You’ve decided you need a home inspector because you’re either buying a home or selling one, and you want to do it right. Out of curiosity you sit down at the computer and do a Google search to see what qualifications a good home inspector should have, and you get a little scared.
The first thing you see is a group of ads for home inspection courses. You’ve heard of people buying bogus college degrees online, but can Joe Anybody become a home inspector the same way? The image of a TV commercial comes to mind. You know, the one where the doctor is on the phone talking a guy through an operation. No thanks!
So, how do you find a truly qualified home inspector? The first thing to try is to ask trusted friends or business acquaintances for their recommendations. Sometimes there’s nothing better than a good “word of mouth” lead. Requirements vary from state to state and place to place, so you need to find a good local inspector. Save the bulk of your computer research for checking out the names you’ve been given.
You need an inspector who literally knows houses inside and out and is thoroughly acquainted with state, county, and city regulations. Start asking questions. Interview each prospective home inspector. Let him inform you by describing the inspections he does and why he thinks you should choose him. Here’s a list of possible questions you could ask.
* Is he certified by the proper state, county, or city agencies? What license number does he have? His license number is a great way to know how long he has been in business. The lower the license number, the longer he has been in business. Check to see if he displays his license number on his website.
* What trade associations does he or she belong to and what certificates does he or she have? (For instance, the American Society of Home Inspectors is an excellent organization. There are organizations in each state as well.)
* What’s his educational background? Does he keep up to date with the changes in the industry?
* How many years of experience does he have inspecting homes, and how many has he inspected?
* Does he have a background as a contractor or engineer? (It’s not necessary for an inspector to have an engineering degree or to have been a contractor for twenty years, but the principles learned from such education and experience are valuable.)
* Is he a full time inspector?
* May you accompany him when he does the inspection? (This is typically recommended, but you must not hinder or distract the inspector. You should not get near any open electric areas or get on the roof with him due to safety concerns.)
* How long will the inspection take? (The average is one hour per thousand square feet, but this can vary depending on the house and those who are present.)
* Does the inspector get on roofs when possible? Does he get in crawlspaces when they’re accessible?
* What kind of report will you receive, and when will you receive it? (Most home inspection companies offer onsite reports. Many will provide a preventive maintenance manual as well.)
Here are a couple more guidelines to consider. You should shy away from inspectors who criticize their competition. Don’t go with the lowest price. Go with the one with the best qualifications.
Incidentally, the cost of inspection services is highly variable. It depends on the level of experience of the inspector and the level of services provided. Cost is also determined in part by the size and value of the property inspected. An inspection of an eight thousand square foot home will cost more than one for a two thousand square foot home.
The inspector you’re looking for needs to have an understanding of basic construction practices and mechanical systems. He should understand how buildings are constructed and how the systems work. A good inspector will have a talent for making observations which provide indications of problems or potential problems. This talent comes from years of experience in inspecting homes.
Of course, the inspector must have the skills necessary to issue the inspection report. After all, that’s what you’re hiring him to do for you.