Looking for a good home inspector in Houston
October 23, 2007 1:02 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend a good home inspector in Houston? And more generally, how does one search out a good home inspector - I've heard that real estate agents tend to recommend those who "tend to minimize defects to keep the referring agents happy."

(My Houston-based brother is the fellow who needs the home inspector; I'm up in Ottawa and not moving for several months.)
posted by sebastienbailard to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The organization with the highest standards for competency, continuing education, and professional ethics is ASHI. Most other associations are "degree mills" that have no stance on conflicts of interest or the sort of behavior you describe.

As for getting the best-of-the-best, experience is one of the biggest factors. Call a few local ASHI members and find out who's involved in the chapter's activities, particularly the Peer Review sessions that take place at annual conferences. If you can get one of the old farts who's on the review panel, you're dealing with a highly experienced, well respected inspector.
posted by Myself at 1:12 AM on October 23, 2007

On a more general note, I should point out that state licensing (which I'm not sure if Texas requires) is no indication of competence. The legislation is typically written by the real estate lobby, who seem to have very little interest in promoting competence among inspectors.

That's ironic, since a satisfied customer should be any real estate agent's goal, too. Some do recognize the value of a good inspector, and recognize that when a deal falls through because of the inspection, what really happened is that everyone involved was spared a much larger set of headaches down the road. But a disappointing number of Realtors take a very short-sighted view of the process. Avoid them.

Also, it's important to put the inspection results in perspective: All homes, even brand new, have quirks and problems. All homes, no matter how well built, need upkeep, sometimes major work. Buyers who aren't comfortable with the idea of maintenance are likely to neglect whatever home they eventually move into, because even one with very few problems now won't remain so forever. The inspector will be identifying specific items that set this home apart from others of its age and type, and also giving you a broader view of what's normal and how to fit it into your maintenance schedule.

Pick the inspector's brain, and treat the inspection as the hands-on experience it's meant to be. Show up, follow the inspector around, and ask every question that comes to mind.
posted by Myself at 1:56 AM on October 23, 2007

Oh, and while we're bashing real estate agents: Get a tamper-evident radon test! Charcoal cans are fine when you're testing your own house, but in a real-estate transaction there's a strong incentive for fraud. A "continuous radon monitor" has other instruments in addition to the ionization chamber, so it measures things like temperature, humidity, and movement. If someone takes it outside for most of the test, or just opens the windows to air the place out, this tampering will show up in the readings.

CRMs are expensive and totally overkill for a self test, but they're totally appropriate in (and designed for) situations where someone might interfere with the process. Most full-time inspectors have CRMs and are well qualified to interpret the results.

And for anyone reading this who's not involved in a real estate transaction: Do a 48-hour charcoal can test, or a 6-month alpha track, it's a lot cheaper than lung cancer.
posted by Myself at 2:12 AM on October 23, 2007

Best answer: There's an Angie's List in Houston. I use my local list for all kinds of references and have found it accurate and reassuring. Plus, if you do have a bad experience with someone, you have the satisfaction of being able to leave feedback about it. Get your brother a gift membership. If he's going to do any work at all on the house, it'll be appreciated.
posted by cocoagirl at 4:03 AM on October 23, 2007

Seconding Angie's List. It's a very good resource.
posted by cooker girl at 7:19 AM on October 23, 2007

Best answer: We had a great experience with Steve Stiba, and I highly recommend him. Although he is located in Omega Bay by Galevston, he actually does a lot of work in Houston, especially in the Inner Loop.
posted by Robert Angelo at 8:12 AM on October 23, 2007

It's useful to get an inspector who will take digital photos and annotate them with arrows and such rather than someone who relies solely on a checklist and verbal descriptions.
posted by underwater at 8:40 AM on October 23, 2007

You can search the BBB site for local home inspectors that are members in good standing of the Better Business Bureau.
posted by JJ86 at 11:03 AM on October 23, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks everyone who weighed in! I'll pass on the tips about ASHI, reviewer panels, Angie's List, and Steve Stiba. (I'm not really impressed with BBB, it's a pretty tooththless organization, as I understand it.)
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:22 AM on November 1, 2007

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