a shingle as an inspector. Over the last decade the industry has increased its self-regulation with accreditaion courses.
The agents that I know in SF all use inspectors from a pool of respected professionals. We all know how the inspector works and we know which one to hire for specific properties. For example, does the property have a boiler, does it have a brick foundation etc. The inspectors that do lots of single family homes might not be the right person to inspect a multi-family TIC on Russian Hill.
That said, and as someone who has experience in construction and forensic failure analysis in construction I listen to some inspectors chosen by the other side and wonder who these folks think they are with the crud the say.
The fact is that your inspectors should be accredited and also have general contractor licenses. That is who I'd recommend as the standard of care for my clients.
Then because they have liability you have to take some recommendations and get second opinions. An example would be when you hear an inspector call out for new furnaces because the house has a gravity flow furnace that was installed when the house was built. It is very possible that the furnace could last a long time if nothing has actually failed. Then you need to have a test done to verify the firebox isn't cracked and that the furnace works as designed.
I could give many examples of overly cautious recommendations that can be used by aggressive buyers to negotiate but are not really neccessary.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jul 19, 2012
Jed Lane; Fog…, Real Estate Pro in San Francisco, CA
Thank you all for your replies, spoke with our real estate agent and they said that they are pretty confident with the report from the agency that has inspectors that were in General Contracting here in San Francisco for years, I think we're going to go forward with the purchase, the firm name is Bay Area Home Inspections, very good report, here is the web address: http://www.bayareahomeinspections.com

Thank you
2 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jul 18, 2012
I'm glad you got it all figured out and received the answer you needed. It's always important to have a home inspection and I'm glad you found who was the best to do it. It's not something you want to skip over! http://www.homeprocontracting.com/
Flag Thu Sep 4, 2014
Psst.....3.375% 30 year fixed today...no points.
Flag Thu Jul 19, 2012
A licensed home inspector is the usual go-to guy for a general home inspection, but as you point out it is common to bring in specialists. If you have concerns about a particular feature of the home, for example the wiring, it's a good idea to bring in a licensed electrictian for a second opinion, same with the roof, plumbing, etc. It is impossible to "over inspect" when you have a concern about something the home inspector did not cover suffienciently for you.
I always bring in a general contractor when there is a question regarding building code compliance for the general structure. Inspectors can usually tell you if something doesn't function or is broken, worn, or rotten, but they typically don't have sufficient knowledge of building codes to tell you if something is designed and built correctly.
If the home you're looking at is older and has been remodeled a few times, it's probably a good idea to have a general contractor help you verify that each remodel was permitted and installed correctly.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jul 18, 2012
A home inspector who was a licensed contractor will usually give you a more insightful inspection, though in the end it depends on the quality of the inspector.
One thing that is infinitely helpful is to actually be there during the inspection. In that way you can get much more input from the inspector that he cannot put in the report. You can get a better sense of what is really worth worrying about, and what should just be monitored. You also get to ask questions and get more complete explanations. Always be present during the inspection.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jul 18, 2012
If you required open heart surgery, would you elect to have the procedure done by a general practicioner?

Inspectors are trained specifically the purpose of evaluating a home's utility and condition. A general contractor may be able to provide you with some great structural and system information but I would strongly recommend an inspector over a contractor for a home evaluation every time.

Good luck,

1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Jul 26, 2012
Once again, as an experienced and still active general and manufactured home contractor for the past 30 years, you don't need to necessarily have a contractor as your home inspector. If the individual happens to have a contractors license but is not engaged in contracting and only structural inspections I'd say fine.

However, as I stated below if the contractor is actively engaged in contracting and is also billing himself as an inspector I exercise on the side of caution. I know contractors who use the home inspection ploy to garner work.

In fact I know of a contractor who will go out and do an inspection and present his home inspection business card and when he sends them the report he slips his construction card with his foreman's name on it as a referral.

There are a lot of very good home inspectors who don't have a contractors license. I'd be more concerned about their overall experience and certifications than to worry about whether or not they have a license.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Jul 19, 2012
A certified home inspector is the standard procedure. Their report to you may, as is often the case, call for further reports, because a portion on the house was not accessible or beyond the knowledge of the inspector. Say the inspect sees a crack in the foundation wall, but it disappears as the wall goes below grade. He is not going to dig to find out what is up. He'll suggest you get a further inspection report from an engineer. There are actually three reports you want to get. The first one inspects the building itself as we have been discussing. However, it may not include a roof inspection. If that is the case you'll need a separate roof report. The last one is a pest report to determine if there are termites, beetles, etc. Some inspection companies do all three reports at the same time and in my opinion that's the best way to go instead of dealing with three parties. The total cost for all three reports can vary from $450 to $800, but it does depend on the size of the home and can cost a grand without blinking an eye. Good luck to you. Do not waive our right to get an inspection is my last bit of advice. Even if the seller or the seller's agent gives you a report that was done yesterday, get your own from someone you or your broker ordered it from. Good luck. I consider inspection reports, even though you may balk at the cost, a very very very cheap insurance policy for you. Ask your broker to explain to you the relationship between the inspection report and the "transfer disclosure statement" the seller is required to give to you.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Jul 18, 2012
One final comment. There is no licensing requirement in the state of California other than the usual municipality licensing requirements. That's why it's important to go with an experienced home inspector that's affiliated with a reputable association like CREIA.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Jul 18, 2012
Even with the General Contractor, having a separate inspection by a roofer or electrician is best. Getting the actual costs from them eliminates any conflict of interest. It is interesting to note that there were so many inspections done. Was there a termite inspection done as well? Sounds as if that would be needed as well to complete the picture.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Jul 18, 2012
While you've got lot's of very informative and knowledgable answers and opinions I'd like to paint this comment with a little broader broader brush.

Having been a general and manufactured home contractor for almost 3 decades I do not personally do home inspections as it can tend to come across as self serving if not an overt conflict of interest and a way for a contractor to backdoor business.

I recommend folks who ask me for referrals to reach out to experienced "California Real Estate Inspection Association" "(CREIA)" home inspectors. They tend to be the most qualified and experienced and CREIA really encourages training as they do offer a certification program for it's members.

Additionally, there are several community college and private courses you can enroll in that will offer hundreds of hours worth of courses and training. If a person tells you he's licensed I tend to think they probably mean they hold certain business licenses i.e. city, county, etc.

Not all general contractors necessarily specialize in residential housing. Some do commercial or industrial, others to Tenant Improvements (TI) while other specialize in other forms of construction i.e. "Factory Built" housing which also requires an experienced Manufactured Home inspector and not just any home inspector not familiar with all the nuances relative to the industry. Hope this helps.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Jul 18, 2012
I agree with Lance. A reputable licensed home inspection company. Your realtor or phone book will certainly point you in the right direction. As to lending, I would love to help you with your loan. We close most loans in 21 days and our rates are at 3.50% today on a 30 year fixed with a lender credit to you of .25% of a point for closing costs. Our fees are only $640 as well for our lender fees. I'd love to help!

Mike 916-813-4003
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Jul 18, 2012
Generally speaking our clients use licensed home inspectors - they are not all created equal, so get recommendations. One inspector I knew more about current codes than he did. If you are planning to do remodeling it would be a good idea to get a contractor to come out and give you and idea on time and cost so you can make some informed decisions.

We have a full array of contractors we use for our own projects and for clients if you'd like recommendations, and have some for inspectors as well. Contact info below if you want info.

Best Regards,

Lance King/Owner-Managing Broker
DRE# 01384425
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Jul 18, 2012
I think it depends on what you're looking for. Personally, I've never had much experience with either. I would contact them both and see which one will offer you more of what you need. After that, I would make your final decision. Good luck and I hope you're able to get everything you need! http://www.robkabbyhomes.com
Flag Mon Oct 27, 2014
Your professional inspector knows he has to do some CYA to avoid lawsuits. Unless they are opening up walls, there may be things they won't know. In our litigious society their reports end up having a ton of statements like the ones you mention.

That said, on such a large home purchase, if you have any concerns what so ever.... why not get individual experts for anything that you have any concerns with?
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Jul 18, 2012
In order to locate a good and licensed home inspector, it is not necessary for the inspector to be a general contractor. There is a wide variety when it comes to home inspectors, so ask your agent to provide you with one whose work they know.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Jul 18, 2012
In my opinion you should always use a licensed home inspector and if you have one that has general contracting in their backround then you should probably get a pretty good inspection.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Jul 18, 2012
Abby, you just answered your own question. As both a general contractor and a RE broker I can personally attest to the importance of having an experienced licensed or formerly licensed contractor do home inspections.

While there are many very good home inspectors who have never been licensed but have had years of experience doing home inspections you can't deminish the value and the overall building and construction experience from that of a contractor.

The only takeaway I see is that you remain cautious of contractors who try to bait and switch their clients into doing the work that they discovered needed to be done during their inspection. A contractor/inspector should never be used for both as it tends in many if not most to be a self serving ploy to garner work for them.

In fact I wouldn't even accept any recommendations from a contractor/inspector as many of them are in cahoots with the contractors they recommend. Ask your RE professional, lender or some neighbors in the neighborhood for referrals.

0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Oct 1, 2014
Definitely a regular inspector. They are licensed to preform inspections and have the background to delve into all areas of the home. A general contractor's expertise is planning and constructing while an inspector's experience helps them to recognize key indicators of problems and identify them. They are not trained to construct, only to analyze them.

Now, if you were to encounter a specific problem resulting from an inspection, it is recommended that customers call on the specialist to evaluate specific problems: roofers, plumbers, electricians, architects, masons, HVAC, etc.

A general contractor's experience might allow them to miss problems that would have been detected by an inspector. A general contractor would likely have a more limited back ground and need to call on other trades people to do a more thorough evaluation.

Simply stated, this is a world of specialization, the fact that an inspector identifies and refers customers to other people for a higher level of support, in my opinion, is a good thing.

Just keeping it real!

0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 30, 2014
Actually I know a couple of excellent general contractors who have gone into home inspecting 100% and no longer do any contracting. I've been working with home inspectors for over 30 years and I will tell you first hand that working with an inspector who was also an tool toting, in the trench, hands on contractor is probably the best selection you could ever mak.

Not all home inspectors have the experience building a home that a contractor does. In fact I know a few home inspectors who've never worked in the trades. They just started reading some books and learning through trial and error which doesn't generally make them the sharpest tool in the shed. Plus there are no licensing requirements for home inspectors like there are licensed contractors.

I would look for a formally practicing contractor with a current and valid license. But not one that's still taking on work. That is definitely a conflict of interest and usually smells like a contractor trying to slide in through the back door for some work. If you can't find a currently licensed contractor at least find one who's been licensed in the field you need inspected.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Nov 19, 2012

Web Reference: http://www.garyyoungman.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Nov 19, 2012
I hope you used a general contractor to do your repairs. That's what their for.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jul 26, 2012
We had a regular inspector inspect our home, and after having a lot of work done to it I wish we has used a general contractor. John Brautovich ( http://www.brautovichconstruction.com ) has been great for us.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jul 26, 2012
shortsale thuths. You're not kidding anyone. You're the same spammer using a different name. This is not a platform for you to advertise and promote your business on. I'm flagging you again. When will you learn?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jul 20, 2012

Thank you for going with us, as far as your report goes there are definitely some limitations as far as what an inspector can say or what he or she can comment on each particular problem due to the liability from our end.

When choosing your inspector, definitely look at all the licenses and certifications they have, it's also important to have your inspector insured. I do agree that due to flexibility in the law, anyone can be an inspector, I just recently encountered a guy who paid $400 to ASHI to be a member, did not even pass any tests and now doing inspections on properties in San Francisco, so if you use an inspector with a background in Construction and some certifications is is only the best thing for you.

Here are the certifications/licenses I would look for: ICC (International Code Council) Residential Inspector, ASHI Certified Inspector, Good Standing General Contractor's License.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jul 19, 2012
Gregory deserves the best answer and a thumbs up for that very astute answer. But I can only give him the thumbs up.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jul 18, 2012
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