When you’re buying a home, you really need to know its condition and whether or not there are any safety concerns. That’s the main reason you’re having a buyer's inspection — and hiring someone to do the job. There are plenty of choices out there, and it might be tempting to choose the low-cost, easiest-to-schedule option to keep the transaction moving quickly. But as they say: buyer beware.
While saving a few bucks on your home inspection services may seem like a good idea at the time, it can cost you quite a lot down the road if you're not careful. Before you lock down that appointment, make sure you ask some important questions so you can make sure you have a quality home inspector you can rely on.
Here’s a breakdown of 7 things to ask inspectors:
1. Are you a certified member of a professional organization? Make sure your inspector is certified through one of the professional associations. ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors), for example, is the most well-known and respected home inspection association, and has a long history of certification through a peer review process and high levels of required continuing education to maintain certification. Make sure your inspector is a member, ideally a Certified Member.
2. What is your professional experience? Does your inspector have any experience working in the trades? They should have at least some real-world experience in Carpentry, Contracting, Electrical, Plumbing, HVAC, or have related industry experience like project management, Engineering, or other trades experience.
3. How long will you be at the home? Are they telling you that the inspection is going to take an hour, or up to three hours or more? Even though a longer inspection is not always a better one, make sure your inspector is planning on being there for as long as it takes to look at and test everything, and to answer any questions you might have.
4. Can I see a sample report? Does the inspector’s report have clear wording, specific to the conditions of the home observed, or is it all vague, generalized language? Do they explain what the implications are of any problem or defect? Do they make recommendations? If they can’t show you a sample report, don’t hire them.
5. How many homes have you inspected? Nothing against newbies (we’ve all been there before), but there’s no substitute for experience. You really want someone who’s seen as much as possible – especially in cities and towns where the ages of homes and types of construction varies so greatly. A minimum of 500 inspections is really what you want to be looking for. Also ask them if they are full-time. Part time inspectors that are supplementing another job are simply more likely to miss something.
6. Are you licensed and insured? Check your state’s licensure division and make sure they don’t have complaints filed against them. Make sure they are insured. Many states require insurance for licensure, but it is always good to verify. Errors and Omissions insurance is designed to protect you if they miss something significant.
7. Can I contact you after I get the report? An experienced, quality home inspector understands how important your transaction is to you. They also know that it takes time to recognize deficiencies and to explain to clients how systems in a home are interrelated. They are prepared to spend the time necessary to do a thorough, quality job for you. High quality inspectors also know you’re going to be relying on the inspection report during the transaction, but also possibly for years to come. They are ready and willing to be your home consultant now and in the future.
These are some characteristics that separate a high-quality home inspector from the rest. Make sure you feel comfortable with the qualifications and services that your inspector will be providing, and don’t settle for anything less!