Column: Choose a home inspector who knows the area

Or, Randy rants regarding ridiculous recommendations

I have had several emails recently from local Realtors regarding home inspections performed by Phoenix home inspectors. Two were from buyers’ Realtors where the buyer chose the inspector. One asked me about a travel fee, another asked about a crawlspace inspection fee.

Most inspectors have fees based on the size of the home. Some charge extra for older homes, some charge extra for items that inspectors are not required to inspect. The best example would be Phoenix inspectors charging extra to inspect swimming pools. I see nothing wrong about a “travel fee.” However, home inspectors are required to inspect a crawlspace. A crawlspace does take time to inspect. There are often plumbing, electrical and heating/cooling components to check along with the structural, ventilation and insulation. And I rarely see an unoccupied crawlspace — you have to be careful of the vermin, spiders and other habitants.

There may be others doing this, but I do not know of any other inspector that charges extra to inspect something that is required in the Standards of Professional Practice for Arizona Home Inspectors. If you’re inspecting a home, you have to inspect the crawlspace. I went to that inspector’s website, and the only “additional fee” was for older homes. If an inspector insists on an additional fee on-site, the client may not have any choice. If he refuses to pay extra, the inspector cannot inspect the home. And there is very likely not time to find and schedule another inspector within the inspection period.

I’m just imagining taking my car in for an oil change, and being told there’s an additional fee because they had to open the hood. I’m getting better at controlling my type A (despite what my wife would say), but that would really light my fuse.

I’m guessing about 30 percent of homes in our area have a crawlspace. That percentage is much lower in Phoenix, I’m sure. But in my humble opinion if you want to inspect homes in Prescott, you should not be charging extra for something that you are required by state law to inspect. Especially a crawlspace that is a very important part of the inspection.

I also had emails from two different local Realtors where a Phoenix inspector made a recommendation for something that is common in our area. I have had past clients ask me to inspect homes in Phoenix and Flagstaff and have always said no. Recently a repeat client offered to pay me travel time to inspect a home in Kingman. This was my reply:

“I have time for a longer answer now. I have been asked many times by clients to inspect a home in Phoenix or Flagstaff, etc. I always tell the​m it would be much better ​to find an inspector in that area. We have ‘inspect a house’ classes in Arizona, and we always find that they call some things in Phoenix that are common in Prescott or Tucson, and vice versa. One quick example comes to mind. Gas-only fireplace manufacturers all recommend at least 10 feet between a fireplace wall vent and any opening window (because there’s a lot of carbon monoxide in a fireplace exhaust). Prescott does not enforce this — I have seen hundreds of gas fireplace vents near windows. I always recommend installing a carbon monoxide alarm in the room(s) with a window near the fireplace exhaust vent. If I made my usual comment about the fireplace vent/carbon monoxide alarm, ​and then you found out Kingman enforces the manufacturers specs, you might have to remove or replace the fireplace. 

​“Prescott does not require exterior combustion air for a gas water heater in a garage. Prescott does not require a 120-volt outlet near a gaspack on the roof. Prescott Valley requires a gutter/downspout system, Prescott, Chino and Yavapai County do not. These are not written policies. Every jurisdiction (city or county) will be strict on enforcing some code items, and lax on some others. But these are all items that at least one city in Arizona does require. I have no idea what is common in Kingman, and would be doing you a disservice by inspecting a home there for you.”

I have been “inspecting Prescott” for a long time. But if I wanted to start inspecting homes in some other city, I would do some research first to find out what’s common in that area. I’m not writing this column because these out-of-town inspectors affect my business; they do not. I’m writing it because of five emails in two weeks regarding unusual policies or recommendations by out-of-town inspectors. I’m offering advice to any buyer in any city. When interviewing inspectors, you should always ask how many inspections they have done in that city or area.

Randy West owns Professional Building Consultants in Prescott. He is state-certified and has performed more than 7,000 home inspections in the Prescott area. West serves on the Home Inspector Rules and Standards Committee for the Arizona Board of Technical Registration. Contact him at randywest2@gmail.com or visit http://inspectprescott.com.