It would seem that the importance of a good, thorough home inspection by a qualified home 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 home inspection and availability of the home 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: Some states require home inspector licensing while others do not. In states that do require licensing ask for the inspectors’ FULL license number and write it down. This includes any letter type distinctions in front or in back of the number. This will help tell you if he is a fully licensed home inspector or an intern or apprentice.
Insurance: Does the home 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 inspectors has the proper type and amount.
Training: Has the inspector had formal training from a recognized training 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 total number of home inspections completed. In a 2005 national home inspection business operations study conducted by the American Society of Home Inspectors (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 indicate that many home inspectors are working at other jobs or are semi-retired individuals. Be sure to ask how many inspections the inspector completes a year, at least 200 or over would be a good standard. It is also still important to ask overall years of experience and total number of home inspections.
Continuing Education: Even well trained, experienced home inspectors must continually update their skills and knowledge. Licensing requires a minimal amount of continuing education for inspectors to renew their license. Look for home inspectors who go beyond the necessary minimum and spend the time and money to keep their skills current.
Association Membership: Home 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 be careful, 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. 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 great insight into the home inspectors' abilities and dedication to performing a top notch home inspection.
The Inspection: How long does the home inspection take? As previously mentioned short inspection times mean poor quality. A thorough home inspection on an averaged sized home, (1500-2500 sq. ft.) should last 2-4 hours. Also ask if the inspector would like you to attend the home inspection. If they say no, this should alert you that something is wrong with this particular company. A good home inspector should insist that you attend the home inspection if at all possible.
The Report: This is why you hire a home inspector, to provide written detailed information about the house. The first and most important question, when and how will you receive the report? On site, within 24 hours, a week, by email, regular mail or delivered by the inspector. What type of report does the inspector use, what is the approximate length of the report, are there pictures included? Be wary of short reports, 10 pages or less, and long report turn around times.
Other Qualifications: Ask if the home 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. Some states may even require certification or licensing in these services. 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 positive 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. Also will the home inspector be readily available for follow up questions.
Price: The very 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 and money invested into training to improve their skills and their 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. Be certain to choose your inspector wisely.
Summary: When calling to hire a Home inspector be sure to ask about:
- Formal Training
- Continuing Education
- Association Membership
- The Inspection
- The Report
- Other Qualifications
- Does the inspector doing the inspection have the qualification stated
Following this simple guide should aid you in finding a well qualified, professional home inspector. Having a good home inspection will provide you with valuable information on your prospective purchase and ultimately piece of mind going forward.