The regulations on home inspectors in the Mid-South are weak at best.
They have improved since I started covering consumer issues here in 1997. Tennessee didn't require home inspectors to be licensed until 2005. Mississippi didn't require licenses until 2001.
The lack of experience and oversight is showing.
"Jo" of East Memphis hired a home inspector out of the phone book to inspect her new home -- only to discover a month later that he missed major leaks in her duct work that cost her $3,500 in repairs!
Jo's e-mail asks:
"Is a home inspection worth the money or would it be better to have specialists such as electricians, plumbers, framers, etc come and do individual inspections?"
Jo, a home inspection is worth the money, but it would be cost-prohibitive to hire a specialist for every area of the house.
My advice for a long time here in the Mid-South has been to hire a home inspector who is also a REGISTERED STRUCTURAL ENGINEER. I hired a structural engineer to inspect my home when I bought it eight years ago. He caught things I know a typical home inspector wouldn't catch.
I know this because I know the basic requirements for a home inspector in Tennessee:
* 18 YEARS OR OLDER.
* HIGH SCHOOL GRAD OR GED.
* COMPLETE A 90-HOUR STATE-APPROVED TRAINING PROGRAM.
* PASS A COMPETENCY EXAM GIVEN EITHER BY THE STATE OR A ENTITY CHOSEN BY THE STATE, MOST LIKELY THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF HOME INSPECTORS (ASHI) www.ashi.org
Here's the Tennessee law with all the home inspector requirements:
62-6-305. Application for licensure - Prerequisites and qualifications. -
(a) Any person who applies for licensure as a home inspector must submit an application on a form as prescribed by the commissioner. The application shall be accompanied by the fee specified in § 62-6-303. Applicants for licensure shall furnish evidence satisfactory to the commissioner that the applicant:
(1) Is at least eighteen (18) years of age;
(2) Has graduated from high school or earned a general education development certificate;
(3) Has not been convicted of a crime that has a direct bearing on the applicant's ability to perform competently and fully as a licensee;
(4) Is not the subject of a disciplinary or enforcement action by another state or a local jurisdiction in connection with the performance of home inspections or the licensing or certification of home inspectors;
(5) Has successfully completed ninety (90) hours of a commissioner-approved training program or course of study involving the performance of home inspections and the preparation of home inspection reports;
(6) Has passed a commissioner-approved competency examination administered by the state or an entity selected by the state; and
(7) Has obtained a certificate of insurance in an amount required by the commissioner for general liability as well as errors and omissions to cover all activities contemplated under this part.
(b) During the first one hundred eighty (180) days after July 1, 2006, the commissioner shall issue a license to any applicant who meets the requirements of subsection (a), excluding subdivisions (a)(2), (a)(5), and (a)(6), if:
(1) The applicant furnishes evidence satisfactory to the commissioner that the applicant has been principally engaged in the performance of home inspections in this state for three (3) or more years and has completed at least one hundred fifty (150) home inspections; and
(2) A judgment has not been entered against the applicant by a court of competent jurisdiction, if the judgment was based upon the applicant's negligent performance as a home inspector.
They don't have to have home-building experience -- no general contracting, no home improvement, nothing!
So if you can't get a structural engineer to inspect the home you're buying, shop only the home inspectors whose state licenses you can verify. Narrow those down to the ones who have long years of home inspection experience or who have home-building or contracting experience.
If they can't verify their experiences, don't hire them.
Here are the links to the Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas home inspector regulatory agencies. You can research a home inspector's license on these sites, as well as each state's requirements for home inspectors:
Tennessee Dept. of Commerce & Insurance Home Inspector Licensing Program: http://www.state.tn.us/commerce/boards/hic/
Mississippi Home Inspector Board: http://www.mrec.state.ms.us/mhib/index_mhib.html
Arkansas Home Inspector Registration Board: http://www.ahib.org/