What to Expect When You’re Inspecting

Everything you need to know about home inspections

By Bill Thompson
General Contractor / Home Inspector

Perhaps the single most important aspect of buying a home is assuring that it is properly inspected. In this article, Bill Thompson, one of San Francisco’s top home inspectors, provides tips and advice on inspecting your potential new home.


Finding a Home Inspector:

  1. 1. Your real estate agent is a good source for recommendations on home inspectors. Note that home inspectors are not licensed or regulated by any specific governing body. To assure that your inspector has the proper qualifications, start by looking for someone who is licensed as a general contractor. You’ll also want to select a person with at least ten years as experience.
  2. Be sure your home inspector has specific experience inspecting homes in the part of the Bay Area in which your home is located.  If you’re purchasing in San Francisco, for example, you’ll want an inspector who has specific experience with the types of structures and repairs that typically occur in older San Francisco-style homes.
  3. Your home inspector will not only be making specific recommendations for repairs, but will also provide advice on the maintenance of your home and appliances.  Therefore, you’ll want to employ someone who has actually performed repairs and maintenance on homes and appliances.
  4. Ask about his or her experience with the San Francisco Department of Building and Inspection.  You’ll want someone who is familiar with their rules, regulations, and permits, and who can recommend ways to expedite the processes, if necessary.
  5. Be sure your home inspector has adequate insurance.  He or she should carry errors and omissions insurance of at least $500,000.  This protects you in the event of mistakes on the part of the inspector.  For example, if the report indicates that your furnace is in good condition, but two months later the furnace causes a fire that damages your home, the inspector’s errors and omissions insurance will pay for the damage.

If you are using one of the larger San Francisco real estate companies such as Zephyr, you won’t have to worry about checking the inspector’s insurance certificate.  Zephyr and other large companies typically require inspectors they recommend to provide proof of insurance on an annual basis.


What to have inspected:

  1. The most important item to inspect is the foundation of your home, as it is the single most expensive installation on the property.
  2. The next critical item in an inspection is the roof, as roof problems can cause substantial damage to interior surfaces.
  3. Next comes the electrical installations, as failures in this area are the leading causes of home fires.
  4. Be sure your inspector thoroughly checks the safety and reliability of the heating installations such as furnaces and water heaters.
  5. Your kitchen appliances, such as the stove, oven, dishwasher, and refrigerator should also be checked for safety and function.

Costs and Reports:

Following are a few final tips for insuring a proper home inspection:

  1. You should expect to pay between $400 and $500 for a full home inspection, which includes a written report.  The buyer typically pays for the inspection.
  2. The typical home inspection takes between one to two hours, with an additional two to three hours for the written report.
  3. Plan on attending your home inspection.  This is an ideal time for questions and answers about the state and repair of your home.
  4. A written report should be mailed or delivered to you within 48 hours of the inspection.
  5. The report should include accurate estimates for any needed repairs, and should also include recommendations for maintenance, as well as suggested vendors.

For further questions on home inspections, please feel free to call Bill Thomson at (415) 775-5300 or email thomson_bldg@yahoo.com.

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