Choosing the right home Inspector

How mini how-to guide to get started.

Buying a home is the largest financial decision in most of our lives and many factors are involved in choosing the home that is right for you. Getting an accurate assessment of the condition of a home before you buy it is an essential piece of the decision making process.

But there are so many people performing home inspections today, how do you choose the one who is right for you?

One way to help insure you hire the firm that’s right for you is to get referrals from people you trust. Start with a friend or family member who has recently purchased a home, your attorney, mortgage broker, or your real estate professional. Don’t simply rely on names from the telephone book, it’s just too important. The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) has a lot of useful information about home inspectors for the consumer on their web site.

You should describe the house as completely as possible to the inspector on the telephone. Answer all of their questions and let them know about any peculiarities up front. Also, the more the inspector knows about the house, the better they can describe their services and fees to you. A house with seven rooms is a lot different than a house with seven bedrooms, so be specific and have a listing sheet handy!

In addition, you should take into account how much time the inspector spends with you on the telephone. You will likely have a lot of questions during the inspection and a willingness to answer questions on the phone might indicate what they’ll be like during the inspection.

Your first concern should be competency. You must feel comfortable that the inspector you hire knows what they are doing. What is their educational background? What construction related licenses or certifications do they hold? What professional organizations are they active in? How long have they been inspecting homes professionally?

What does the inspection consist of?

You should have each firm walk you through the typical inspection over the telephone. Will the inspector climb a ladder to the roof edge or look at it with binoculars? What is their policy on crawl spaces? Will the inspector remove the cover from the electrical panel? And what is expected of you? Should you bring a stepladder or some tools to the inspection? Does the inspector mind if you follow them around during the inspection?

A good inspector should have three goals:

First, to find the major defects in the house. Second, to provide the client with an idea of the other less important defects or issues which will help the homebuyer develop their own “five or ten year plan”. The third goal is education, the inspection should be a learning process for the buyer, the inspector should show the homebuyer where the main water shutoff is, the electrical disconnect, how to change the filter in the furnace, etc.

The inspection itself is an invaluable learning experience, so make sure you are there. Make sure you understand everything the inspector points out and writes in the report.

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While the cost of the inspection is a concern for everyone, price alone should not dictate your decision. In every field, you get what you pay for. Every inspector provides a different service to his or her clients and a higher or lower fee does not necessarily dictate what kind of work the inspector will do. It is more important to look for value. What will you get for your money, that’s the most important thing.

The report is more important than most people know. It is the only thing that survives the inspection. It is an important document that your attorney should review. If an important defect is uncovered during the inspection, the report will be an important tool in negotiations. It often serves as a “to do” list for years after the inspection. There are basically two types of reports: The handwritten, annotated checklist is a preprinted carbon reproduction form where the inspector will mark items as Satisfactory, Unsatisfactory, etc. and make a few handwritten comments as needed. The other kind of report is the typewritten narrative report where the inspector actually types a report, which profiles the house and goes into more detail

Many inspectors offer additional services outside the scope of a normal home inspection. These can be included with the inspection fee or they may only be available for an extra fee. They can include a pest inspection, a radon test, a lead paint test, a Title V review, a septic inspection, a well test, electromagnetic field measurements, Indoor Air Quality evaluation. You should ask what other services are offered by the firms you interview. Be wary of firms that offer one stop shopping. The inspector can only be an expert in so many fields before the consumer has to wonder just how much of an expert can one person be?

So do a little investigation before hiring a home inspector, make sure you know what you’re getting, and attend the inspection. Understanding the process and being an informed consumer are the best paths to your dream home, and avoiding a money pit!

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We are a family business that was started over 30 years ago by Allan Morrison and over 10,000 inspections have been performed by Allan, Jim, and Kevin Morrison.

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