What you should know before hiring a home inspector
The purpose of a home inspection is to inform the individual buyer of the current condition of the home. The purchase contract the buyer and seller signed is contingent on the home inspection. A buyer will generally have the option based upon the inspection to; opt out of the purchase, ask for repairs or credit towards repairs or a purchase price reduction.
It would seem that the importance of a good, thorough home inspection by a qualified inspector is obvious. Never the less many home buyers do not adequately research the profession before hiring an inspector. Most people simply ask the price of the inspection and availability of the inspector when calling to hire an inspector. This is an extremely poor method in which to choose a home inspector. When buying a new car or furniture set would you merely go to the retailer and buy the lowest priced soonest available item? What would you most likely purchase and take home? In all likelihood a poor quality item that you will probably regret hastily purchasing.
Hiring a skilled professional home inspector is absolutely no different. Just like the example, a low priced, quickly available inspector may mean the same thing; poor quality. So what should a home buyer be looking for in a home inspector?
Licensing: Ask for the inspectors’ full license number, this includes any letter prefixes, and write it down. The letters distinguish if the inspector is fully licensed or an intern or apprentice. In Connecticut the prefix HOI means Home Inspector, HOP means a Home Inspector Intern.
Insurance: Does the inspector carry Errors & Omissions and or liability insurance and can they provide proof of insurance upon request. Some states require insurance while others do not. Inquire as to the state insurance requirements and be sure the inspector has the proper type and amount. (Connecticut does not require insurance)
Training: Has the inspector had formal training from a recognized, accredited school? State regulation in the home inspection profession is relatively recent (Many states still do not have licensing or regulation!), so formal training has been mostly optional. Many “old timers” were carpenters, electricians or builders and learned to perform home inspections “on the job”. However, there is no single trade that qualifies someone to move into the field of home inspection without extensive training.
Experience: This is can be a misleading qualification if the right questions are not asked. Years of experience are not as important as the number of home inspections completed. In a 2005 national home inspection business operations study conducted by the American Society of Home Inspector (ASHI), over 80 percent of respondents’ said they were full time home inspectors. Yet almost 40 percent said they perform less than 100 home inspections a year. This discrepancy may be taken to indicate that many inspectors are actually working part time as home inspectors. Be sure to ask how many home inspections the inspector has completed in their career.
Continuing Education: Even well trained experienced inspectors must continually update their skills and knowledge. Licensing requires a minimal amount of continuing education for inspectors to renew their license. Look for inspectors who go beyond the necessary minimum and spend the time and money to keep their skills current.
Association Membership: Inspectors who have made the commitment of time, training, testing and money to belong to a reputable professional home inspection society are generally more committed to doing a high quality job for their clients. But buyer beware, not all home inspection organizations are equal. Some ask for little or no training, knowledge or experience to become a member, while others are very rigorous in their qualifications for membership. The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) is the only third party certified home inspection trade organization in existence. Keep in mind a membership logo means little; it’s what’s behind the symbol that counts. Inquire about and research this area fully, it will provide you with insight into the inspectors abilities and dedication to performing a top notch home inspection.
The Inspection: How long does the inspection take? As previously mentioned short inspection times mean poor quality. A thorough inspection on an averaged sized home, (1500-2500 sq. ft.) should last any where from 2-4 hours. Also ask if the inspector would like you to attend the inspection. If they say no, this should alert you that something is wrong with this particular inspection company. A good inspector should insist that you attend the home inspection if at all possible.
The Report: This is why you hire an inspector, to provide written detailed information about the house. The first and really the most important question to ask is, what type of report does the inspector use? Checklist reports written on site are typically poor quality with little information useful to the home buyer or their agent. Remember your real estate agent is probably going to need to negotiate home inspection issues with the seller. A poor home inspection report will make their job more difficult. Ask for a sample of the inspectors report! You should be wary of very short reports, check lists reports, and reports without photos, as these will typically provide less information.
Other Certifications: Ask if the inspector has additional certifications or licenses in services that you may need in addition to the home inspection. For instance radon testing is a very common ancillary service provided by many home inspection companies, but many inspectors are not certified or formally trained. If you are looking to have other services done be sure to ask about the inspectors’ qualifications to conduct the tests you require.
Miscellaneous Items: Some things you should confirm when calling to hire a home inspector. Be certain that the inspector that will be doing your home inspection possesses the qualifications stated by the person on the phone. This is especially important when talking with multi-inspector firms. Most importantly will the inspector be readily available for follow up questions.
Price: The last question you should ask, not the first. Put quite simply, you get what you pay for. Good home inspectors demand higher prices because of experience, the report they provide, money invested into training to improve their skills and the business for the benefit of their clients. Remember the money you pay a good inspector is an investment. You will very likely receive back from the seller monies well in excess of the home inspection fee. Choose your inspector wisely.
Summary: When calling to hire a home inspector ask about:
- Formal Training
- Continuing Education
- Association Membership
- The Inspection
- The Report
- Other Certifications
- Does the inspector doing inspection have the qualification stated.
Following this simple guide should aid you in finding a well qualified, professional home inspector. Having a good inspection will provide you with valuable information on your prospective purchase and ultimately piece of mind going forward.