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Should Your Home Inspector Have Construction Experience?: An Interview with Chris Hawkins of American Home Detectives

By Christopher Hawkins

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

American Home Detectives(AHD) is a South Florida based real-estate inspection company serving all Eastern counties from St. Lucie to Miami-Dade. American Home Detectives offers Comprehensive Home and Commercial Inspections, Insurance Inspections, Investigative Inspections (to help find the source of that pesky leak or strange mechanical sound), Litigation-Related inspections and expert witness testimony. We also offer several ancillary services including Mold Assessment, Seawall & Dock surveys, WDO (pest inspections), and much more.

What kind of training is required for home inspectors in Florida?

All prospective Florida Home Inspectors are required to complete 120 hours of both classroom and field training and pass a standardized exam for licensure. Applicants for licensure are also required to pass FBI and FDLE background screenings, and prove acquisition of insurance. In order to maintain licensure, the Florida DBPR further requires all inspectors to complete biennial continuing education which covers a broad range of inspection-related topics. At American Home Detectives, our requirements for employment as an inspector far exceed those required by the state. All inspectors employed by AHD must possess extensive construction or inspection experience 10 years or greater and must successfully complete our training program, demonstrating proficiency with our Standards of Practice prior to performing their first inspection.

How can having experience in construction affect how you perform an inspection?

An inspector with construction experience has the instinctive ability to observe and analyze visual defects beyond what's obvious. Many times visual damage is representative of a more significant concealed condition. Having construction experience allows inspectors the ability to make an educated guess about what's beneath the surface, what damage or defect may exist, and how significant it may be.

Can you briefly talk about some of the benefits of hiring a home inspector with construction experience?

The primary benefit to homeowners who hire an inspector with construction experience is the first-hand knowledge of how a home is constructed that inspector brings to every inspection they perform. Though no one in our industry has developed x-ray vision to date, construction knowledge offers inspectors superior insight into what defects may be present behind the drywall and cabinets. Also, an inspector versed in construction typically has the ability to more accurately assign both a cost estimate and severity/imminence to defects found. This is valuable to buyers as both under-reported defects, as well as exaggerated defects, have the potential to hinder your investment.

Do you have any real-life examples of defects or problems that you've found directly because of your background in construction?

I recall inspecting a property once where the agent, and even the buyer told me they were certain there were no significant issues. Upon inspecting the kitchen I noticed water damage in all of the cabinet bottoms, and measured an unusually high moisture content in the wood and surrounding walls. The buyer and agent were convinced that the damage was caused by a leaking p-trap under the sink, and that it was no big deal. I, on the other hand, was not convinced. Having knowledge of concrete block construction, and having observed the home's low relative elevation, I knew rainwater may be accumulating along the home's perimeter due to poor drainage. I believed that ultimately that water was leaking through naturally developing cracks between the block and foundation, and was the cause of the water damage observed inside the home. Unfortunately for the buyer we were in the midst of the dry-season and there were no obvious signs of flooding. Against my advice, the buyer dismissed all recommendations for further evaluation by a drainage contractor and moved forward with the purchase. Then, 3 months later, my phone rang. It was the client calling to ask what could be done to fix the problem. Unfortunately there wasn't much that could be done and the client ended up taking a 6 figure loss.

Is there anything that people should know about the training or qualifications that home inspectors should have?

When hiring a home inspector buyers should be primarily concerned with an inspectors experience and reputation. A licensed inspector isn't necessarily a good inspector. An inspector who used to be an accountant may not be a bad inspector, but it is difficult to believe someone without construction experience would catch all the defects a former contractor might. When hiring, make sure your inspector has either been in the business for at least 5-10 years, or that their background was mainly construction-related. Also, be sure that the inspector who will perform your inspection is the one who's background your are questioning. Many firms have hire lesser experienced inspectors to be price-competitive. Be sure the company you hire especially if they are the cheapest employs experienced inspectors. Remember, saving $100 can cost you thousands, tens of thousands or even more when hiring an inspector. Make sure you are hiring based on qualifications, not just price alone.

What is the best way for people to contact your company?

There are many ways to contact us: You may visit our website >, call us at 561-235-9401 or email us at info@americanhomedetectives.com We are eager to answer any questions you may have.

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