Choose the Right Home Inspector When Buying a Home

There’s no sense in getting a home inspected if the professional you hire is unwilling, or unable to catch all the problems, or provide the services that will meet the standards you should expect. Making any fast, erroneous decisions by selecting the first business that you find online can cost you thousands of dollars cause you to regret buying the house in the first place.

Interview the inspector. Ask the inspector a few questions, like: how long it takes them to inspect the average sized home. If they can get the job done in less than a couple hours, they will probably not do a thorough enough job. Don’t let them convince you that they are so experienced, they can do it in less time. Also, ask them if they do pest inspections in addition to home inspections? If so, you could have both done at the same time and save yourself time, money and effort.

Ask for references. A good home inspector is going to have a lot of happy past customers who would be more than willing to brag about what a great job they’ve done. Call a couple of them and hear what they have to say.

Don’t choose the inspector solely on what they charge. Oftentimes, inspectors who don’t get repeat business, don’t do a good job, or hardly have any experience as an inspector offer a discounted price for their services. Sometimes new inspectors are still good and deserve a chance to talk with you about what they have to offer, but contact more than one professional before making your final decision.

Inquire about their experience and education. An inspector who has previous experience, even in other fields, might have an advantage over other inspectors. Some might have construction experience in their past, which will provide an in depth knowledge of how a house is put together correctly and what standards must be met in the construction of a home.

How helpful are they? A home inspector who cares is going to be one of the best professionals to work with because they will work hard to catch problems and explain them to you as they see them. They should be okay with walking around the property and showing you what issues they see, how soon each they need to be fixed, and how much money it’s going to cost you to get the property up to a reasonable standard.

Home Inspector Training – What You Need to Know

If you have ever bought or sold a home, you know just how important that home inspection is. A thorough property inspection can uncover any number of issues with a property that are otherwise invisible to the average home buyer but can result in hundreds and often thousands of dollars in needed or required repairs after the sale goes through. Having information on the actual condition of the property is vital to any potential buyer. An inspection can serve as a basis for negotiations on price or repair allowances in the sales contract, or it sometimes can spur a buyer to walk away from the property entirely. Other times, it can give a buyer peace of mind in knowing they are buying a “good” property with a clean bill of health.

If you have been considering entering the real estate field in some fashion, this line of work can yield a significant income, with many inspectors enjoying income between $50,000 and $100,000 per year, if not more. It often provides you with the ability to control your workload and schedule, too. Before you can enter this field, however, you need to go through home inspector training.

Most states have a licensing requirement for such inspectors, so you will want to review your own state’s requirements before you sign up for any particular home inspector training course. Many states will require that you take a certification class or program, but you will want to make sure that the courses you are signing up for fulfill your state’s requirements. There are many online courses available for home inspection training, and some states also allow or require you to apprentice under a licensed inspector for a certain period of time before earning your certification and license.

The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) is among the leading organizations in the industry and allows those who are licensed inspectors to join their ranks. Their website contains a full list of state requirements as well and is an excellent resource. You will also want to visit the National Home Inspector Examination website, which also details state requirements and allows you to sign up for the national exam. Currently, only 24 states require you take this national exam, but many professional associations require the exam as a membership requirement including ASHI, the American Institute of Inspections, the National Association of Home Inspectors, and others.

Each state has its own requirements in terms of home inspector training, apprenticeship, certifications, and licensing, and the state requirements will often dictate the path you take to become an inspector. However, whether your state requirements specify training or not, you can see that taking specialized courses in the field can open doors for you in terms of helping to pass the national exam and join prestigious industry associations that can boost your career. Most of the higher paid inspectors belong to numerous professional associations, so the investment into your education will generally be rewarded in income potential for years to come.

How to Hire the Right Home Inspector

25 years ago, a home inspection was a rare thing, and professional home inspectors were few and far between. Now, nearly every buyer knows that they should get an inspection, and there is a seemingly endless supply of inspectors, all claiming some ‘certification’ or credentials that sound impressive. But how do you know which is the right inspector for you?

Well, here are a few simple thoughts from someone inside the business (some of which, many inspectors will be upset with me for revealing, and will hope you won’t read them). Interview them personally. Don’t just take someone’s advice that “this guy is good.” Talk to them.

  • Ask them about what they do (and don’t do – many don’t walk roofs, some don’t give repair cost estimates).
  • Ask them about their reports (simple checklist, or descriptive narrative?)
  • Do they provide repair cost estimates?
  • Are they licensed (if necessary in your sate)?
  • How long have they been in business?
  • What is their background and/or training?
  • Are they members of the BBB or Angie’s List or other consumer oriented groups?
  • Most importantly, do they treat you with respect and listen to what your needs are?

You will quickly find that there is a world of difference in Inspectors and how they view YOU, the client, as part of the inspection. Some see you as a necessary evil, or an interruption of “their” inspection. You will know you have hired one of these inspectors if they hand you a measuring tape to keep you busy measuring rooms while they inspect.

Often on inspector chat boards they talk about “controlling” their inspection, as if the client is a bother. Never forget: The inspection is (and SHOULD be) all about YOUR education, and making YOU comfortable with your new home.

E & O Insurance.

Ask your inspector if they are insured. Many inspectors treat this question as if you have just asked them for their Debit Card and PIN, but it is a legitimate and VERY intelligent question for clients to ask. You wouldn’t let an uninsured plumber work on your pipes, would you? So why allow an uninsured inspector advise you on the entire home and all of its systems and components? E&O (Errors and Omissions) Insurance is your protection that if the inspector misses something significant, that you won’t be left paying for that mistake.

Experience.

My dad always said: “There is no substitute in life for experience.” (He also said, “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.”) This is also true when it comes to inspectors. While some may have read it in the best books available, you simply have to learn some things by doing them. (Like, for example, never test the door to a room by closing it from the inside of the room. The reason why will be instantly clear when the knob falls off in your hand and you are stuck on the interior.)

You will know just by talking to an inspector and asking them the questions listed above whether you are talking to a raw “newbie” or a seasoned pro. Some pride themselves on “writing up” lots of defects, but often, many of these items are actually quite common and relatively minor (the kinds of things most sellers won’t address or compensate for). Some inspectors also pride themselves on being disliked by Realtors. This simply mystifies me since most Realtors I know honestly care about putting their client in a good home, and respect the opinion of the inspector. Most times, this indicates to me an inspector who is a little full of himself, and may be out to prove how much he knows, or wants to make a major deal out of a minor issue.

Certifications are a dime a dozen in the inspection industry. Every day, my email inbox is jammed with people selling more quick and easy “certifications” of this and that. In fact, one place will certify you (yes, you) as a “master” inspector if you take several free online courses and send them a check for $375 – without ever performing a single inspection! As you can see, certifications are highly suspect. Professionally, the ones that are truly significant are offered by the International Code Council (ICC) and certify that the inspector has a detailed understanding of current building code (particularly helpful if you are purchasing new construction).

In general, I would recommend an inspector who has performed at least 1,000 inspections, and has at least 3 years experience – but even among these, you must ask the other questions to get the best fit for your needs.

Choices.

Does the inspector offer choices to accommodate you? All buyers are not the same. All homes are not the same. So why do most inspectors offer the same inspection to all clients? Ask if they offer choices in prices, level of detail, and services offered. An investor seeking an opinion on the basic components (structure, roof, electrical, plumbing, HVAC) of a home they intend to renovate may not need the meticulous detail required by a nervous First Time Buyer. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you really need, even if it seems to be more (or less) than what the inspector typically offers. If the inspector you speak to can’t offer the service you need, keep searching, you will find one that does.

Price.

Which brings us to the last point, and the first question most people ask: “How much does an inspection cost?” The answer is – it depends (mostly on your area of the country, and the size of your home). Most inspectors base the price on square feet (the larger the home, the longer it takes to inspect). Be cautious of those who use price or zip code as a determining factor (buying a more expensive home in a more affluent neighborhood can dramatically increase your price with these inspectors who believe you must have more money to spend). Shop prices around. You CAN and WILL find a reasonably priced inspector who is every bit as good or better than the highest priced inspectors.

A good clue is: If someone doesn’t post their prices on their website, they are higher than is typical. Again, many inspectors will react rudely with some variation of “you get what you pay for.” Ask that inspector if they buy Premium Unleaded at the most expensive gas station in town, and then look through the grocery store circulars to find the highest priced items available – after all, they must be the best if they are the most expensive!