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It’s easy enough to find out when open houses are and what the latest property on the market is. You can spend half an hour in a home to know it’s the right fit for you. But what happens after you make an offer? It’s home inspection time, and the search for the right home inspector is not always as simple as it seems. Plus, you’ll need to spend a lot more than just half an hour on your search.
Read on to learn how to find a home inspector — more specifically a good and reputable home inspector — that you can trust to get the job done right.
Why you need a home inspection
Once you find a home you love and the seller accepts your offer, it’s important to book a professional home inspection. It’s very common to make a purchase contract contingent on the home inspection going well. This gives you the chance to back out of the sale if the inspector finds there are major repairs needed, or other issues. If you have a contingency like this in your contract, you’ll also have more negotiation power with the seller to either request they make the repairs themselves or to charge you less for the home so you can finance the repairs.
Even if you choose to accept the house as-is after the inspection, you’ll gain valuable insight into the home that makes it easier to plan any future repairs or renovations you want to make. This is why it’s helpful to attend a home inspection, where you get the chance to ask the inspector questions about the home.
What does a home inspector do?
A home inspector essentially inspects a home for any potential problems that the average buyer wouldn’t pick up on. It’s worth noting that most home inspections cost about $300 to $800.
Most home inspections will review the structural integrity of the home, all major mechanical systems, and any cosmetic features of the home. Your inspector should take a look at the following parts of a home:
- Heating and cooling systems
- Electrical and plumbing
- Interior and exterior
- Built-in appliances
- Signs of insect infestations
- Exterior walls
- Parapets and trim
- Basement and crawl space
- Attic and roof
On inspection day, the home inspector performs an initial evaluation of the home. They will point out any potential issues they find with the home for you, which is a great time for you to ask any questions you have. Once the inspection ends, the home inspector issues a written report that details all of their findings, with photographs of the issues included when necessary.
How to find a home inspector
Now that it’s clear just how important a home inspection is, you want to make sure you hire the right home inspector to get the job done. While a search for “best home inspector near me” is a start, these are some more advanced tips to help you find a good home inspector.
- Look for a welcoming home inspector. Ideally, you’ll attend the home inspection from start to finish, and your inspector should recommend you join them. If they try to encourage you not to attend the entire home inspection, look elsewhere.
- Ask for a sample report. Good home inspectors share sample reports on their website that give you a clear idea of how they write and format their reports. Strong reports include photos and details about why an issue matters and how to fix it.
- Read reviews. Websites like Yelp and Angi feature reviews, but if you can’t find any for an inspector online, ask them for past client references.
- Interview them. Treat this like a job interview and ask the inspector about their experience and certifications. It’s best to hire someone who does inspections on a full-time basis and who has a few years of experience under their belts.
- Get a thorough quote. Alongside a price, you need to know what is and isn’t included in the inspection. For example, if you live somewhere where it snows, the inspector won’t inspect the roof, patio, driveway, deck, or other exterior parts of the home if they’re covered with snow.
- Request copies of licenses and insurance documents. Most states require that home inspectors have a license, as do some municipalities, so confirm whether or not the home inspector can provide you with a copy of their license and proof of insurance (errors and omissions insurance is key here). If your state doesn’t have license requirements, you can ask if they have any professional credentials, such as certifications, that they can show you.
- Find an inspector before you make an offer. Once you make an offer on a home, it’s go time. You don’t want to feel rushed to find an inspector, so preferably try to find one before you make an offer.
Is there a big difference between a ‘good’ home inspector and a ‘fine’ one?
While all home inspectors should provide nearly identical services, some are much more thorough and communicative than others. Because most of us don’t need to hire one too often, it’s hard to know how to find a good home inspector.
For some insight into how to choose a home inspector, keep the following factors in mind when you evaluate your options.
Your real estate agent will know a few different home inspectors in your area, but it’s important to still interview their referrals. It’s also a good idea to check in with family, friends, or neighbors who had good experiences with their inspectors as they interacted with the home inspector as a client, which your agent likely hadn’t done.
Check their credentials
Credentials aren’t required for home inspectors, but there are professional associations that offer them. If they’re not required, why inquire about them? While a certain credential doesn’t guarantee quality, they give you an idea of how knowledgeable a home inspector is about their industry’s standards and processes. Some certifications also indicate what the inspector’s experience level is.
For example, to qualify for an ASHI certification, the candidate has to pass the National Home Inspector Examination and prove they’ve done a minimum of 250 paid home inspections. Over 34 different states require home inspectors to pass this examination, so at the very least you should confirm they have passed the exam if your state requires it. InterNACHI’s certification also has testing requirements and requires the candidate to submit four mock or inspection reports to qualify.
Compare their similar home inspection reports
As previously mentioned, many good home inspectors share samples of their home inspection reports on their website. Those samples are a great way to get a feel for what your report will look like. To get an even stronger idea of how the inspection will go and how the home inspector communicates about the issues they find, ask for a sample report of a home similar in size and age to yours. Ask a few different home inspectors for the most similar report they have available and compare them to each other—you’ll quickly discover which inspector creates the most thorough reports.
A thorough home inspection report is a valuable tool to homebuyers. That’s why it’s so important to find a home inspector who will communicate well and create a detailed report. After all, you don’t want anyone cutting corners when it comes to a purchase this big.