Finding The right Inspector

Buying a house is the biggest purchase you'll likely ever make. That's why you want the best possible home inspector in your corner to tell you whether that cute Colonial is your dream home … or a lemon with a rotting foundation, termites and a shaky chimney.

But first, how do you know if an inspector is rock-solid? There's a lot riding on the person you choose, after all. You've got one shot at having the home looked at by a professional who has a professional eye and professional training to find defects.

Choosing the right home inspector can be a daunting task, especially if you have never hired one before.

It may surprise you to learn that anyone can become a licensed home inspector, and in very little time. While experience in the construction industry is very helpful, it is not required. This may change in the future, but as of now, a person just has to attend the required hours at an approved home inspection school and pass the state home inspection test and they are considered a professional home inspector, although they have never inspected a single home in their life. The inspector you hire may be performing their first inspection ever.

Licensing doesn't solve problems with the industry. After licensing was instituted in Florida, the number of inspectors jumped several fold, as would-be inspectors signed up to benefit from the glow of respectability that a state license would give them – whether or not they actually deserved respectability.

Don't trust an inspector simply because he or she has a state license or certification.

All states that issue licenses require training, "but the training may be so minimal that it is ineffective.

Look for an inspector who is associated with a professional inspection organization.

This can help weed out the truly fly-by-night inspectors, but it won't catch all the bad actors. There is an alphabet soup of such groups, with wildly varying criteria for membership. In one, you can send them a $60 check and you'll be a member..

You can also study several home inspection organizations' criteria for membership: how many homes a would-be member must have inspected; how much — if any — continuing education is required; whether an exam is required for admission, etc. Each is a little different.

Should I Choose an Inspector Referred by a Realtor?.

That really depends on how much trust you place in your agent. Some agents want you to use an inspector who does a quick inspection and writes basically nothing in the reports so the transaction goes through fast and easy. More professional agents want you to have the best inspection possible, after all it's their reputation on the line when they make referrals. If you are unsure if you should let the agent choose the home inspector for you or not, then seek out your own..

Don't just take your agent's recommendation at face value.

Real-estate agents often recommend inspectors to home buyers. But that arrangement doesn't necessarily serve the home buyer well, since both agent and inspector have a financial incentive for things to go well: for the agent, a commission, and for the inspector, the possibility of repeat business from the agent. Every single day we walk a razor's edge with that conflict of interest. The good Realtors are going to recommend an inspector who's not going to be afraid of what he calls out.

Don't be monogamous.

Get more than one suggestion from your real-estate agent. Ask for three inspectors' names.

Don't Just Choose the Cheapest Inspector.

Please believe me when I make that statement. I get calls from potential clients daily. Many times price is the first question they ask about. I don't think it's because people are cheap, I think it's because they don't know what else to ask. While I understand that no one wants to pay more than they have to, you do get what you pay for. The cheapest inspectors are usually new, inexperienced, or ones performing inspections as a sideline. I know of one customer who was determined to hire the cheapest inspector she could find. After the sale she discovered her insurance company would not insure her roof because the shingles were installed over old wooden shingles, which were clearly visible from the attic. She wound up paying for a whole new roof (about $6,000), all because she tried to save a mere $25.00 in inspection fees

Don't choose your home inspector by price. Someone who charges less may not give you a full and detailed inspection, and that only hurts you in the long run.

Check for complaints.

If your state licenses inspectors, call the licensing board, or whatever body oversees them and ask if the inspector is active and up-to-date. Also, ask if there are any complaints against the inspector.

Call the professional association to which the inspector belongs and do the same. "The local Better Business Bureau could also be worth a call

Interview the inspector.

Don't be shy.

Ask about the inspector's credentials and experience. Generally speaking, "You should have had a hammer in your hand at some point in your background to have a good grasp of construction," Turner says. Does the inspector have a professional bio that you can look at?

Get it in writing.

Ask if the inspector puts his findings into a narrative-style report; that's what you want – not just a long checklist.

It is necessary to find a good home inspector that is not biased as to the outcome of the inspection. This is because you will need to know the truth about the home. You want to know if there are any problems and whether those problems are minor or major. This could affect your decision on purchasing the home

Make sure the inspector once worked as either an engineer, builder or a contractor. Without a background in one of these areas, the home inspector most likely will not have the knowledge to give you a detailed inspection

Find out whether the inspector allows you to be present during an inspection. If you are looking in to buying a home, it may be helpful to have an inspector that will show you the problems he finds. Since the inspection may take three or many more hours, you can ask the inspector to just meet you at the home location after the inspection is complete to show you any significant findings.

Invite yourself.

Before hiring the inspector, ask to come along when the home is examined. Another red flag would be if they don't want you to go on the home inspection with them. A home inspection usually takes three or many more hours. Be suspicious of anyone who tells you it will take 45 minutes.

If your state requires home inspectors to get a license, you can request a copy of the licensing standards from the state. This will give you a good idea as to what should be included in each home inspection

Here is a list of questions which you can use when interviewing potential home inspectors:

  • How long have you had your license and been inspecting homes?

  • On average, how long does it take you to perform a typical home inspection? Through inspectors will take about three hours on a typical home.

  • How long does it take for me to get my inspection report back from you in electronic format?

  • Are you a member of a professional association?

  • Do you perform re-inspections on repaired items? If so, for how much?

  • Do you mind if I follow along while you inspect? Your inspector works for you and should allow you to learn as much about the house as possible.

  • What is your inspection fee? If the inspection fee seems too low, you may not get a thorough inspection?

  • Do you have any references I can speak to?