Should I Hire an Independent Building Inspector?
How to Make the Right Call
Sometimes homeowners choose to hire an independent building inspector during the building process of their new home, but that decision can be a double-edged sword.
A home inspector inspecting a client’s custom green-design home.
Pros and Cons of Building Inspection
On one hand, if the building inspector’s intent is to genuinely help the process by effectively communicating what he observes, it can really aid in the process of completing a new home. On the other hand, a building inspector who tries to justify his fee by searching for insignificant things can add confusion and even create an adversarial relationship between the builder and the homeowner. When this happens, nobody wins.
Understanding Home Inspections
We don’t discourage our homeowners from hiring an independent building inspector. We think it’s important for them to be fully comfortable with the building process. After all, they are investing a lot of money in their new home. If the homeowners can clearly define in positive terms what they want the inspector to do, the inspector will know we’re not in an adversarial position. We will all be on the same page, working together to create a beautiful home.
Much of what is noted by a private building inspector is already being handled by the builder, energy rater, green inspector, or the required local, county, and municipal building inspectors at code inspections. Hiring the private building inspector may be additional cost without any real value added to the homeowner.
The Risks That May Arise
Homeowners who live out of town, out of state, or even out of the country from their home building site may want to hire an inspector to watch over the construction process. This is a different assignment, it is also known as Owner’s Representative. We do not recommend this because it is very difficult to stay on the same team when you are paying someone to find problems. Dustin & Catherine hired an Owner’s Representative after some friends visited their site and one of them advised that they thought we has used the wrong type of plywood on the porch floor. The Owner’s Representative claimed that he was a licensed builder and dazzled them with research on YouTube videos showing alternative methods/products for tiling a porch floor. I showed them our research and had them speak with the representatives from the supply houses who recommended the products in the first place. We offered to replace the porch flooring how Catherine wanted it, but Catherine began second guessing her counsel and ended up telling us to use the product we would stand behind. This incident caused undue stress and expense for all involved. Later, it was discovered that the Owner’s Representative license was archived (meaning he wasn’t allowed to practice).
Your Goals Should Align with Your Building Inspector’s
To achieve the desired results, it will be important to choose a building inspector who understands the difference and does not try to create an adversarial situation. A good choice here can make or break a situation. We look for people who understand the “we’re-all-on-the-same-team” mentality (and a lot of people don’t). We’re all on the same side; we all want the same thing. We all want a beautiful home, built to the highest standards. Our goals are not opposite yours or the inspector’s. Understanding this is crucial. Be sure you are not hiring someone who feels the need to justify his fee.
For any homeowner, if you are feeling uneasy about your builder, then you should question why you are hiring that builder in the first place. Your superintendent should be the person to responsibly manage the project. If you hire an independent inspector, make certain he is helping, not in hindering the building process.
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