For most people, buying a home is one of the biggest financial decisions of their lives. It’s an investment in their future. And, buying a home without having it professionally inspected is a risky venture, to say the least. The last thing that a new homeowner wants to deal with is an expensive repair that could have been avoided with a thorough home inspection.
While a professional inspection isn’t required to secure a mortgage by most lenders, it is definitely in the best interests of the buyer to have one conducted. There are basic inspections that cover only certain aspects of the home’s structure and mechanics. And, there are more specific inspections that will hone in on and take a detailed look at particular areas and features of the home.
Typically, the inspection would be conducted after the seller and buyer have signed a purchase agreement pending the outcome of any inspections. This protects both parties. The seller has a valid offer pending the inspection results, and the buyer doesn’t have to worry about the property being sold to someone else while they’re waiting for the inspection.
How Do You Know Who to Trust When it Comes to Finding the Right Home Inspector?
Nationwide, there are three different professional inspector associations. The American Society of Home Inspectors, the National Academy of Building Inspection Engineers, and the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors all offer professional inspector training, education, testing, and certifications.
The problem is that in some states, there are no guidelines for certifying home inspectors, which means that licensing isn’t required. In short, anyone can become a home inspection specialist just by saying so and setting up shop. And, in the states where licensing and certifications are required, the standards and levels of training can vary greatly between the various inspection companies.
Add to all of that confusion that there are some shoddy inspectors out there who aren’t providing comprehensive, thorough inspections, and finding someone that you can trust is even more of a challenge. But, there are ways that you can find an inspector that you can trust.
How to Choose the Right Home Inspector for You
There are plenty of reputable professionals out there who will conduct a quality inspection in their field of expertise. It will just take a little due diligence on your part to find the one that’s most qualified for your inspection. Here are some things to consider when choosing the right inspector.
Find out what the licensing requirements are in your state. There are 18 states, as well as Washington, D.C., that don’t require home inspectors to be licensed. But, even in those areas, most reputable home inspectors will still be certified through one or more of the national associations.
What does a standard inspection consist of? A basic inspection will cover the home’s HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems along with the roof, foundation, attic, and basement. The inspector will also be looking at the overall integrity of the windows, doors, walls, and ceilings.
What other inspections are available? In addition to a standard inspection, you can also have the home inspected for other potential problems if you have concerns. Mold, radon, septic systems, and water quality testing are only a few of the additional inspections that can be performed. Some inspection services have highly skilled, trained, and certified inspectors who are able to inspect other areas of the home, and some will specialize in certain types of inspections. If you are looking for a specialized inspection, you’ll want to find an inspector with the training, experience, and reputation required to conduct a thorough inspection.
Ask people that you know for referrals. Your family, friends, coworkers, or even your neighbors may know of an inspector that they have used in the past. Of course, you’ll still want to do some research before committing to an inspection company. But, having a few solid personal referrals is a great starting point.
It might not be something that you trust your real estate agent with. Your real estate agent might not be your best resource when looking for a referral. Inspections that reveal defects or other issues with homes can sometimes kill a sale. And, some agents have inspectors who they know will pass homes on inspections even when there are issues. You really want to find an inspector who isn’t associated with anyone involved in the home selling process.
Look at online reviews and resources. There is a ton of information on the internet that you can easily look up to get more information about all of the different inspectors. You can look at their individual websites, look at their reviews, and see if they are proudly posting any of their licensing information or credentials. There are also websites that post reviews about professional home inspectors. You can even check them out with the Better Business Bureau. They not only keep track of any complaints, but they also monitor how individual companies respond to their complaints.
Validate and verify. As you are narrowing down your choices, start asking questions about any of the information that you have collected on the different home inspectors. Are they licensed? How long have they been in business? Do they have verifiable references that you can speak to? What training programs or certifications do their inspectors have? Will you be able to be with them during the inspection? How long will the inspection take to complete?
You may need more than one inspector. Depending on what type of inspection you are looking for, it’s very possible that you may need the expertise of more than one professional. For example, the inspector who is the most qualified to perform your basic inspection might not be the right person to conduct a thorough mold inspection or check for water quality. In that case, you’d want more than one inspector to get the most comprehensive results from the inspection reports.
Avoid inspectors who are also repair contractors. Unfortunately, they are out there. There are some disreputable companies that will perform inspections, exaggerate issues, and offer repair services. While some inspectors will give you advice on how to take care of any needed repairs, the individual performing your inspection should not be in the repair business as well.
Will the inspector stand behind their work? The whole idea of having an inspection done in the first place is to make sure that there aren’t any hidden issues that will turn into expensive home repairs later. As you are talking to the different inspectors, ask them if they will guarantee their inspection reports. For instance, if they inspect the roof, reporting no issues, and you later find serious problems, they should be responsible for the repairs. Any reputable inspector who knows that they are performing thorough inspections will offer you this peace of mind.
It’s most certainly worth your time and effort to find the right home inspector for your individual needs. For a nominal expense on your part, you’ll know exactly what condition the home that you are looking at is in before you buy it. And, if a home inspection report reveals any problems with any aspect of the home, you could even use the cost of repairs as a negotiating tool to lower the asking price. Knowledge is power.