The offer is written, and of course it says “subject to inspection,” right? That’s a common contingency written into most real estate offers and sales contracts. So it’s time to get it done and the yellow pages are full of possibilities. How do you know which one to choose? Here are 10 tips for choosing a good inspector and completing the inspection process successfully.
- Check credentials. Make sure the inspector is either licensed by your state or is a member of a recognized professional organization that has published standards of practice, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) or National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI). Even if the inspector is recommended by a fellow Realtor, you should still request this information. Some of the professional association web sites let you put in your zip code and see a list of inspectors in your area. You may also be able to check these sites, or the Better Business Bureau, to see if any complaints have been filed against an inspector.
- Check the web site. Yes, a professional inspector will have a professional-looking web site. It will be friendly, easy to navigate, and provide you with lots of useful information, including a sample report (see below.) It will not have any pages that are incomplete or that say “under construction,” which is equivalent to “I’m either new in business or I can’t be bothered taking time to be a good communicator.” The phone number and other contact information should be prominently displayed, and the inspector should be reachable on your first try.
- Don’t be a bargain hunter. Inspectors all look at the same things, right? Not necessarily. And beware of any inspector who hands you a boiler plate list or a printed manual of what should be covered in a home inspection. You can find the same information online or buy the manual yourself at the nearest big box home improvement store. They are inspecting your house and you want the inspection custom made for you. Every inspector is different and comes with specialties or strong points and probably some weak points too. You may save yourself a couple of bucks by choosing the cheapest inspector but that could cost you $1,000 or more in missed problems. Usually, the best inspectors are not the cheapest. If you want to save money, possibly thousands, then don’t choose the cheapest inspector.
- Do due diligence. Asking lots of questions is the best way to determine an inspector’s qualifications. Such as:
- How long have you been in business?
- How many home inspections have you completed?
- How long does it take you to inspect a home of this size?
- Can you provide references?
- May I see a sample copy of one of your inspection reports?
- Now read that report! Once you’ve asked for and received a sample inspection report, read it carefully. Don’t just glance over the photos and illustrations. Look at the way it’s written and watch out for useless chatter that is designed to cover the home inspector, not you. Anything that sounds like, “Recommend further evaluation and correction by a licensed inspector,” could be a big red flag. If you get this kind of report from an inspector, you could easily have half a dozen additional inspections, requiring even more of your valuable time and money.
- Ask about extras. Certain homes or geographic areas may require special inspections. If your inspector doesn’t do these, you’ll have to pay someone else to complete them. Ask about inspections for things like insects, radon, mold, water quality, lead-based paint or asbestos.
- Time is money. The average inspection of a standard single-family home usually takes about 2 1/2 hours but could take as long as 4 – 5 hours, depending on the size and age of the property. The inspector should never feel rushed, either by you, a Realtor, or the current owner.
- Be there. As a prospective home buyer, it’s to your advantage to attend the inspection in person. Although the inspector will give you a written report when the inspection is complete, that doesn’t compare with the hands-on experience of going through the house with the inspector, seeing what he or she sees, and hearing their comments.
Buying a home is a challenging, stressful, and sometimes downright scary process. The services of a good home inspector can eliminate a lot of the anxiety and will save you both time and money in the long run.