There are huge differences between home inspectors. Like all professions or trades, the majority are rather mediocre. A small percentage are spectacularly bad. An even smaller percentage are very, very good. You want one of the very good ones. Your home is often the largest investment of your life. Take some time to make sure you are hiring someone you can trust to do an excellent job and to look out for your interests above all others.
A referral from a friend or co-worker is good place to start. But you should still do a little more homework before choosing an inspector.
The majority of homebuyers rely on their real estate agent for a referral to an inspector, but there’s an inherent conflict of interest present.Here’s a dirty little secret. Many home inspectors are dependent upon agent referrals to stay in business. As a result, they tend to minimize defects to keep the referring agents happy. Obviously, this is not in your best interest.
This may be the only business where the referring marketplace punishes those who do the best job!
Of course not every agent is waiting to take advantage of you, there are certainly ethical agents who want their clients to get the best inspection possible. I work with many. If you are comfortable with your agent, by all means listen to their advice. But you still might want to use the following list of questions to make sure your making the right decision.
How long have you been in business?
Experience counts in this business. There is no substitute. Don’t hire anyone who’s been in business for less than five years. On the other hand, there are inspectors who have been around for years who do a crummy job. With little training or continuing education, they often don’t realize how sub-standard they are.
Are you licensed as a home inspector?
This is a no-brainer. There are inspectors out there operating illegally.
What did you do before you got into the inspection business?
A background in construction or engineering is preferable. The more experience your inspector has, the better. Avoid someone who was selling shoes last year.
Will you be doing my inspection personally?
Make sure you know who will be doing your inspection. You want the boss, not a trainee.
What Associations do you belong to?
If your home inspector doesn’t belong to a home inspection association, he’s operating in his own little world of limited knowledge and experience. InterNACHI (International Association of Certified Home Inspectors) members agree to inspect to a recognized Standard of Practice and agree to adhere to a Code of Ethics.
How long will the inspection take?
There’s no one right answer to this question. Each inspection is different. Older or larger homes take longer. Homes on slabs are easier than homes with crawl spaces. At minimum, any home will take 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours of time to perform the inspection and write the report. We sometimes spend 5 or 6 hours or more on a larger or older home.
Can I attend the inspection with you?
Make sure your inspector allows you to attend the inspection. If not, be wary. Being at the inspection and seeing the problems will greatly increase your understanding of the problems.
Do you carry insurance?
Most real estate contracts make the buyer liable for any damage done by the inspector. Make sure he carries general liability and errors and omission insurance.
Can I see a sample report?
Looking at a sample report is the single best method of comparing home inspectors. Much of what we do involves written communication. The report is the work product of the inspector. Make sure it’s in a well organized format you can understand. Be sure it all makes sense. If the inspector is reluctant to show you a sample of his work, run.
Do you take videos and photographs?
The most advanced inspectors take digital videos or photos of defects. Videos and photos make it easier for everyone to understand the problem. Especially when the problem is where you can’t get to it. Like the roof or the crawl space.
What percentage of your business comes from Real Estate Agents?
Be wary of anyone who receives more than half of their referrals from agents. They may be worrying about the next referral more than they are worrying about your new home.
How much do you charge?
Fees vary widely. You’ll find that inspectors who have been around a long time and do a good job tend to charge more. It’s like anything else. You get what you pay for. In fact, you can probably judge the skill level of the inspector by the price he charges. And in this case, you want the best, not the cheapest. Most real estate agents representing the buyer will ask the seller to repair defects found during the inspection. Missing even one of these defects will end up costing you money. Need more convincing? Think about this. If O. J. Simpson had hired the cheapest attorney he could find, do you think he would be out playing golf, a free man?
We recommend you print and save this page to assist you in selecting a competent home inspector.