If you are buying or selling a home or planning and executing a significant re-model of the home, hiring a qualified home inspector is an essential part of the transaction to protect all parties involved.
Just as important as choosing the right construction contractor for a project is the choosing of the right home inspector. You can and want to make sure that the choice is made with accurate information about the candidates. You do not need to depend on their advertising. A qualified, competent inspector will expect this fact-gathering exercise and will be pleased to offer the information you request. If there is hesitation by the prospective inspector to answer any of your questions, that hesitation should be a red light. Move on with your search.
Here are seven essential questions to ask a home inspector in order to qualify as best choice for your needs:
What is your experience in home or building inspection?
There is little to substitute for experience. All inspectors must begin somewhere, but, just like a surgeon, you hope you are not counted among the first clients. If an inspector is still a novice according to response to this question, it would be prudent to ask if a more senior inspector will accompany the trainee. All inspectors must be trained before they enter the field, but training, alone, will not compensate for experience.
Are you a licensed inspector with specific qualification in home or building inspection?
A licensed inspector should be the expected norm, not the exception. However, be wary of the license and its implications. If the inspector is licensed as a contractor, but not necessarily as a home inspector, that may be a red flag both in this matter and with a subject covered below. Some states do not require specific licensing for inspection, but it is still a good idea to ask for proper credentials to certify that the candidate has met industry standards of knowledge and performance.
Do you take advantage of continuing education in techniques and building code modifications?
Continuing education in any field is desirable. Techniques, technology and building codes change over time. Even an experienced inspector can be tripped by these changes if he or she is not taking advantage of continuing education. If it is a valid educational source – it should be – the inspector should have certificates. Ask for them.
Do you offer to perform improvements or repairs based on your inspection?
This is a double-edged sword. It is a convenience if the inspector has a coincident repair and improvement background, but, on the other hand, it constitutes flirting with a conflict of interest. An aggressive but potentially insincere inspector may fake the discovery of an issue just to pad the fee by offering to make the repair or improvement as a matter of convenience to you.
Will your report be sufficiently detailed to allow me or a qualified contractor to analyze the report in order to make effective repairs or improvements?
The experienced inspector will know the proper detail to include in a report so that any necessary repairs or suggested improvements can be performed without delay to obtain further information about the report. Be sure the inspector is willing to go over the report in detail with you once it is prepared. This issue will be made easier to assure based on the answer to the following question.
Will you let me accompany you during the inspection?
If an inspector is unwilling to allow you to accompany the inspection to ask questions and to be present to see any issue discovered first hand, he or she is denying you of one of the best educational experiences you are already paying to obtain. A qualified inspector would encourage you to join the inspection if you wish. It is a good idea to do so.
What is your fee?
This question is last because it is probably the least important question. You should not measure the quality of the inspection based upon a quoted price. This is, however, a valid question taken in context with the other questions. A low bid may be kind to your pocketbook, but it may be an indicator of inexperience or desperation; exactly the wrong qualifications of a good home inspector.
These questions are basic. There are others that may occur to you as you interview prospective inspectors, but beginning with these and acquiring insightful answers to them should guide you to the right choice of a home inspector for your needs.