There are many times when a homeowner or home buyer can benefit from the expertise of a professional home inspector, and there are some practical steps you can take to help find a good inspector, interview them, and hire them.
Narrow the Field
First, decide what type of inspector you need. There are some home inspectors who specialize in environmental issues, for instance, whereas others have special skills and training in doing energy audits. Some focus on pests like termites and carpenter ants, whereas others primarily conduct buyer-ordered inspections for those who are about to buy a home and need a general report regarding the home’s mechanical and structural condition. Narrow down your search parameters and then it will be much easier to find the inspector who can serve your needs the best.
Then you can get started soliciting recommendations from trusted friends or from other professionals with whom you have a good working relationship. Many of the affiliated members of the National Association of Realtors aren’t real estate agents but are professionals who offer services related to the real estate industry. So within the ranks of those kinds of affiliated members you are likely to find some excellent home inspectors and home inspection companies. Your Realtor or house painter, for example, might be a good source of recommendations or leads. You can also use the phone book or get a list of inspectors or Google professional home inspectors to find out which ones operate in your area. Almost anyone who works as a professional contractor in the residential housing market will also know local inspectors, so they are another good source of leads, as are mortgage brokers and building appraisers.
Check their Credentials
Regardless of how you find potential inspectors, it is important for you to evaluate each one based on their professional credentials, certifications, customer testimonials, references, and track record within the business community. If there are licensing requirements for home inspectors in the state where you live, for example, you will want to verify those before hiring your inspector. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau and with any professional inspection trade organizations that operate in your jurisdiction.
Interview Local Inspectors
After developing a short list of inspectors you can get down to brass tacks by interviewing them on the phone, by email, or in person. You can ask how much they charge-but that is not nearly the most important factor, find out what kind of structures they have the most experience inspecting. You may find that there is one inspector who mostly inspects brand new construction, for example, whereas another one spends most of the time reporting on vintage homes that are very old. So depending upon what the age of your own home happens to be you can choose between the two.
Review a Sample of Their Home Inspection Report
As a consumer shopping around for an inspector you may also want to review the various inspection report formats and figure out which one appeals to you the best based on how you prefer to absorb information. Some report formats rely heavily on checklists while other formats are more essay-driven and deliver the information in paragraphs you will be able to sit down and read. Then there are inspectors who offer a hybrid, using both styles and incorporating both styles with a combination of checklists and written narratives – plus extensive pictures to illustrate their findings. Don’t be afraid to ask whether your inspector can provide you with the particular kind of report you like. Many inspectors have software that allows them to adjust the format of the report to suit your preferences, with just a few clicks of their computer mouse. Reviewing their report is not an insignificant consideration, a rule of thumb, a “crappy” report probably means a “crappy” inspection.