Finding the Right Home Inspector

Home inspections can prevent a lot of headaches for both buyers and sellers.

Choosing a home inspector is part of the home buying process, a decision that can have a significant impact on your satisfaction with your future home. The home inspector is responsible for telling you the things 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.A typical home inspection covers all major mechanical systems, structural integrity, cosmetic features and other aspects of the house. This includes:

  • Heating and cooling systems
  • Electrical
  • Plumbing
  • Interior and exterior
  • Garages
  • Baths
  • Kitchen, which includes cabinets, counters, sinks, faucets, garbage disposals and other built-in appliances
  • Insects
  • Exterior walls
  • Parapets, trim
  • Chimney
  • Foundation
  • Slabs
  • Basement and crawl space
  • Examination of the attic and roof to assess the insulation, ventilation, framing, roof surface, flashing, penetrations, drainage, overhangs, gutters and downspouts
The task should take two to four hours or more, depending on the complexity of the job. Costs range from $300 to $800 for typical homes, but they can go higher depending on the age and type of structure.

Here’s how to find the right 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 buyers 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. There are some real estate agents who 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 it comes to pointing out issues. Having been in business for thirty years, I have found that the way problems are communicated can have a dramatic effect on 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 on 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!

Get references.

It is always worthwhile to ask for references when you are 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?

Verify that you or your agent 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.

Request a sample inspection report.

Home inspection reports can come in a lot of 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.

Choose an ASHI certified 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 ASHI inspector, you’ll be working with someone who has passed rigorous technical examinations. In order 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.

What to expect on inspection day:

On the day of the inspection, the inspector performs an initial site evaluation. Then the inspector takes you on a tour to point out the assets as well as any potential problems. Pay attention, watch, ask questions and learn. A thorough inspection can find problems related to water entry, roof leaks, insect infestation, unsafe wiring, failed septic systems, poor plumbing, wet basements, mold and mildew, and safety hazards.
At the end of the inspection, you receive a written report detailing all the findings. The report should contain photographs and descriptions of any damage or defects found during the inspection as well as details on the location of damage. Pictures help you understand the scope and location of the damage, and visual proof makes it easier to get repair estimates.
So how can an inspector have expertise in so many different things? The simple answer is: Some don’t. That’s why it’s important to check an inspector’s background and references. Most home inspections are thorough, but even the best inspectors might not catch everything. “The condition of the home is the ‘snapshot’ of that day,” says John Palczuk of Carolina Inspections. “The home inspector is not going to find every possible thing wrong or that could go wrong. That’s an unrealistic expectation.”