I had a call from a prospective client. She needed a home inspection. Her first question was, "Are you an engineer?"
What can I say? "No, I am not. Do you think the house needs to be seen by an engineer or a home inspector?"
She didn't know. "All I know is my boss told me to get a home inspector who is an engineer."
"I am sorry, I don't know any I can refer you to. I know a lot of engineers and work with a few. And I know a lot of home inspectors. But I do not know anyone who is certified as both. You probably only need an engineer if there are specific structural or soil issues that need examination. Is that what you need? I can refer to you engineers for that purpose, but they don't do home inspections. In fact, one engineer I have known for over 10 years called me to do two inspections on his new home - a pre-drywall structural and a final walk through."
"What does a home inspector do that an engineer does not?" Now, there's a good question!
"As a certified home inspector, I am trained and have long experience in the construction industry. In addition to structure, I also evaluate the exterior, roof, all the indoor systems, ventilation, appliances - well, many things. You should think of a house as you would a living organism - there are many systems that all work together to create a healthy house. Sometimes those systems or parts need repairs or replacement, But they certainly need a complete evaluation from time to time. That is where I come in. I give you as complete a snap shot as I can of the condition of the home on the day we look at it. Then I give you a thorough report that describes my findings."
"Don't engineers do that?"
"Not unless they are certified as home inspectors."
"Well," she repeated, "all I know is my boss told me to get a home inspector who is an engineer. I guess I need to keep checking around." She did not call back. Maybe she found what she was looking for. Likely she found an engineer who said he does home inspections too. But he is probably not a home inspector ... and she will probably never know the difference.
People don't know what they don't know.
The engineer acquaintance I referred to above called me do perform a pre-drywall analysis on his new home. I was surprised to hear from him! "What do you need me for? You know more about structure than I do!"
His answer was very smart and very circumspect. "Four eyes are better than two. And I know you have a good eye. Plus, you look at other things too." And guess what? I found some things, structural and otherwise, that he had not seen, agreed with and wanted corrected. That's how it works.
So, do you want a home inspector or an engineer? Personally, I don't know! Which do need?
My recommendation: A structural engineer is likely not a trained home inspector and few home inspectors are trained as engineers. Neither is likely to do a report that would satisfy the other's criteria during an evaluation. So, hire what you need! But when you need a structural engineer, don't call a home inspector. Engineers are great at what they do. And, when you need a home inspector, you are likely to be disappointed by an engineer's point of view.
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.
Office (703) 330-6388 Cell (703) 585-7560