Congratulations! You've decided to purchase a home. We all know that when purchasing a home, every detail is an important one. And choosing a home inspector is no exception. It's critical to choose an inspector the same way you've chosen a real estate professional - very carefully! You'll get a great educational experience when you hire a professional with the right credentials.
Working with a home inspector isn't complicated; however, unless armed with the right questions to ask, you may get stuck with a less than capable individual. Here are my top 8 questions to ask your next home inspector:
- Does the inspector come from a construction background?
It's great that your inspector is a nice person, but what did they do before inspecting homes? Do they bring a wealth of knowledge about the construction trades, building, or remodeling? Or were they a hairdresser in a previous life? Don't get me wrong, I'm not picking on hairdressers - but that occupation certainly doesn't have anything to do with inspecting a house!
- Does the inspector hold the appropriate license and meet all requirements for home inspectors in your area or state, and where can you go to verify this license?
This question may not be applicable in all states - there are states without licensing requirements for home inspectors. But if your state has some kind of requirements, you need to know what they are, and where you can go to verify that your chosen inspector has done what it takes to be state-compliant. Verification is essential, because many states have the capability to track continuing education of the inspector as well as complaints.
- Is the inspector a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)?
This is critical! ASHI is the oldest, largest, and most respected organization for home inspectors in the country. They also maintain the highest standards and ethics for home inspectors. If your inspector is a member of this organization, you can be sure that they have passed The National Home Inspectors Exam, and they have completed all training and administrative requirements for membership. You can even verify membership status at www.ASHI.org. The inspector may be a member of other organizations, but none have requirements as strict as ASHI. And don't be fooled by those companies who claim to inspect to “ASHI standards" - if they aren't a bonifide ASHI member, find another inspector.
- How long has the inspector been in the inspection business, and how many inspections has he performed during this time?
Longevity gives comfort that the inspector will be with you in the future as new needs and issues arise. But if he's only done 12 inspections during his several years in business, that's not good! Your home buying decision is far too important to be a practice place for a part-time inspector.
- Does your inspector have experience in homes similar to the home you are having inspected?
All homes have some systems and features in common, but a brand new home has risks and issues that differ from an historic beauty from the year 1855. Only someone who has walked the walk and crawled the crawl numerous times in similar homes can sleuth out those important items that are specific to your age, size, and type of home.
- Will your inspector walk on the roof, crawl in the crawlspace, go into the basement, and climb into the attic space (if any of these are applicable)?
Your inspector should be capable of going and willing to go into those places where others fear to tread! These are the places that must be seen to best protect the customer. There a times when those locations cannot be completely inspected due to physical risk to the inspector, risk to the equipment, or seasonal limitations. But for the inspector to not inspect those locations because he doesn't want to, is scared of the dark, or is too ample to fit into those spaces is unacceptable.
- Does the completed report include photographs?
Often, the report will contain descriptions of damage or defect in locations of the home that only the inspector was able to access, like roof-tops or crawl spaces. You will want pictures of these areas to make your understanding of the scope and location of the damage clear. It also makes repairs simpler to get estimated when a photograph is available.
- When will the completed report be delivered, and can it be emailed?
Often the buying decision is time critical, you want to be sure you will receive your completed report in time to read, review, and respond. The best companies can deliver the report to you on-site, right at the home, just as the inspection is completed.
Finally, be sure to attend the home inspection. There is no substitute for the complete inspection experience; the report generated is only a small piece of the inspection. When you attend the inspection, see the process, ask questions, and become educated about your home, you'll gain great comfort and confidence in your buying decision. Good luck, and happy home buying!
Wally Conway is President of Florida HomePro Inspections, and has recently written a book entitled “Secrets of the Happy Home Inspector", available at GoHomePro.com or Amazon.com. Wally's expertise and experience has been sought after by HGTV's “House Detective", the Florida Times Union, and many real estate boards and associations. As a speaker, writer, instructor, and host of The Happy Home Inspector radio show every Saturday at 3 PM on WOKV 690, Wally blends the right amount of up-to-date information with just the right amount of humor, insight, motivation, and real-world application. Visit http://www.WallyConway.com for more information!