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How to Choose a Reliable Home Inspector: An Interview with Leon Slack of GS & TJ Services

By Leon Slack

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

My company is named: GS & TJ Services, Inc. The GS stands for Great Service, and the TJ stands for Thorough Job. We try to live up to that name by giving the best and most thorough inspection for the money. We have also performed commercial building inspections for buildings up to 33,000 sq ft. and multi-unit inspections for buildings up to 47 units. We are accredited by the Better Business Bureau and we have repeat customers because of the thoroughness of our work. I personally have 25 years experience in construction, working as a construction foreman up to managing a construction organization and construction budgets, with 1,500 workers, constructing many building, including 10,000 sq ft building throughout northern Illinois.

What qualifications should all home inspectors have?

They should have some kind of construction experience. The license course is good, but it is not like hands on experience in construction. For the same amount of money, it is good to benefit from that kind of experience. All inspectors are not created equal, each one works from their knowledge and experience, so with less knowledge or experience, you would be paying for less critical eye. If issues are missed, you will not know until the issues come up months or years later, issues that you could have negotiated to take care of before your closing on the house. For most of these issues, you cannot go back to the inspector and claim anything.

What are some of the best questions for prospective customers to ask before hiring a home inspector?

How long have you been in the construction industry?
Some inspectors take the one month course and get licensed, but without any previous actual hands-on construction experience. Without such experience, they may miss issues that a more experienced inspector in construction would catch.

Can I see a sample of your reports?
This way, a client can see what kind of reports they generate for the money. Some inspectors just give a checklist, without pictures, and may just be a list of common issues, like: lights don't work, carpet worn, etc. These are issues that you can tell yourself by a walk thru. You pay for, and want to benefit from the experience of a critical eye looking for more serious issues, like: sump pump on the blimp, foundation shifting, roof issues, etc. These reports may include the minor issues, but also the more serious ones. Many inspectors make available a sample of one of their reports online on their website.

How can people judge the quality and reliability of a home inspector they don't know?

You don't generally even see an inspector until you see them onsite after you hire them. In Illinois, you might not have a lot of time to research, since many times, you are only given 5-7 days. You can get a hint of the kind of work they do by asking to see a sample of their reports, or look at their website, if they have one. Do they include pictures in their reports? Do they address the roof?

You can ask your real estate broker about the quality of the work of the home inspectors they have worked with. Some brokers are conscientious of taking care of their clients, so they will recommend a good inspector. Sadly, others may be self-serving and try to get you out of hiring one, because of fear of a deal-breaking issue coming up. If the real estate broker you are working with seems trustworthy and honestly looking for your best interest, ask him/her. If you don't fully trust them, do your own research, as this is a large investment, and you don't want to make decisions that you will seriously regret.

Is there generally any type of guarantee or warranty associated with a home inspection?

Because you are making a large investment, based on the observations of an inspector, your risk can be high. Inspectors generally carry a limited warranty of their service. If they didn't, they can end up being liable for hidden issues that they could not possibly find. Inspectors cannot tear into the walls of a house that they or their client do not own. But they are extremely skilled in seeing the smallest evidence of major issues. And also they are skilled in finding small issues that you would not see through your walk-thru. Generally, sellers do not allow potential buyers to go through their house for 3 to 4 hours, looking for any issues. But they have to allow inspectors to do so, in order to cooperate with the buyer's agent, who is required to fulfill Illinois real estate law.

Some inspectors carry additional warranty service. For instance, I carry an additional warranty that covers up to $2,000 and last up to 90 days after the inspection, or the closing, whichever comes first. This can give a buyer some peace of mind during a stressful time.

What advice would you give people who need to have a home inspection done as soon as possible?

My advice is to research an inspector ahead of time if possible and have him on standby. Many times, hiring an inspector in a rush could end up hiring the wrong inspector, who misses vital issues that then you are stuck with after closing. As a buyer, you generally know that home maintenance comes with home ownership, which is a cost. But, you generally do not want have to start making repairs as soon as you buy the house, as you have just made that large down payment, etc. Worst yet, you do not want to be stuck with a house with MAJOR issues, that could have been found by an experienced inspector. I have heard many experiences of either NOT hiring an inspector, or hiring the wrong inspector, and the client being left with issues so serious they had to leave or even foreclose on the place soon afterwards, because of the high cost of some issues, running as high as $20,000, in one instance I heard of.

If you have to hire an inspector in a hurry, do NOT use price as your primary criteria. This can be a big mistake that results in your making hundreds of dollars of repairs of missed issues soon after closing. In general, you cannot go back to the inspector to fix them. Be willing to pay a little more for an inspector with experience, not just as an inspector, but, in my opinion, experience in the construction industry. There are many inspectors who have many years in the construction industry, who are now retired in construction, who can be a much better inspector than one who has more years as an inspector, but who is only book-learned. Trust me; a good inspector who charges a little more WILL save you much more in the long run, or even a short run.

What's the best way for people to contact you and/or your company?

The best way to contact me is to call my main contact number: 773-234-GSTJ (Great Service, Thorough Job), or 773-234-4785. If there is no answer, we will get back to you as soon as possible.

The second way to contact me is to go to one of my websites:
www.GSandTJServiesInc.com or www.illinoisinspectors.com.

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Phone: 773-234-4785

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