Dear Barry,

My Realtor has recommended a pair of home inspectors who work together as a team. At first, this seemed like a good idea. But then another inspector I talked to argued against having a two-person inspection. He said I would most likely receive a checklist-type report rather than a narrative. He also said I’d have trouble getting answers to questions after I buy the home because I’d have to determine who inspected what. Maybe this two-person deal is all about saving the Realtor’s time. How do I decide? –Karen

Dear Karen,

Agents have been known to recommend home inspectors for the best and worst of reasons, but the saving of an hour of inspection time is an unlikely consideration. In this case, you might weigh the motives of the inspector who questioned the efficacy of a home inspection duo.

There is no black and white case to be made for or against tandem inspectors. In fact, two inspectors working in concert can be better or worse than a single inspector. It all depends upon the knowledge, experience, thoroughness and professional integrity of the individuals performing the inspection. On the positive side, home inspector teams typically work in a coordinated manner that enables them to focus on predetermined aspects of a property and to discuss their findings jointly, both during the inspection and at the conclusion. When the final report is verbally reviewed with buyers, both inspectors are usually present. Thus, both are fully aware of the findings and concur in their final interpretations of reported defects.

Additionally, there are the benefits of two pairs of eyes, rather than one, the combined expertise, and the overlapping backup that each inspector provides the other. Conditions that might be missed by one are less likely to escape the attention of both. If one inspector is evaluating the electrical system, the other might say, “Hey, did you notice that damaged outlet in the garage?” If one inspector finds a questionable foundation condition, he might ask the other to render an opinion. When two professionals orchestrate their efforts in this manner, the advantages can be multiple, not just additional.

As to the style of the report, checklist reports are not necessarily inferior to narratives. What matters most about an inspection report is clarity and thoroughness, and these qualities can be hot, cold, or lukewarm, regardless of the report style. Reports can be detailed and articulate or paltry and confusing, regardless of format – whether checklist or narrative. In the final analysis, it all boils down to the qualifications, professionalism, and communication skills of the individual inspectors. If both members of an inspection team are top-quality, you may get twice as much proverbial bang for your inspection buck.

Dear Barry,

We are selling our home (built in 1955) and are concerned about cracks in some of the ceilings and walls. Could these be caused by structural problems, or might they just be minor? What’s the best way to find out? –Stephanie

Dear Stephanie,

Older homes, particularly those with plaster walls, typically have cracks of one kind or another. If these are “hairline” cracks, less than 1/8 inch in width, they are most likely due to normal building stresses. However, there are exceptions. A definite determination of structural stability can only be rendered by a structural engineer, but conditions warranting an engineering evaluation would most likely be discovered by a qualified home inspector. Therefore, you can approach these uncertainties in one of two ways. You can hire you own home inspector or engineer and use the report for disclosure to buyers, or you can wait for the buyers to hire their own inspector. The preferable approach would be to address potential concerns in advance, rather than leaving them to chance.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

***

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