Expert Interview Series: Jay Markanich About What Makes a Quality Home Inspector

Quality home inspector

When it comes to home inspections, veteran inspector Jay Markanich recommends not shopping for the cheapest inspector, but rather the best product.

“The purpose of the home inspection is to observe and report, insofar as visually possible, the condition of a property at the time of the inspection,” he says. “The quality of the final product is what the consumer is paying for.”

As with professionals in any field, home inspectors are not all equal; if they were, price would be the most important determining factor for consumers, Jay adds. Rather than focusing on the bottom line, look for the most experienced and practiced inspectors.

Jay, who’s in his 35th year as a home inspector, is the principal of Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections. He recently checked in with us to offer more advice on making the most of the home inspection process. Here’s what he had to say:

What advice can you offer on finding a qualified home inspector?

Don’t only rely on the suggestions of others. Do your own research. Interview a few home inspectors! Ask questions and see how they respond. Actively listen to their vocabulary and phraseology, their knowledge when answering the question, and so forth. Usually, people reveal themselves in conversation, and explaining the condition of the home is a very important part of the inspection experience. I wrote a blog post on my website regarding this advice, which has been well received.

What are the biggest mistakes home buyers make when hiring a home inspector?

The most common mistake when purchasing anything of importance: not performing consumer due diligence.

What types of considerations should home buyers make when looking for a home inspector? What questions should we be asking potential inspectors?

It is fair to say that a home inspection is 30 percent experience and construction knowledge, 30 percent quality of the final product, 30 percent ability to clearly explain and educate, and 10 percent people skills.

The consumer interview with a home inspector might focus on those things. Perhaps often overlooked (and quite important) is the home inspector’s willingness to provide post-inspection question answering and counseling.

Finally, what sets a home inspector apart from the rest? Does he do things other inspectors do not? For example, thermal imaging is cutting edge and can reveal a lot about a home. Is that a part of the service?

What are some indicators that an inspector is a qualified professional?

First of all, is he or she a full-time home inspector or is doing home inspections a hobby or side job? Second, length of time as a home inspector is crucial. Most home inspectors only last a short while, and the less able are weeded out by the market. Finally, what are his/her certifications and what associations does he/she belong to? Does he/she keep up with changes through continuing education?

What are some red flags that he or she doesn’t know what they’re talking about? How well does the inspector handle problems that arise during the home inspection?

Is there familiarity with proper construction techniques or materials? Usually, we get a sense when someone does not know an answer and begins with the smoke screen! Nobody knows everything. We inspectors often run into things we’ve never seen before. But if the inspector does come up against an unknown, is there the honesty to admit it and the commitment to find an answer and deal with it later?

How can home buyers make the most of the inspection process? What questions should we be asking during the inspection?

It is wise to prepare any particular questions about the home being purchased in advance of the inspection. If the home has an unfamiliar appliance – a heat pump, for example – be sure to understand how it differs from others appliances in the buyer’s experience. Some buyers have concerns even when they put a contract on a house. Make those concerns clear. The home inspector will work with that.

What are the most important or critical parts of the home inspection? What parts of the home should homeowners be especially concerned about?

Most states have criteria for home inspection reporting. Certainly, all home inspector associations do. A proper inspection and report should include information on the structure, exterior, roof, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, interior, kitchen, bathrooms, appliances, insulation and ventilation. Some homes might have a particular quirk not usually found, like saunas or radiant floor heating. Insofar as things can be investigated and tested, they should.

What advice do you find yourself repeating to home buyers over and over?

A home inspection hits buyers with an overload of information, much of which can be unfamiliar. The information presented might be old hat to the inspector, but not to most consumers. I say over and over to my clients to please call me with any questions about anything that comes to mind later, what they see in the report, or what they might need further explanation about.

What are some of the biggest home trends you’re noticing today?

Certainly, the foreclosed or short sale house is common these days. Often, they are not well maintained. The “flipped” house is presented with lots of lipstick and glitz, and the inspection finds things that indicate the flipper has not pulled the proper permits to ensure that things are done with proper construction techniques and to code.

An inspection must be very thorough in all these circumstances. Sometimes, improperly-done things are hidden by drywall, and that is always a problem.
One welcome trend is a wonderfully upgraded kitchen, from appliances and cabinets to counters and beautifully-tiled walls. The kitchen is the heart of the home and important to most everyone.

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