It is very important to have a qualified home inspection company do a thorough home inspection prior to closing on a home. There are many issues that are not readily apparent when you initially walk through a home that an inspection will uncover. When it is time for you to start looking for a Home Inspector you should ask your Realtor, Banker, or Attorney for a list of names. You can look in the Yellow Pages under Home and Building Inspections, ask friends or co-workers, or check out the directories of top national organizations such as NAHI (National Association of Home Inspectors) for a listing of Inspectors in your area. You will often have contractual time constraints that the inspection must be completed by and will need more than one recommendation to find a service that can meet your dates.
To appropriately vet the companies you have chosen to speak with...
- Ask if they carry Errors & Omissions Insurance - this helps protect you in the event an inspector missed or misdiagnosed a component of the home that they are required to inspect according to industry standards.
- Look for inspectors who offer General Liability Insurance as an added layer of protection for you - An inspector who doesn't carry general liability insurance does not protect against property damage in the event the inspector damages the Seller's property while inspecting the home.
- Ask what does your inspection cover - The inspector should ensure that their inspection and inspection report will meet all applicable requirements in your state if applicable and will comply with a well-recognized standard of practice and code of ethics. You should be able to request and see a copy of these items ahead of time and ask any questions you may have. If there are any areas you want to make sure are inspected, be sure to identify them upfront
- Request training qualifications - Training is key to a proper home inspection. Many inspectors may not have received formal training. The latest training to ask about is Chinese Drywall identification.
- Seek out inspectors who meet industry and/or state standards - Hiring an inspector who does not adhere to industry or state standards could result in missing thousands of dollars in problems, costing you additional money, time, or aggravation. Be sure that the Inspector you retain has professional affiliations and certifications through nationally recognized organizations such as NAHI (National Association of Home Inspectors), ICBO (International Conference of Building Officials), EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), AARST (American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists), etc. This information will help to give you insight into the background, and depth of industry involvement of the Inspector you plan to hire.
- Ask if they provide services outside of a general home inspection - Potential homebuyers should include comprehensive test such as a radon, mold, termite, Chinese drywall and lead inspections. Qualified inspectors should offer these range of services.
- Identify inspectors who are impartial - Impartiality during the inspection process helps to avoid raising unnecessary alarm; the inspector should remain objective while communicating the inspection findings in a professional, non-threatening manner. The inspector SHOULD NOT do any repairs on the property. If they offer to do so, they are not unbiased and are not working in your best interest.
- Make sure they are experienced - A full-time inspector who performs 250 or more inspections per year and has many years experience is most desirable. An inspector must have full working knowledge of every system in a home. The more knowledgeable inspectors started with a degree in a field such as engineering or architecture that provides a broad background in general construction or they were trained to operate as a general contractor. The inspector should be able to provide his or her history in the profession and perhaps even a few names as referrals. Newer inspectors can be very qualified, and many work with a partner or have access to more experienced inspectors to assist them in the inspection.
- Ask what type of report do you get and when do you get it- An inspection should include a signed report that describes what was inspected and the condition of each inspected item. Some inspectors use a checklist type of form with stock responses. Other inspectors simply provide a written description of the conditions found. A modern alternative to these are computer-generated reports. The best of these are generated by advanced home inspection software systems and include comments specific to each home. An Inspection Report should encompass three basic areas: Overview - A detailed picture of the house on the day of the inspection, itemizing all the major components and their condition. Maintenance Items -A listing of items in need of normal maintenance or attention. This list will allow you to be pro-active in your approach to home maintenance, and hopefully, minimize your risk of being blind-sided by an unexpected expense you could have been saving for, if you had known about it Major Repair Items - This is any defect with the potential to present a significant expense to you, in the near term. These items should be clearly identified, with estimated repair/replacement costs (ifpossible) .
An important question to ask is, "When do I get the report?" The checklist type and the handwritten type are usually delivered to you on-site. Computer-generated reports are also available on-site from a few inspectors who bring a portable computer to the job. Otherwise, the inspector mails the report. You may want to know up front how long you can expect to wait for it
- Ask if you will be able to attend the inspection - This is a valuable educational opportunity, and an inspector's refusal to allow this should raise a red flag. Never pass up this opportunity to see your prospective home through the eyes of an expert.
- Ask long will the inspection is expected to take? The average on-site inspection time for a single inspector is two to three hours for a typical single-family house; anything significantly less may not be enough time to perform a thorough inspection. Additional inspectors may be brought in for very large properties and buildings.
- Ask what type of equipment they use - Many Home Inspectors bring nothing more to the Inspection than a flashlight. Today's Home Inspector though, should be taking advantage of some of the newer technologies being introduced, and fully utilizing the best testing equipment available. This equipment is delicate and can be very expensive, but in order to stay on "the cutting edge" and provide the best service possible, it is a necessary investment. Proper equipment should range from the more sophisticated testing devices (electrical circuit analyzers, electronic carbon monoxide & fuel gas analyzers, digital moisture meters, digital cameras to document findings, etc.), all the way down to the more mundane but necessary equipment, such as ladders, flashlights, levels, etc.