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Publication #FCS3279

Energy Efficient Homes: Home Inspections1

Kathleen C. Ruppert, Hyun-Jeong Lee, and Building a Safer Florida2

Quick Facts

  • A professional home inspection can verify the condition of a house for purchase as well as identify the need for recommended repairs and/or upgrades for homeowners.

  • By Florida law, only State-certified Energy Raters may provide energy-rating services. Certified energy auditors and utility auditors are not home inspectors, nor are they Home Energy Raters.

  • Wood-Destroying Organism (WDO) inspectors are not the same as home inspectors. WDO inspectors only inspect homes for termites and other wood destroying organisms. See http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in629 for more information on this topic.

  • Enforcement of licensing requirements for home inspectors, mold assessors, and mold remediators in Florida, through the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, began July 1, 2011.

How do you choose a home inspector?

Like anything else, a home inspection is only as good as the inspector doing the work. It is in your best interest to carefully verify the qualifications of any inspector you consider hiring.

Step 1: Basic qualification check

First, make sure any home inspector has expertise on the specific subject for inspection—expertise on plumbing is not the same as expertise on carpentry. Second, verify any business background or license(s) held by the home inspector (see below for how to do this). These two preliminary measures apply to all types of inspectors.

Step 2: Further specifics

Once you know your home inspector is generally qualified, you will want to check two additional specific items. First, you should request a copy of the home inspector's contract, agreement, or proposal and read the fine print to determine exactly what you will get for your money. The Florida Association of Building Inspectors (http://www.fabi.org/why-fabi/standards-of-practice/) has some general guidelines on what to expect in a home inspection. Second, you should request that the home inspector provide you with a list of current and past customers as well as a list of references. This enables you to learn more about the experience and track record of the home inspector. You should take the time to check with several references on the list. In addition, you should study the list of customers. Count the number of customers and see how many are builders and how many are residential property owners—the more residential customers, the better.

Generally, the higher the price, the more comprehensive or complete the service will be. However, a higher price may also be associated with a greater level of expertise or experience. When comparing prices for home inspections, it is very important to compare the actual service and qualifications at the same time. An easy way to do this is to create a simple chart listing:

Table 1. 

Comparing home inspectors

Individual or company name

Price

Inspector qualification(s)

Level of service (what they will do)

Your chart will quickly show you that a lower price is not always the best way to choose a home inspector. If seeking more information regarding the Florida Statues related to home inspectors, see http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=Ch0468/part15.htm&StatuteYear=2007&Title=%2D%3E2007%2D%3EChapter%20468%2D%3EPart%20XV.

What is a Home Energy Rating?

HERS (Home Energy Rating System) is a standardized evaluation of a home's energy efficiency and expected energy costs. The home energy rating can qualify a homeowner or homebuyer for an energy efficient mortgage (EEM), an energy improvement mortgage (EIM), or other programs. See http://www.fsec.ucf.edu/en/consumer/buildings/homes/ratings/index.htm for more information on the benefits of home energy ratings. If purchasing an existing home needing energy efficient improvements, be sure to ask the lenders you contact to determine if they offer such mortgages. Replacing items such as an old or barely working heating and air conditioning system is much easier on the wallet if you include that cost into the mortgage rather than moving in and a month later needing to replace the unit with money out of pocket.

By Florida law (section 553.990, Florida Statutes), only those individuals certified by the state are allowed to provide energy rating services in Florida. These raters have undergone specialized training and passed the required exams. They are also required to take continuing education classes and pass further exams to keep their certification. In addition, all of their ratings are submitted to a central registry that checks for accuracy.

What about inspections for mold or fungus?

Over the last few years, inspections for mold and fungus have become more specialized. If you need this type of inspection, you may want to seek an inspector who has completed specialized training. Inspectors who specialize in mold may also be mold assessors, while mold remediators are those persons who specialize in removing mold. Florida requires licensure specific to mold assessment or remediation. You should take the same care in selecting a person with this expertise as you would when hiring any other inspector or remediator.

Note that as of July 1, 2010, home inspectors, mold assessors, and mold remediators in Florida had to be licensed through the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Enforcement of this requirement began July 1, 2011. See http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=Ch0468/part16.htm&StatuteYear=2007&Title=%2D%3E2007%2D%3EChapter%20468%2D%3EPart%20XVI for Florida Statues related to mold-related services.

Cautions:

  • You should not hire an inspector/rater who also offers to perform any needed repairs or other work—this may be a conflict of interest (and, in some cases, illegal on the part of the inspector).

  • Avoid hiring an inspector/rater who offers to recommend any contractor to perform repairs—this, too, is a red flag.

  • It is also not a good idea to hire an inspector/rater who has worked for a builder or seller associated with the home prior to the inspection—the risk of a conflict of interest is greater in this situation.

  • Think twice about hiring an inspector who worked as a contractor before becoming an inspector. Find out why this person is no longer working as a contractor. If the contractor's license was revoked or suspended, this is not a good sign. However, if the inspector/contractor has chosen to shift to a lighter or less stressful schedule of work, this person may bring some of the best practical experience to the job.

Resources for more information

  • You can search for information about the business entity (corporation or other form of business, length of time in existence, etc.) and for other or previous affiliations by searching under the inspector's name at the document searches portion of the Florida Department of State, Division of Corporations free online search service at http://www.sunbiz.org or by calling 850-245-6939.

  • Find information about any professional licenses held by the inspector (such as architect, engineer, contractor, building code administrator, etc.) by clicking on "verify a license" at http://www.myfloridalicense.com or by calling 850-487-1395. You will first need to learn what licenses are held by the inspector, and then check for license validity and any record of violations. In addition to verifying licenses, be sure to check for any charges of unlicensed activity.

  • Search for Certified Building Energy Raters in Florida at the website http://energygauge.com/search.htm.

  • Check for any violations relating to workers' compensation insurance (a common area for problems in construction) at https://apps8.fldfs.com/proofofcoverage/Search.aspx or 800-742-2214 .

  • Your local county or municipal building department may provide verification of local or state license or any known problems. See the government section of your telephone book—look under “building,” “plans,” “inspections,” or “zoning.”

  • Your local court records office may allow you to search under your inspector's individual and business name to see if any litigation has been filed or is pending against the inspector. See the government section of your telephone book—look under “courts” or “clerk of court.”

For any professional or trade association membership listed by the inspector/rater, you can usually verify the existence or validity of the entity with a simple online search.

Footnotes

1.

This document is FCS3279, one of an Energy Efficient Homes series of the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. This material was initially prepared in June 2008 with the support of the Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Energy Office, which is now the Office of Energy, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. This revised version was prepared June 2012 with the support of the Florida Energy Systems Consortium (http://floridaconserves.org). Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsoring organizations. Please visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Kathleen C. Ruppert, Extension scientist, Program for Resource Efficient Communities; Hyun-Jeong Lee, former assistant professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences; and Building a Safer Florida, Inc., 1400 Village Square Boulevard, Number 3-243, Tallahassee, FL 32312; Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.