How to Find and Hire a Competent Home Inspector

Chapter 1: Getting Started and Taking Control

Professional Associations

Before you can even begin to contact and compare home inspection companies, your first goal is to secure a list of likely home inspector candidates from a reliable and trusted source. A good first choice to consider for obtaining a list of names are the nationally recognized associations that many home inspectors belong to. To help you get started, I highly recommend ‘The American Society of Home Inspectors’ (ASHI) and ‘The National Association of Home Inspectors’ (NAHI) not only because both ASHI (founded in 1976) and NAHI (founded later in 1987 by an ASHI member) were the first of their kind but also because they still remain the two most prominent and sought after associations in the home inspection profession today.

The next step is to contact the Association you have chosen to obtain a list of its members within a fifty mile radius of the area where you’re planning to buy a home. For those with online capability, the best way to proceed is to visit the Association’s website to see what they have to offer. If you prefer or have to use the phone, most Associations provide a toll free number you can call in order to speak with someone who can answer your questions and provide you with the information you need. In either case, keep the following points in mind as you begin to build and refine your name list: 1) try to end up with at least six to ten names, 2) always ask for and jot down each inspector’s rank or membership status within the Association including how long they’ve been a member, 3) in some cases you may need to contact more than one Association, and 4) take note that a home inspector may belong to more than one Association.

Referrals From Trusted Sources

Another good source of names to consider are referrals from trusted family members, friends and co-workers you have grown to respect over time, not to mention your attorney. In fact, real estate attorneys are usually very discriminating when it comes to recommending a home inspector who will serve their clients’ best interests, and not the Realtor’s, during the real estate transaction process.

Sources To Exclude

Unless a realtor happens to be in the family or a very close friend with your best interests at heart, all other realtor referrals should be considered suspect and disregarded making sure that none have since found their way onto your list. As for relying upon the phone directory, this is paramount to rolling dice or looking for a needle in a hay stack and is definitely not the way to go about finding a good home inspector!

Candidates And Newbies

As you continue building your name list, you want to be sure to exclude newbie home inspectors. To do this, you have to learn a little bit about an Association’s membership. For example, ASHI has what they refer to as Candidates and Members. By definition, an ASHI Candidate is one who has yet to attain full membership status by satisfying certain criteria as set forth by ASHI. This is significant since Candidates are often newbies to the profession, meaning they are just learning the ropes, and typically have little experience inspecting homes. Given this information, exclude all ASHI Candidates from your list unless you’re willing to hire and pay a home inspector to learn at your expense. In no disrespect to newbies, while all have to start somewhere, there’s no substitute for experience!

Also note I have purposely used ASHI to explain this procedure as I am not familiar with how the other association memberships are structured. Therefore, if any of the names on your list happen to belong to an association other than ASHI, you would be will advised to learn what you can about their membership as well.

State Licensing

Some states require licensing of home inspectors while others do not. If the state in which you’re looking to purchase a home does require licensing, then you need to verify that the inspector is licensed in that state and that their license has not expired so you don’t end up with a worthless home inspection. This information can normally be obtained online as well as over the phone by contacting your local state agency that handles licensing of home inspectors. To find out if your state requires licensing refer to ‘Links’ under table of contents. Incidentally and for what it’s worth, never hire a home inspector based upon licensing alone or you could be in for a rude awakening! More on this later.

General Liability And E&O Insurance

Insurance is somewhat similar to licensing in that the states that require home inspectors to be licensed may/may not also require the home inspector to carry general liability and/or errors and omissions (E&O) insurance. If the state you’re planning to buy a home in requires inspectors to be insured, you should be able to easily verify this along with their license since the state will not ordinarily issue a license to a home inspector who has failed to meet this requirement. It’s also a good idea to ask the inspector to produce a copy of their certificate of insurance before/on the day of the inspection for further verification. Similar to licensing, for states that don’t require home inspectors to carry E&O insurance, never base your final decision to hire a home inspector on insurance alone! More on this later on.

Summary

Secure a list of inspection candidates from a well known and trusted source.

Sources include Professional Associations like ASHI and NAHI, and referrals from trusted family members, friends, co-workers, and your attorney.

Refrain from using Realtor referrals and the phone directory

Exclude ASHI Candidates and all newbie inspectors from your list.

Verify that the home inspector is licensed and insured in your state if so required.

Why Is It Necessary To Hire Your Own Independent Home Inspector?

It is a positive and a much needed change that home buyers are hiring their own home inspectors now, rather than hiring an inspector as recommended by their agent. Many of these home buyers specifically decline the home inspector just because their agent recommended him. However, there are still people who hire inspectors as recommended by their agent. This change has occurred because many of the buyers have come to understand that the inspector may not work in their best interest if he is suggested by the realtor or agent.

To understand the importance of home inspection and hiring an independent home inspector, you need to understand the following questions:

Why home inspection is necessary?

One of the most important decisions that you will make in your life involves buying a home. As a matter of fact consider yourself privileged if you get an opportunity to buy a home even once in your lifetime. When this decision is so important, it is advisable that you buy a home for the worth of the amount you are ready to spend on it. This can be done by making sure that the home you are about to buy is in good condition. For this you need a home inspection, which is a process where a thorough evaluation of the home in question is done by a professional expert. The inspector will perform the following tasks while he undertakes an in-depth and impartial study of the home:

  • Check the foundation, physical structure, mechanical systems, heating and cooling systems, electrical connections and equipments, etc.
  • Will evaluate which items need repairs or replacements.
  • He will also give you an estimate of remaining useful life of major parts of the house including the roof.

You can accompany your home inspector while he goes for home inspection, so that you can ask him questions at the time of actual inspection taking place. Once the inspection is over and the inspector has taken notes of everything, you can expect to have a detailed report of the inspection within 24 hours. Remember this is a confidential document and the inspector is not allowed to show this report to anyone else except you, not even the agent.

Why hire an independent home inspector?

If you hire an inspector recommended by your agent, there are chances that the inspector will make a report that will not be totally honest. He may rush through the inspection and report generation to expedite the process; he may not mention certain facts which could lead to cancellation of the deal. This is not true for every inspector, but there is definitely some kind of pressure on an inspector if he is recommended by an agent.

If you really want an unbiased and authentic home inspection report, which is prepared for your interest only then it is better to hire your own independent inspector. You can find such inspectors by searching for them online, many home inspectors are canvassing themselves on internet these days.

Is Online Training Sufficient For New Home Inspector?

Most of the home inspection certification bodies have recognized that a combination of formal training and hands-on experience would produce the best field performance for all the home inspectors. Although there are many online home inspector training programs in the market, people have doubts on that. They are worried that they don’t have enough exposure through online education. Their main concern is whether they can really evaluate the properties in a professional manner and they won’t be sued by clients for errors and omissions.

Online training provides us with flexible study time at any venue. We can learn all the necessary knowledge through an online school. In order to sharpen your technical skills, you are advised to take your own initiative to obtain new knowledge continuously through educational conferences and seminars in the industry. Attending these events is important in updating yourself with all the latest construction practices and legislation.

In fact, all of us know that practice makes perfect. Study online will only provide us with academic qualification and certification. However, in order to gain real experience, you are advised to get professional mentoring by learning from a certified and experienced home inspector. While you are taking lessons online, you should look for a part time job in any home inspection company. Join the company as an intern or a trainee so that you can have a clearer understanding about what inspectors do. Go along with them to different houses and buildings to observe how they execute their jobs.

To sum up, as a newcomer in this industry, bear in mind that you must always make yourself competent. You still need to accumulate as much experience as you can no matter you are pursing online or offline training.