How to make sure the pro who performs your home inspection is properly qualified and insured, so you can protect your big investment
A home inspection is the real estate equivalent of bringing a date home to meet your parents: It’s your opportunity to get a knowledgable assessment from someone you trust and whose opinion you value.
While it’s tempting to go with the inspector that your agent recommends, some inspectors are popular with agents because they enable more sales to go through. That’s why it’s smart to find and interview at least three who meet all of the following criteria:
- They’re licensed to practice in your state.
- They’re affiliated with a professional inspection organization, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors, the National Association of Home Inspectors or the National Institute of Building Inspectors.
- There are no complaints registered against them with the state licensing board.
Once you’ve found some professionals who meet those criteria, request some references. Ask those buyers the following two questions:
1. Did you discover any major defects at the close of escrow?
If the answer is yes, this inspector is not right for you. Just think: If the person listed as a reference had a problem, what else might the inspector be doing wrong?
2. Would you use this person again? This probably won’t be the last time you buy a home. Consider this your opportunity to assemble a trusted team of experts to make sure that future sales and purchases go smoothly.
Then be sure to ask your home inspector candidates the following eight questions:
1. Can I tag along on the inspection? It’s important that you’re able to attend the inspection. Not only will this enable you to point out any concerns and learn how things work around your new home, but it also will show that this pro is willing to be transparent.
2. How long will it take? It should take a home inspector between three and four hours to work through an average-size home — less if they’re working with a team. Be wary of anyone who tells you it takes less than an hour.
3. Can I see your resume? You’re looking for construction experience. Someone who knows how to get the job done right is more likely to notice when something’s done wrong.
4. Do you or your company do repairs based on the findings of your inspection? If the answer is yes, walk away. Companies that do repairs based on their inspections may have a financial incentive to find problems that may not exist.
5. How much will it cost? The typical home inspection costs $300 to $500. Keep in mind, however, that the amount should be proportional to your investment. An inspector who is looking at a home priced above the median for the area should spend more time — and will charge more — as they examine the extra square footage.
6. Do you provide a written narrative report? Don’t hire someone who provides only a long checklist. A detailed report of findings not only proves that the pro did a thorough job, but it gives you a clearer picture of what’s going on with the house.
Ask to see a sample report to make sure you understand the way this particular pro presents his or her work. Many inspectors post samples right on their website.
7. Do you carry insurance? Everyone makes mistakes, but when you hire pros, their mistakes shouldn’t result in your hardship. Make sure the inspector you hire carries errors and omissions insurance so you’re protected.
8. Do you guarantee your work? While insurance is your ultimate fail-safe, your inspector should also be willing to stand behind his or her inspection for a reasonable amount of time after it’s been conducted.