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For most people, the purchase of a home is the largest investment they’ll ever make. Getting an independent, expert opinion on the operability of the structure and its systems is a no-brainer. But not all home inspectors have the same experience, training, or certifications – what’s more is there are currently no federal regulations governing home inspectors. Home inspectors are governed only by whatever laws are in place in the state in which the inspection is performed, and these laws vary greatly. So how do you make sure you’ve hired the right person for the job?

When shopping for a home inspector, it’s vital that you do your homework and interview each inspector based on the checklist below.

  1. Do not price shop. It frustrates me when the first question asked by a potential client is “How Much does it cost”. It tells me how little they understand the importance of hiring the right Home Inspector and how much the inspector does for them. The inspection is not a “commodity” like toilet paper, or something that you can go to Wall Mart and get for a cheaper price.  You’re buying a service. That service is providing you with information, and the quality and quantity of that information is what’s important. With that in mind, make sure that you’re hiring an inspector with plenty of experience, knowledge and training. This will likely mean not shopping for one by price alone. Experience, Training, certifications, and continuing education don’t come cheap to the inspector and therefore, if you want that level of expertise it isn’t going to be cheap either. If you were hiring a doctor to cure you of a serious disease would you hire the cheapest one or the one with the most experience and best credentials? When it comes to home inspections – as with most things – you get what you pay for.
  2. When hiring a home inspector, you should be getting an advocate with only your interests in mind to give you an expert                                        Opinion on the buildings condition. Most inspectors get their business from realtors.  Besides the obvious conflict of interest issues, a recommendation from a real estate agent does not necessarily guarantee that the inspector is the best choice.  Supposedly, home inspectors are to be fair and balanced. If you get most of your business from the realtor, how fair and balanced do you think that inspector is going to be? Secondly, I agree with the first part about being “fair” but not with the second. I do not market to real estate agencies. I believe there should be no connection between the agent and the inspector other than what you / my client agrees to or is comfortable with.  I work for you and if I find a questionable item I will assume the worst until I am given information that proves otherwise. Remember, the realtors job is to sell the house or building. My job is to give you as many reasons not to buy it as possible.  I may be the only person in the entire home buying process that only works for you.                                                                                         

3.      Research their credentials. . EXPERIENCE – EXPERIENCE –EXPERIENCE Those that have it are proud of it and use it to benefit their clients. Those that don’t have it wish they did and look forward to the time they do. The old saying “There is no substitute for experience” applies to Home Inspectors as much or more than any other profession.

 Next, find out if they are members of a nationally recognized Home Inspectors association and which one is it.  There are no national laws governing Home Inspectors or inspections but most states do have their own laws and these can vary greatly. If you’re having an inspection done in Pennsylvania or New Jersey you must first be sure that your inspector meets the requirements of that state’s Home Inspection Law. Failure to do so could be a costly mistake. Once you have determined that, one of the best things you can do to find out about an inspector’s qualifications is to ask what associations they belong to. Keep in mind however, that not all associations are created equal.  Check out the associations’ minimum requirements. Also find out what level of the association the inspector occupies.  Some associations have “candidate” and “associate” or other levels that basically mean that the inspector has not met the requirements to be a full member.  Belonging to several Home Inspector Associations is a waste of money. The important thing is which one they belong to and their level of membership.

Some associations only require you to pay your dues to be become a “Certified Home Inspector”. Others require that you have minimum training or experience.  One Home Inspector Association however is very difficult to obtain membership in.  ASHI (The American Society of Home Inspectors) is by far the most difficult association for a Home Inspector to become a full member in. It is indeed the gold standard in home inspector certification. See the ASHI page of this web site for a full explanation of why membership in ASHI is the best you can get. Additionally, you may want to find out if they belong to the local chapter. This shows an additional level of commitment to the profession. The information obtained at the monthly chapter meeting can be invaluable.

  1. Make sure they’re insured.  A professional inspector should be insured for “errors and omissions”, commonly called E&O insurance.  This means that if the inspector misses something that was visible at the time of the inspection, you can file a claim against that insurance for the repairs of the problem. 
  2. Make your own decision.  Some states allow real estate agents and other professionals to make recommendations on what home inspector to hire.  Besides the obvious conflict of interest issues, a recommendation does not necessarily guarantee that the inspector is the best choice.  Make your own decision based on your research.

6. Ask to see one of their inspection reports.  At the conclusion of any inspection, you should receive a report on the inspector’s findings.  Again, inspectors are going to vary    widely – report styles can range from the minimal checklist to the jargon-filled narrative.  Inspection reports can be difficult to understand, so it’s important that you check out a sample report.  Items marked as “fair”, “poor”, or “inadequate” without any further explanation will not help you understand what the problem is or what exactly to repair.  Make sure that the inspector always specifies the exact problem and recommended repairs.  The inspector should also indicate an estimated cost of any repairs he or she recommends.

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