Choosing a home inspector

How to Find and Select a Home Inspector


Scott Madison, Madison Home Inspection Service LLC



Pre-purchase home inspections have become a standard part of the home purchase process over the last 20 years. A thorough home inspection by a qualified professional will be some of the best money you ever spend.  While most people think the value of a home inspection is in identifying defects and problems, I have come to believe that the main value is in the education a buyer may receive about their potential purchase.  It is also important to have realistic expectations and understanding of what a home inspection is and is not. The purpose of a home inspection is to give a potential buyer a general evaluation of the overall condition of a building based on observation of visible and accessible components on the date of the inspection.  The purpose of a home inspection is not to list every single minor defect, provide a warrantee against future problems, or to see through walls or behind stored items.

Many home buyers simply go with the inspector their realtor recommends.  This may or may not result in a satisfactory experience.  Home inspection is a very individualized profession and the skill and experience of home inspectors varies widely.  The way different home inspectors communicate, the report format they use, and the type of  things they look at all affect the results of the inspection.  Finding a good match to your expectations is important.  Therefore doing your home work and selecting your own inspector is the best way to go.  My home inspection business has been in operation since 2000.  Based on my experience here are my suggestions on how to select a home inspector.

Find your home inspector before you find your home.  Interview several inspectors and ask about qualifications, education, years of experience, number of homes inspected etc.  Home inspectors’ qualifications, experience, and communication skills vary a great deal.  The way in which two inspectors go about their work may vary widely, but the defects identified should be roughly the same.  I can’t emphasize communication skills enough.  For me, a lot of an inspection is verbal and the way issues, defects etc. are identified and presented is crucial. 

Also be sure your inspector is a member of a reputable professional association such as the National Association of Home Inspectors or the American Society of Home Inspectors.  There are many others.  Some are suspect so be sure to ask about membership requirements and standards.  Some are pretty low.  You may visit an associations web site  and review their standards to find out what a home inspector should at minimum do.  You are agreeing to these standards so you may as well familiarize yourself with them.  Review the code of ethics.  If your home inspector appears to violate this code he should be challenged and/or reported. 

Ask the inspector to email you a copy of the inspection agreement.  You will be asked to sign this contract prior to the inspection.  Ask the inspector how long they spend on a typical inspection.  In my opinion anything less than 2 hours for a single family home or townhouse is inadequate.  I routinely spend 3 ½ to 4 hours or more if needed on a single family home depending on size, age, complexity, and of course condition.  If I am allowed the time to do a proper job, the chance of missing something critical is greatly reduced.  Remember nobody is perfect so nobody is going to find every single detail.  But a good inspection should identify all important defects.  Also remember that the purpose of a home inspection is to convey a sense of the general condition of a property, not every single detail. 

Ask what type of report is prepared.  Straight check lists are largely worthless to the home buyer.  There should be a written component to a home inspection report. 

Finally, the best way to find a good inspector is by referral from someone who has had a good experience.  Ask friends, family, coworkers, neighbors etc.  I love getting referrals this way.  Many of my clients find me on WASHINGTON CONSUMER CHECKBOOK magazine/website  Consumers rate service providers and can comment about their experience in the NEIGHBOR TO NEIGHBOR SECTION.  I have numerous client references under both HOME INSPECTORS and BASEMENT WATERPROOFING as a consultant.  Your realtor will want to refer you to a home inspector(s).  Your realtor’s inspector may be very good, …or maybe not.  Interview any and all thoroughly and to the same standard and make your choice.  Lastly, never choose on price alone.  Fees charged will vary quite a bit.  You want a good inspection not a cheap one.   

As a buyer, be prepared for the inspection.  Be on time. Be prepared to take notes; there are lots of tips and suggestions that do not make it into the report.  Do not bring family members or friends to show them your new house.  I know the home inspection is a rare opportunity to bring others to see the house but it is very distracting to both you and the inspector. Please don’t bring your children unless you absolutely have to.  Turn off your cell phone.  I can’t communicate something important to you if you are not listening.  And if its ok for you to take calls during the inspection, its ok for the inspector too.  Don’t wander off during the inspection.  I know you want to see the house again, visualize your furniture, measure for drapes and carpeting, but if you are not present and paying attention, you will not get the maximum benefit from the inspection.  Help your inspector do the best job possible.

When the day comes and you are standing in front of your prospective new home the inspector standing next to you will be somebody you already know and you will know what to expect.

In summary the home inspector you select should:

1) Be a full time professional.
-Not a handyman, your uncle, or someone doing it on the side
-Someone who has performed 500 to 1000 inspections or more.

2) Have a current license if your state requires one. Ask to see it.
-Most require some level of insurance.

3) Be a member of a reputable Professional association such as:
-The National Association of Home Inspectors
-The American Society of Home Inspectors

4) Have real construction/home repair/home inspection experience.
-not just internet home inspectors school.

5) Take the time to do a good job.

-quality home inspections take time 2-31/2 hours or more.
-less than that is not a home inspection.

6) Provide a written report listing problems and defects.
-checklists are mostly worthless to home buyers.

A good home inspection requires superior communication.
-if the client is not present and the inspector is not talking, it is a waste of time.

Ask friends, neighbors, co-workers etc. for referrals. The inspector will appreciate it.

Scott Madison, Madison Home Inspection Service LLC





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