Tips to Find the Best Home Inspector
Ask if the inspector can do ancillary inspections. If your home has a septic system, for example, or if foundation problems are common in your area, ask ahead of time if the inspector can do those inspections and if there will be an extra fee.
Get copies of license and insurance documents. Many, though not all, states require home inspectors to be licensed. Some municipalities may also require licensing. A qualified home inspector will provide copies of his or her license and proof of insurance.
Ask what won’t be included and how to find out the condition of those items. In colder climates, for example, the roof, deck, patio, driveway and other exterior features can’t be inspected when they are covered with snow.
Ask if the inspector is a member of ASHI, NAHI, InterNACHI or any other professional inspectors group. Choosing an inspector who belongs to a professional organization isn’t a guarantee of quality, but it does indicate a degree of professionalism and training.
Read reviews on Angie’s List, Yelp and Google. You can ask inspectors for references and call past clients. But you should also read online reviews that the inspector doesn’t control to ensure accuracy.
How to Choose a Home Inspector
Ask What You Get for the Price
Inspectors without specialized credentials typically charge around $300 to $1,000, depending on the home’s location and size, the inspector’s experience, and the scope of the inspection itself.
Consider Training and Experience
In addition to professional certifications, look for someone who has been in the field inspecting homes for at least several years. He’s more likely to have seen a variety of home types and a broad range of home issues.
Compare Home Inspection Reports
The best way to determine how thorough an inspector will be—and how well he will communicate the problems he finds—is to ask for a sample copy of an inspection he has done on a home like the one you’re considering buying, Brasler says. “The sample report will show how much work they’re going to do,” he says.
Favor Credentials, but Know Their Limits
Hiring someone who’s certified by a professional organization can give you a bit more assurance that the inspector is knowledgeable.
Identify Qualified and Trusted Candidates
To find a reputable inspector, first ask friends who have recently purchased a home whether they recommend the person they used. You can also find referrals through local online communities such as NextDoor or Patch, where members sometimes post their experiences. A crowdsourced directory such as Yelp, and home services sites such as Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor, may also be helpful.
Tips for Getting the Most out of a Home Inspection
Don’t Forget the Basement
An unfinished basement will give a lot of clues to the condition of the house and foundation. Look for cracks, signs of repairs and water issues. A crack in the slab or wall is not always a dealbreaker, but understanding why a crack appeared is important. Your home inspector will be able to tell you if anything needs further inspection from a structural engineer.
Furnace and Water Heater
Beyond making sure the furnace and water heater work properly, you should find out how old each one is and the last time each received service. Replacing a furnace or water heater can be pricy, so if either one is in need of replacing soon, you need to keep that in mind while putting together your offer on the property. You can also get a feel for how the furnace is cared for by checking the furnace filter. A filter that’s in obvious need of changing can hint at other postponed or ignored maintenance.
Give the Plumbing a Try
Losing water pressure or dealing with a slow drain can be indicators of larger plumbing issues. Make sure bathtubs and shower pans are leak-tested. And have the home inspector inspect the water main and shutoff points (very useful knowledge if/when you take ownership of the property).
Look in the Attic
A well-functioning attic is crucial to protecting a home. If your home inspector can get into the attic without trampling insulation, you can often learn a lot about the home and any renovations or repairs. One very common inspection red flag is improper venting of bathroom fans into the attic (and not extending the vent all the way through the roof). If your bathroom fan is venting directly into the attic, all it’s doing is sending moisture and humid air into the attic where it cause mold, rot or worse. It’s also not up to code. If possible, have your inspector check for attic air leaks. While you can fix these attic air leaks, an attic with air leaks could have potential issues with insulation, moisture, mold or worse.
GFCI outlets are part of the building code in rooms where moisture is present (kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, etc.). Your inspector will know how to test these outlets properly, and malfunctioning or non-working GFCI outlets could hint at bigger electrical problems.
How to Choose a Home Inspection Company
Be prepared for bad news. It is a home inspector’s job to find any existing or potential problems with a house. They can lose their license if they fail to report issues, so although it might feel like they’re purposely giving bad news, be thankful for the information.
Know what will be inspected. A home inspector must thoroughly conduct a review of the inner and outer areas of a house, including:
Plumbing: While conducting a home inspection, old piping materials, faulty fixtures, water pumps and water heaters are some of the concerns that an inspector will focus on. Plumbing defects are one of the main issues a homeowner and/or buyers will face in terms of repairs.
Understand the actual inspection. Home inspectors enter a home and analyze all of the major components that make up a house purchase. Home inspection companies document the safety and overall condition of a home at the time of the inspection. Home inspections usually take about 3 hours for a minimal inspection, and 5 or 6 hours in order to arrive at a thorough, proper assessment. Depending on how old or large a house is, it may take longer or less time to complete.
Be prepared for the cost. The average fee for a home inspection is between $350-$500, but the information received from an inspector is priceless. It could be the turning point between a sale and a buyer going back to searching for the perfect home.
Finding the Right Home Inspector
What to expect on inspection day
On the day of the inspection, the inspector performs an initial site evaluation. Then the inspector takes you on a tour to point out the assets as well as any potential problems. Pay attention, watch, ask questions and learn. A thorough inspection can find problems related to water entry, roof leaks, insect infestation, unsafe wiring, failed septic systems, poor plumbing, wet basements, mold and mildew, and safety hazards.
At the end of the inspection, you receive a written report detailing all the findings. The report should contain photographs and descriptions of any damage or defects found during the inspection as well as details on the location of damage. Pictures help you understand the scope and location of the damage, and visual proof makes it easier to get repair estimates.