What You Need to Know Before Hiring a Home Inspector
Whether you’re a new home buyer or are trying to sell your home, understanding how the home inspection process fits into a real estate transaction is essential.
Let’s look at the importance of hiring a good inspector and how to prepare for the inspection.
Why should you hire a home inspector?
While it may seem off-putting to think of dropping a few hundred dollars on a home inspection on top of all the other costs associated with home buying, the expense of a home inspection will seem like a drop in the bucket compared to shelling out for pricey home repairs down the road.
Many homes that appear in perfect shape hide potentially disastrous issues, like termite damage, an unstable foundation, or a broken water heater. Without a home inspection, you’ll have no way to know whether the home you’re about to buy will cost you thousands in repairs.
Also, you’ll want to ensure your new home will be a safe place to live. Home inspections often reveal dangerous issues, such as:
- Radon: an odorless and colorless gas that’s the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking
- Mold: though it seems innocuous, it can aggravate asthma and allergies
- Outdated electrical system: pre-1960s electrical systems are likely not up to code and could present a fire hazard — and can be extremely costly to replace
A home inspection can give you confidence in the structural integrity of the home you’re about to purchase — or if it has significant issues, a home inspection gives you one last opportunity to hit the reject button on the deal.
Investing in a quality home inspection will also provide you with leverage in your negotiations since discovering a potentially expensive issue can provide you with some bargaining power with the sellers.
What are the qualifications to be a home inspector?
There is no universal certification requirement for home inspectors.
In the U.S., each state has its own requirements, and not all states require home inspectors to be licensed. The experience and education requirements vary from state to state, and some states require continuing education once licensed.
Some states, such as New York and Texas, require at least 100 hours of training — while Illinois and Virginia require hands-on training in the field. On the other hand, in Wyoming and California, home inspectors don’t need to be licensed at all.
Many home inspectors register with a nationally recognized association, like the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) or the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI). These professional organizations have their own credentialing requirements, like passing the National Home Inspector Examination (NHIE) or the Online Inspector Examination and demonstrating the required amount of hands-on experience.
Once they meet the requirements in their state, home inspectors need to remain qualified by having all the proper insurance and protections. Many professional home inspectors will carry General Liability and Errors and Omissions (E&O) insurance to protect them in case of an accident or an accidental report omission.
Some inspectors also become certified in additional specialties to enhance their service, which might include:
- Lead & Asbestos
- Termite Damage
- Pool & Spa
- Septic System
- Carbon Monoxide
How do you prepare for a home inspection?
If you’re a seller, you might want to order a pre-listing inspection to avoid being blindsided by the buyer’s inspection.
You can prepare your home for inspection by ensuring your house is clean, and every area that needs to be checked is accessible. This includes attics, utility closets, under sinks, basements, and furnace rooms. It’s also an excellent idea to spot-check your home for minor problems that you can fix before the home inspector arrives, like:
- Ensure your toilets are running correctly and drains are unclogged in your bathtubs and sinks.
- Fix small things like cabinet and door hinges, broken door knobs, and broken window locks.
- Test all light switches and ceiling fans to make sure they work.
- Turn all your pilot lights on, including in a gas fireplace.
- Correctly label your fuse box.
- Clean or replace the return filter in your furnace.
- Clean your oven and stove.
- Replace batteries in your smoke detectors.
- Take care of pest issues; exterminate infestations.
You’ll want to clear the clutter in the exterior of your home as well, including around windows and doors. Clean debris from your gutters and roof, if possible, and ensure your downspouts are in the right position. If you see damage to your roof, you might want to fix it prior to the inspection.
If you’re a buyer, you can prepare for a home inspection by making arrangements to attend it along with your inspector and real estate agent. If the inspector doesn’t want you to be present at the end of the inspection, that should be a red flag. When you’re preparing to attend the inspection, don’t forget the following:
- Tape Measure: this will be the last time you’re in the house before move-in day, so this is an excellent opportunity to take any last-minute measurements.
- Notebook: come prepared with any questions you have, and write down any questions that come to you during the inspection.
Wear appropriate clothing for the outdoors, since a good portion of the inspection takes place outside. The inspector will check the foundation, siding, windows, and other outdoor concerns.
How do you find top home inspectors in your area?
There are many ways to locate a home inspector in your area. A great way to start is to ask friends and family if they have worked with a good home inspector that they would suggest.
You also can consult crowd-sourced directories like Yelp or sites dedicated to home services like Angie’s List or HomeAdvisor to find reviews of local inspectors. Your local community message boards like Nextdoor might also have some recommendations or posted reviews.
HomeGauge’s Find a Home Inspector tool is also an excellent resource for seeking high-quality home inspectors in your area.
If you want to ensure you’re picking an expert, try checking with national organizations like ASHI or InterNACHI. And while not all states require home inspectors to be licensed, most state organizations also have a database of inspectors. Each group’s website will list details about local member inspectors, their specializations, experience, and professional certifications.
Once you’ve settled on an inspector, make sure to do some extra Googling to see if you can find any reviews or complaints about them. Check out your local chapter of the Better Business Bureau to see if it has any information on the inspector you’re considering.
Evaluating home inspectors in your area
One great way to determine which home inspector to hire is to compare their previous home inspection reports.
Ask the finalists on your list to provide you with a sample report they’ve completed for a similar home to the one you’re considering purchasing. The report should show you how much work they’re going to do, how organized they are, and how in-depth they’ll go when inspecting the property.
Also, be sure to keep in mind their experience. Someone who has inspected many similar homes will know what to look for and will have experience with a wide variety of potential issues with the house.
An inspector’s experience is especially important if the house is older and has the potential for more problems. If that’s the case, you might consider looking for an inspector with additional credentials, like an engineer’s license.
Finally, ask the potential inspector what services are included in their quoted price. Many home inspectors’ prices will range from $300-$600, depending on the age and size of the home, its location, and the services they are performing. Don’t be afraid to ask questions such as:
- Does the inspector use an infrared camera to check for leaks and wall or ceiling damage?
- Do they use a drone to check the status of the roof?
- Do they climb up on the roof themselves to get a closer look?
- Do they offer any specialized services, like radon tests?
It doesn’t hurt to understand how extensive the inspector’s process will be — and how much bang you’ll get for your buck.
The benefits of working with a HomeGauge inspector
It also helps to hire a home inspector who uses professional-quality software and technology.
When you work with a HomeGauge inspector, you’ll have access to several valuable benefits, including the Create Request List™ (CRL™) for buyers and agents. The CRL™ is an easy way for buyers and their real estate agents to examine documented issues from the home inspection and easily add them to the repair amendment on the property sales contract.
How real estate agents can help their clients choose a home inspector
Real estate agents often play a significant role in their clients’ home inspector choices. If you’re a REALTOR®, you’ll need to understand why it’s important to assist your client in making this choice — and how to help them make the right one.
Why should you help your client choose a home inspector?
While it might seem like a conflict of interest (and some clients will prefer to choose the inspector themselves for this reason), in reality, you want your client to get a thorough home inspection of the property they’re considering.
After all, it’s not in your best interest for your clients to be left ignorant of major problems with the property they’re purchasing, because once those problems pop up, that client will be dissatisfied with their purchase.
An unhappy prior customer is never a good thing for a real estate agent.
As an agent who cares about customer satisfaction, your priority should be making sure your clients are getting a house they’ll be happy with in the long-term. And if you’re a seller’s agent, you will want to help them receive thorough and honest feedback on their home so that they can be prepared for negotiations with the buyer.
Since a quality inspection is helpful to your clients whether they’re buying or selling, it follows that you would benefit from getting involved in the process of choosing a home inspector.
As a professional in the field, you’ll have access to many inspectors and will know what to look for. You’ll develop lasting relationships with quality inspectors in your area and know who to recommend, which will be an excellent way to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise to your clients.
How do you help your client find a home inspector?
As a professional in the industry, a real estate agent can be an excellent resource for matching clients with other industry professionals. If you’ve been in your area for a long time, it’s natural to develop relationships with a few other local pros, like inspectors, appraisers, plumbers, and contractors.
Your client will most likely ask for your advice on finding a trustworthy home inspection company. To help them make a decision, you should first make sure you understand your client’s needs. Are they concerned with specific issues, like checking for radon? Do they need extra-communicative service from an inspector who can explain what they’re doing in-depth?
When you’re considering a new home inspector, here are some qualities to look for:
- They demonstrate a willingness to communicate. They return messages promptly and converse easily with your clients.
- Their inspection company is licensed, bonded, and insured.
- They have positive reviews or referrals.
- They have experience with the type of property you need to be inspected.
- They allow you and your client to accompany them on the inspection.
- Their sample home inspection report is sophisticated and readable.
Also, it’s helpful to understand whether the home inspector might have a potential conflict of interest. Do they have financial ties or business relationships with other industry professionals, like real estate brokerages or contractors? You’ll want to help your client find an unbiased source of information on the property in question, and financial ties with other interests might cause unwanted bias.
Choosing a home inspector: a matter of expertise
The home inspection phase is one of the most important steps in the home-buying process, and it’s wise to take it seriously. Look for a professional, experienced home inspector who has all the proper certifications, an excellent reputation in the community, and thorough inspection reports.
After all, a trustworthy and professional inspector will help get you the information you need to feel confident that the house of your dreams won’t have any unpleasant surprises after you move in.