How to Hire an Inspector

rightFor most people, the purchase of a home is the largest investment they’ll ever make. Getting an independent, expert opinion on the operability of the structure and its systems is a no-brainer. But not all home inspectors have the same experience, training, or certifications – what’s more is there are currently no federal regulations governing home inspectors. Home inspectors are governed only by whatever laws are in place in the state in which the inspection is performed, and these laws vary greatly. So how do you make sure you’ve hired the right person for the job?
When shopping for a home inspector, it’s vital that you do your homework and interview each inspector based on the checklist below.
  1. This is not the time to "price shop".  When hiring a home inspector, you’re basically hiring an advocate with your interests in mind to give you his expert opinion on the home’s condition.  You are spending perhaps $100,000 to $200,000 or even more for your home.  With that in mind, make sure that you’re hiring an inspector with plenty of knowledge and training rather than shopping by price alone.  When it comes to home inspections, the adage about getting what you pay for often applies.  Do you really want to try to save $25 to $75 on what is one of the most important reports you may pay for about your home?  The bottom line: don't simply go for the lowest-bid inspector you can find.
  2. Research their credentials.  Since there are no national standards established for home inspectors, one of the best things you can do to find out about inspectors' qualifications is to ask what associations they belong to.  Some associations require minimum training, experience, continuing education and also require the inspector pass certain exams.  However, not all associations are created equal.  Check out the associations’ minimum requirements - and be sure to click on the ASHI Membership tab at the top of this page to see why you should choose an ASHI Inspector.  The best associations require that the inspector pass appropriately procotored examinations and obtain a specific amount of continuing education credits annualy.  Also find out what level of the association the inspector occupies.  Some associations have “candidate” and “associate” or other levels that basically mean that the inspector has not yet met the requirements to be a full member.
  3. Ask for references.  An inspector should be happy to provide you with three references from previous clients.  Call those clients and ask them about their experience with their inspections.
  4. Make sure they’re experienced.  If an inspector has been in the business for only a few years, they may not bring to bear enough knowledge and experience to be able to find all the defects your home may have.  At Advantage Property Inspections we are in our twelfth year of performing home inspections in the greater Kansas City area.  And we have over 25 years conducting commercial inspections.  Wouldn't you prefer that your inspector be qualified, professional, and experienced with many years of being "in the trenches"?
  5. Make your own selection as to who will inspect your home.  Ask your agent for their input for an inspector (or even several inspectors), but some consumer groups recommend you also check with at least one or two other inspection companies on your own, especially if your agent only has one to refer to you.  Many quality-minded agents will recommend only the highest-quality inspectors they know of, but keep in mind that there are a few agents who may refer inspectors for other reasons, such as fast inspections, or less-thorough inspections, or less-detailed reports, all of which may ultimately affect the sale of the home.  If you want to be sure you get the best inspection, ask your agent why he or she recommends a certain inspector.  If their answer is because of how detailed, thorough, dependable, and professional they are - then that's probably a good reason to consider using that inspection company.  But if it's because they are "really good" but also happen to mention that the inspector is cheaper, faster, or "friendlier" than the other inspectors...or simply that they have known the inspector for a long time and that's the only inspector they use - well, you just might want to shop around for your own choice.  Your agent wants to assist you as well as selling the home, so keep in mind that in some instances there could be a potential conflict of interest if any particular agent happens to use only those inspectors who minimize or ignore a home's potential problems.  Bottom line: Make your own decision based on your research - and find the best one you can.
  6. Verify that they produce high-quality reports with details.  At the conclusion of any inspection, you should receive a printed summary report on the inspector’s findings.  Again, inspectors are going to vary widely – report styles can range from the minimal checklist to the jargon-filled narrative.  Some inspection reports can be difficult to understand, so it’s important that you check out a sample report.  Items marked simply as “fair”, “poor”, or “inadequate” without any further explanation will not help you understand what the problem is or what exactly to repair.  Make sure that in the report the inspector specifies the exact problem and recommended repairs.  At Advantage Property Inspections we receive many positive comments about our reports, because they are thorough and detailed yet are easy to read, with digital photos and clear language, rather than being overly technical or complicated.  We write our reports with the emphasis that our client will be reading it, rather than a builder, technician, or an engineer.