What is a Home Inspector?
Are you looking to find an outstanding home inspector? Choosing a home inspector is part of the home buying process, a decision that can significantly impact your satisfaction with your future home.
A home inspector’s job is to inspect every visible inch of a home inside and out. The inspection should cover everything about the property from top to bottom. Special attention should be paid to the structural, mechanical, and safety aspects of the property.
The home inspector’s findings should then be transferred into writing for clients to view clearly and understandably. This document will be known as the home inspection report. It is customary for home inspectors to share the document with their clients and their real estate agent.
Home inspectors should be licensed and insured professionals.
The home inspector is responsible for telling you what you need to know about the home you are interested in. His or her ability to spot potential issues is vital for you to make an informed purchase, one you will be happy with over the long term. Knowing how to select a home inspector becomes paramount, especially for first-time buyers.
You only need to do a quick search for home inspectors in your area to find numerous options, but as with so many professions, some inspectors are better than others.
The following tips will help you find a home inspector that you can be happy with, someone you can trust to provide you with all the relevant facts about the home you want to buy.
Use these ten tips for picking a home inspector to increase the odds of having a pleasant home inspection experience!
10 Tips For Choosing A Reliable Home Inspector
1. Use Google to search for home inspectors.
If you are new to an area or don’t know any home inspectors, the first place you may want to start is Google. You can do an online search using “home inspector near me” or “home inspectors near me.” Using these search terms, you should get results showing inspectors located in your general area.
Now the hard part begins. You will have to start doing a bit of research on the home inspectors you have found. Make sure you look up reviews and any references you find. It also makes sense to do another search on the company to make sure nothing negative is posted online.
Using Google to find a home inspector is a good start, but there are other methods you should fall back on if they are available to you.
2. Get a reference from your real estate agent.
One of the best resources for picking a home inspector should be your Realtor. Do you know your real estate agent well and trust them? Do you feel they have your best interests at heart and are not more concerned about their pocketbook? If you can confidently answer these two questions in the affirmative, then there is no reason not to trust your Realtors’ advice on who to select as a home inspector.
If your agent has been in business for any length of time, they have probably encountered quite a few home inspectors. By observation, your agent can see who does a thorough job and who does not.
An exceptional buyer’s agent, one who wants the best for their client, will have a couple of home inspectors they know to go through a home with a fine-tooth comb. A trustworthy agent will not be worrying about whether choosing the “tough inspector” will cause the sale to fall apart.
If you just met your real estate agent and didn’t know them that well, you may want to consider finding your inspector. Like every other business, there are good and bad apples in the real estate industry. Some real estate agents will “steer” their clients to a hand-picked list of home inspectors who are less observant than others when it comes to finding problems.
On the other hand, some excellent home inspectors do not have great delivery when pointing out issues. Having been in business for thirty years, I have found that the way problems are communicated can dramatically affect a buyer.
Some of the worst home inspectors, while thorough, use scare tactics to make problems sound way worse than they are! Why do they do this? If you don’t buy the home, you’re more than likely going to call them for the next house. Real Estate agents like to call this a two for one. This is the mark of an unprofessional inspector. Yes, there are bad home inspectors, just like there are bad real estate agents!
An excellent home inspector will not only be thorough but will take the time to explain the severity of an issue. If the problem they have found is a common one and not something to be genuinely concerned about, they should explain this to you. Some of the most common home inspection problems can usually be corrected fairly quickly.
3. Look for a home inspection company that is bonded and insured.
Whether you go with a big company or a single inspector working on his or her own, you want to make sure that whoever examines the home is bonded and insured. Finding out about insurance is one of the most important questions to ask when interviewing for a home inspection.
Depending on your area, a home inspector may be able to conduct business without insurance. The problem with uninsured home inspectors is that they may try to hold you or the homeowner liable if they are injured during the inspection.
Climbing in attics and wandering through basements and crawl spaces does carry a certain amount of risk, which is why reputable home inspectors carry insurance.
If the basement steps are rotten and the inspector falls and breaks a leg, you don’t want to have to worry about being sued. If the inspector is not bonded or insured, I will cross them off your list immediately. Prior to selecting a home inspector, you should make sure they have insurance.
4. Verify that the inspection company only does inspections – not home repairs and renovations.
Hiring someone that just does inspections is an important tip for finding the right home inspector! Home inspection companies that sell other services – such as roofing, plumbing, kitchen and bathroom renovations, etc. – have conflicts of interest. The fact that they sell repair and renovation services means they are more likely to see problems where there aren’t any.
You want an objective opinion on the house’s state, not a soft sell on renovation or repair services. Of course, the company may do an excellent job of separating its inspection and repair services.
Unfortunately, there is no way for you to know if you will be encouraged to make unnecessary repairs until you hire and pay for the inspection.
Choose a home inspection company that’s focused solely on inspections. If you are interested in the cost of repairs or renovations, bring in a contractor after the inspection is over.
5. Find out what the home inspector includes and how long it takes.
The best home inspection will be a thorough one, where the inspector goes over every little detail of the home. You want an inspection that looks at every component of the home, including:
- The plumbing system.
- The electrical system.
- The structural condition.
- The heating and air conditioning systems.
- The basement and foundation.
- The roof and attic.
- Evidence of water penetration or grading issues.
- Pests such as bugs and wildlife.
- Environmental issues such as mold, radon, asbestos, and lead paint.
- Appliances and other general components of the home.
Knowing what an inspector will look at also allows you to shop around and compare services. Some inspectors may only focus on the structure itself and nothing more. Just know going in exactly what you are getting.
Most home inspections should take two to three hours to complete. If you are purchasing a larger home, a fixer-upper, or an older home, the inspection will more than likely take even longer. Don’t hire someone who tells you they will complete the inspection within an hour or two. It is unlikely the inspector will be able to do a thorough job in that limited time span.
6. Get home inspector references.
Another key consideration for picking a home inspector is sound references. It is always worthwhile to ask for references when hiring a service, and home inspectors are no exception. Ideally, you want to get new references from at least a few different clients.
You can ask each customer about his or her experience with the inspection company. Did the inspector seem knowledgeable? Did he or she turn up on time? Was the report comprehensive and relatively easy to understand?
While references are excellent, keep in mind that the inspection company probably gave you contact information for the most satisfied customers. That is why it’s helpful to get multiple references. The more people you talk to, the clearer a picture you will have about the company’s work. Just like picking a real estate agent is important, so is your inspector.
7. Verify that you can accompany the inspector while he or she goes through the home.
While you are not required to go along for the inspection, it is in your interest to do so. The home inspector can explain all the different things he or she is looking for and give you valuable insight into the state of the home.
If you do choose to purchase the home, your trip with the home inspector will give you a chance to see where everything is in your new home and will allow you to take note of any areas that may give you trouble in the future – even if they are not major issues right now.
Also, a great home inspector will also go over general maintenance of the major components in the home. While their primary function is discovering significant structural and mechanical defects, a home inspector can be a fantastic resource for educating you on how a home should work properly.
Hopefully, your real estate agent can go along with you on the inspection as well. Having your agent there ensures that you get all the information you need about the state of the home. The best real estate agents attend home inspections for their client’s benefit. When it comes time to negotiate any issues the home inspector discovers, it isn’t easy to do well if the agent was not there to see them. Lots of agents make excuses on why they don’t attend inspections. Please don’t fall for one of their lame reasons.
Part of your Realtor’s job is to be a consultant. When it comes time for negotiating with the seller, you will need to know what are reasonable home inspection repair requests and what is not. Real Estate agents who do their job well are there for you every step of the way!
8. Request a sample inspection report.
When selecting a home inspector it is helpful to see what their home inspection report looks like. Home inspection reports can come in many different formats, from walls of text to colorful reports with photographs. You will have an easier time reading the report if it is designed to be accessible. Any inspection company you are considering should be able to send you a sample report so you can see if the format works for you.
I would highly recommend selecting a home inspector who provides color photography of the issues they find. When it comes to home inspections, a picture is worth having. The link above shows the type of inspection report you should be looking for. Notice the vivid photos showing the issues accompanied by a description of the problem. Please note – I do not know Home Gauge as they are not in my market. This type of report, however, is what you should be looking for.
When communicating issues to the seller having pictures make things so much easier. Sometimes it is tough for non-specialists to discern problems without seeing exactly what the inspector is referencing.
9. Compare the cost of hiring different home inspection companies.
No one wants to pay more than they have to for a home inspection, so it makes sense to shop around. However, you need to make sure you are making apples to apple comparison. When you are looking at different companies, get a relatively detailed description of what each company does during an inspection.
A more thorough inspection is worth paying more for. So is a company with better references, or one with experience in a specialized area you need. There is nothing wrong with saving money, but make certain you are hiring someone you can rely on to do a good job.
On average, you can expect a general home inspection to cost anywhere from $400 to 800 dollars depending on the area in which you live. Expect to add more to the cost for testing things such as radon, mold, lead, and water.
In the Metrowest Massachusetts area where I am located, you can expect to pay between $500-$700 for a home inspection. When it comes to picking a home inspector, the cost is probably the least important thing to look at.
Remember you want the best work, not the cheapest person who may miss a serious problem.
10. See if you can find an inspector with experience in the type of home you are looking at.
If you are looking at historic homes or any type of specialty home, try to find an inspector with some experience in the type of home you are buying.
The construction of older homes can vary by region and by style, so there may be some common issues that the average inspector may miss. Newly constructed homes may also be built using materials and techniques new to the market, so it can be helpful to have an inspector familiar with new construction for such homes.
11. Choose an ASHI certified or InterNACHI inspector.
ASHI stands for American Society of Home inspectors. An ASHI certified inspector is required to follow a strict code of ethics. When you choose an ASHI inspector, you’ll be working with someone who has passed rigorous technical examinations.
For an inspector to get ASHI certified, they must perform more than 250 professional inspections. It is essentially just another level of qualifications. This is not to say there are not some fantastic home inspectors who are not ASHI certified. It is just another level of confidence when one has this designation.
The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors or InterNACHI, for short, is another exceptional organization. An InterNACHI certified inspector is required to follow a strict code of ethics. When you choose an InterNACHI inspector, you will be working with someone who has completed numerous inspection courses and technical examinations.
These inspectors are also required to complete 24 hours of continuing education per year. InterNACHI is the largest inspection trade association in North America. You can learn more by visiting their website at InterNACHI. Read about what makes InterNACHI so special! Many states also have statewide associations, which can be acceptable alternatives.
Reputable home inspectors are typically members of one of these organizations. Contact us for more information.