How do you Choose a Home Inspector?

To choose a Home Inspector can be a difficult decision. You have made the decision to by a house. Now you have the task of wading through realtors, title companies, mortgage companies, appraisal, and inspections (and I am sure other things). The realtor, the title company, and the mortgage company all get paid at closing. The appraiser may also get paid at closing. Inspections are paid by the borrower at the time of the inspection. So, your home inspector must be chosen carefully, as they are the ones that will give you the real details on your new home.

Referrals:

Most buyers will let the realtor choose the inspector for them, either knowingly for unknowing. A list of three home inspectors is usually given to the borrower by the real estate agent. Now, if you like your agent, you are going to believe them. But do they really have your best interest at heart, or are they giving you three inspectors that write ‘soft’ reports to help the sale go though. I do know that there are plenty of good realtors out there that do have their buyers best interest at heart, but there are also many that do not.

Asking a friend that has bought a home is a good source for a referral. They have already used an inspector and they will tell you how they did. Ask them how long the inspection took to complete, when did the report arrive, did they explain the major issues, while also listing all of the minor issues, and did they have an understanding of when the roof, AC, and water heater may need to be replaced. Also ask if any problems occurred after the inspection.

Web searches:

The last place you can look in on the internet. Most inspectors have beautiful looking web sites. However, most of these sites all say pretty much the same thing. Here is what to look at when doing an online search:

1} How long does is say the person has been inspecting homes. Most will list 20-30 years in the industry, but not be very specific as to their area of expertise or how long they have been actually been conducting home inspections. If Florida you can get an idea by their license number. Anyone with a high number over 6000 has only been in business a short time. Licensing came about in 2011 and at that time there were about 4000 that obtained their license.

2) How many inspection does it say they have completed. I look at a lot of web sites and normally is see anywhere from 5000 to 15,000 inspections completed. Does that make sense for the years in business? And are those inspections full home inspections, or just insurance inspections. There is a big difference.

3) Look to see what certifications they have. All that is needed in Florida is a license to operate. Be wary of association certifications. Many of them are very easy to get – most only require an online course (one or two hours) and a test at the end. Also see how many hours of continuing education the inspector does every cycle. Florida only requires 14 hours per cycle, or 7 hours per year, which is not very much, especially with the codes changing every few years. Do they go above an beyond or do they only do the minimum?

You should always interview your inspector before hiring them. You want to get the best value for your money, and that does not always equate into the cheapest price. Remember that the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.

Ask if they know or cite building code references in their reports. Most will say they do not, that they are not code inspectors. Citing code has nothing to do with being a code inspector. It has to do with knowledge of how things are built. They can be used as clarification as to why something was installed improperly. The most important thing an inspector can do is back up what he is calling out with a reference. This will save all parties involved time and energy trying to figure out why something was written.

Sample reports:

You should always ask for a sample report. Most reports are computer generated using industry software. They should be easy to read and understand. It is not only our job to tell you something is deficient, but why it is deficient. We should be calling for repair or replacement and in South Florida, most inspectors will give a cost estimate. If the report calls for ‘further evaluation’ by a licensed professional on every item, why bother hiring a home inspector in the first place. Why not just hire the roof, AC company, plumber, and structural engineer the first time around.

Be wary of inspectors that offer warranties for everything they inspect. Most of these warranties are sort term only and don’t cover what you would hope they would cover, and many come with deductibles. Ask yourself this – if the inspector is good, why should I need all of these short-term warranties. In my opinion all they do is give the inspector a reason not to do a good job. They can rush from one job to the other. Also, do you want to have to deal with a warranty company. If the inspection was done right the first time you may have been able to get the seller to fix or replace those items.

The last thing I can tell you, and it has been mentioned above, is do not choose your home inspector by price. The experienced inspector will cost more, and that is because he has more knowledge. In the end, a good report will list multiple items, Some will need repair, some will need replacement, and some are maintenance items. If you read and understand the report you will most likely be able to re-negotiate for a better price. Many clients have been able to negotiate hundreds or thousands of dollars based on good inspections and well written report. One of my recent clients was able to save $39,000 off the purchase price, and that was after the seller brought in their own contractors to verify what was in the report.

Posted by Bill Siege Florida Home Inspection Team Inc.

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