If you’re looking to buy a home and wondering how to choose a home inspector, we have good news: you’re on the right track.
Buying a house is a major investment—monetarily, but also for your future. In that way, the home inspector you choose holds a piece of your future in their hands. The right one will help you select the perfect home and grant you peace of mind about your purchase.
Therefore, it’s fair to say that not just any inspector will do.
And as you look, there’s more to the best choice than a certification.
In this article, you will learn how to pick a home inspector, with tips and red flags to guide you. The first step is to pull your candidates from the right places at the right time.
Locating Candidates: How to Find a Home Inspector
Find a Home Inspector Before You Begin Touring
One of the best tips we can give you is to start looking for your home inspector as soon as possible.
When you’re in the market to buy a home, these are the typical steps:
- You look for houses for sale.
- You tour houses.
- You make an offer on a house.
- Your offer is accepted.
- You hold a home inspection.
- You negotiate your prior offer based on the findings of the home inspection.
- You follow through with your purchase if it’s still the home you want.
When your offer is accepted, you and the seller sign a contract that should include an inspection contingency clause. This clause allows you to change your mind based on the results of your home inspection; however, your ability to back out of the deal depends on you having your inspection within the allotted time frame.
Having an inspector picked out in advance means you won’t have to rush to find the right one.
Where to Look to Find a Good Home Inspector
Nowadays, our search for products and services primarily takes place online. While Google is a great tool, other sources can also yield promising home inspector results. And if you do look online, it’s essential to look with intention.
Ask Friends and Family
Your friends and family have your back, so you can trust them to be honest in their reviews and recommendations. If anyone you know has bought a home in the past, ask them who their home inspector was and if they would recommend them to you.
Compiling candidates from word of mouth allows you to find reputable options instantly, and you can ask questions about how thorough the inspector was or if they missed anything your acquaintance didn’t find out about until after moving in.
Even anti-recommendations are valuable. If someone you know had a terrible experience, you can steer clear of the inspection service they used.
If no one you know owns a house or you want to grow your options, local community groups can be a great way to learn about inspectors in the area. Local communities often create groups on Facebook, or you can turn to neighborhood-based social media apps like NextDoor.
Check Professional Organizations
There are professional organizations in the home inspector industry that take in, educate, train, and certify members. You can visit the websites of many of these organizations to find member home inspectors near you and evaluate their qualifications.
A few of the largest organizations in the industry are the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), and the Building Inspection Engineers Certification Institute (BIECI). The BIECI’s primary goal is to set the standards for excellent practice and certify knowledgeable and qualified professionals.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is also an excellent tool to verify the accreditation of home inspection businesses and check their rating. You can also search for inspection services in your area on the BBB website.
Filter Results Online
When looking online for a service provider, filter your list by using Google reviews or taking your search to sites like Yelp that filter businesses by reviews.
Don’t Use Your Real Estate Agent’s Referral
It’s common for real estate agents to use their connections to refer a home inspector to you. We recommend choosing a home inspector yourself as using theirs presents a conflict of interest.
Your agent’s primary goal is to get you into a home as soon as possible and make their cut. In the worst-case scenario, your agent may work out a deal with their inspector or choose an inspector who will do a poor job, so you stick by your offer and close.
In the best-case scenario where your agent has your interest at heart, the inspector is still put in an uncomfortable position because they know your agent.
Instead, hiring a home inspector for yourself removes the possibility of personal conflict affecting your home inspection’s outcome.
How to Choose a Home Inspector
Once you have a list of options, it’s important to know what to look for in a home inspector to choose the one who will give you the best home inspection.
Consider the following as you interview and narrow down your top candidates.
Licenses and Certifications
Credentials are not the be-all-end-all, but they are essential for ensuring expertise and should function as your minimum requirement.
If your state requires a license to conduct home inspections, ask for proof of license from every candidate. You can find requirements by state on this map. Some inspectors may even have a home architect’s or home engineer’s license, which are harder to obtain.
If your state doesn’t require a license, a certification is a must, and if your state does, extra certifications are still a good sign. Most certifications require intensive training and experience. Find out who your inspector is certified by and check their unique qualifications online.
Years and Type of Experience
Experience helps prove that a home inspector can apply their knowledge and training in real-world scenarios and has done so many times before.
The more experience an inspector has, the better. This is for two reasons:
- They are more likely to have inspected a wider variety of homes. (You want to find an inspector who has worked with the type of home you’re looking at buying.)
- They have likely witnessed a wider range of problems and can better spot them.
The more experience an inspector has, the more expensive they may be, but the investment is often worth it to ensure you buy the right home—especially if you’re looking to buy an older home that’s more likely to have problems.
Membership in Professional Associations
Professional organizations like ASHI and InterNACHI hold their members to a certain standard and often offer updated training. Belonging to an association means an inspector has agreed to meet their standards and dictates a level of professionalism.
The Limits of an Inspector’s Credentials
Although crucial, credentials in the form of certifications, licenses, and experience aren’t always enough to ensure you will get a solid inspection. Knowledge alone doesn’t guarantee that a home inspector will be thorough in their search or detailed in their report.
Some may even rush through an inspection and miss vital clues.
In one study by Consumers’ Checkbook, they hired 12 home inspectors to inspect the same three-bedroom, two-story, single-family house. The home had 28 known problems, some of which they created themselves before the inspections for the study.
None of the inspectors found every problem, and a surprising number missed more than anticipated. Five inspectors completely missed a leak under the kitchen sink, and only three used a ladder to inspect the roof closely. As a result, several missed signs of severe roof damage.
This study shows that you should hire a home inspector under the lens of all the tips in this article and not their qualifications alone.
You should also ask potential inspectors how long they expect their inspection to last; if they give an estimate of under 2 hours, it’s probably in your best interest to go with someone else. The average home inspection should last between 2 to 4 hours.
Testimonials and reviews are a great way to identify fantastic or not-so-thorough home inspectors, and the best way to obtain honest reviews is to do some digging.
You can find reviews on Google, Yelp, social media platforms, or the Better Business Bureau’s website. In your search:
- Only use reviews from people who have used them before
- Look for reviews that mention positive experiences and thorough inspections
- Look for reviews that include complaints or missed problems
While you can ask a home inspector for their references, you should know there’s a chance that they will give you their very best or even make them up.
The Technology They Use
Some house inspectors use more advanced technology than others, which allows them to give a more thorough and accurate inspection.
Most often, home inspectors rely on what can be seen and detected by human senses. They typically don’t look behind walls for water damage or test for radon. If they see signs of an issue, they will note it and recommend a specialist, but it may go unnoticed if they can’t see it with the human eye.
However, some home inspectors use tools like infrared technology or water testing kits to go a step further. Such tools better equip them to find issues like overheated electrical systems, pests, leaks, and hidden water damage.
Know that advanced tools and testing may cost more, so it’s up to you to decide what is worth it.
One of the best ways to assess potential home inspectors is to look at reports they have done in the past. Sample reports can tell you what an inspector looks at, how thorough they are, and how detailed their descriptions of problems are.
Ask to view examples of reports on homes like the one you’re looking to buy.
Look for details specific to the home in the report; don’t be fooled by broad statements or generic maintenance recommendations. Home inspection reports do include maintenance recommendations, but there should be more to them than that.
They should also include photos and detailed descriptions of every problem found.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that different house inspectors charge different fees. After you have found your top choices, get a quote from each.
Their quote should include their final estimated price and everything included in their inspection so that you can compare cost and value. One may be more expensive but offer a more thorough examination or extra tests.
According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost of a home inspection is between $280–$400, but you can use their home inspection cost calculator to determine averages based on your location.
Avoid These Red Flags
We’ve reviewed a lot of what to look for in a home inspector, but there are some red flags to watch out for as well.
Lack of Professional Liability Insurance
Errors and omissions insurance (or E&O insurance) is a type of professional liability insurance that protects home inspectors when they make a mistake or miss a major issue during a home inspection.
All professional home inspectors should have E&O insurance because it also protects you, the client. If you sue your inspector for an oversight that could cost you lots of money, and they are at fault, their insurance will ensure you receive your due compensation.
They should also have insurance to protect them if they are injured while performing the inspection.
They Also Sell Repairs
If a home inspection service also does home repairs, it is difficult to trust whether or not they are being honest in their inspection. They could make unnecessary recommendations to sell you their other services. Instead, choose a business or individual without a conflict of interest.
They Don’t Recommend You Attend the Inspection
One of the biggest red flags in home inspections is if the home inspector doesn’t think you should attend the inspection. A quality inspector won’t have anything to hide and would prefer that you attend so that you can better understand their report and your future home.
Choose Your Home Inspector With Care
The home inspector you choose will play a vital role in helping you find the right home to build your future. With the right inspector, you can buy your home knowing it’s safe and secure, that you got the best deal you could, and that you don’t have any big surprises coming your way any time soon.