18 questions to ask before you hire a home inspector

18 questions to ask before you hire a home inspector

When the time comes to choose a professional home inspector, you need a handy list of the right questions to ask before you hire anyone.

Below is the list of questions that can make a big difference:

1. What is the inspector’s experience?

Were they cleaning carpets or fitting you for shoes last week? Experience is very important in all trades, and especially when it comes to home inspectors.

2. What certifications do they hold?

An example of a good certification is one from The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), one of the oldest and most respected associations. It has the highest technical standards in the industry nationwide. The Florida Association of Building Inspectors (FABI) is similar, but state-based. A Standards of Practice, Code of Ethics, Continuing Education requirements, and candidate/member list, can be found at www.ashi.org or www.fabi.org.

3. Do they have any state or code authority certifications?

Previous contractor experience is a real plus if they are inspecting new construction. The International Code Council (ICC) issues certifications such as Building/Electrical/Mechanical/Plumbing Inspector, etc.

4. How long have they been performing home inspections in state?

Issues in states can be unique. A home inspector with experience up north may know boilers and ice damming, but may not know about synthetic stucco (EIFS), heat pumps or mold common in the south.

5. How many inspections have they performed?

The more inspection experience someone has, the greater probability you have of finding a professional.

6. How long does the inspection take?

Someone who has done 4,000 inspections, but has only been in business for four years, means they are doing four inspections per day. In other words, you are getting a one-hour inspection.

7. What kind of tools do they have?

A good inspector will have a lot of tools that help form an educated and reliable opinion, not just a guess. It also shows commitment to the profession.

8. Do they use infrared? If so, are they a Certified Thermographer?

Many entry level cameras have come on the market, making it easier for an inspector to purchase one. Someone using a low end camera who doesn’t understand building science can provide false and misleading information.

9. What type of report format do they use?

If you are from out of the area and the inspector uses multi-part carbonless forms that can’t be emailed, there may be an issue. There are multiple report programs that anyone can click and check. How custom is your report going to be? Will you receive a digital copy for future reference?

10. When will you receive the report?

If your closing is quick, you may not be able to wait a day, or two, or three, or even much longer.

11. Do they have a written service agreement outlining their scope of work?

Never enter into an agreement to have something as expensive as a house inspected without having a written contract specifying what the inspector is responsible for.

12. Do they perform repair work on houses they inspect?

This would be an obvious conflict of interest. Other conflicts include paying or accepting commissions for inspection work, collusion with third parties, etc.

13. Are they familiar with historically defective building products and building practices?

Do they know about FPE, Zinsco, LP, GP, Masonite, polybutelene, EIFS, aluminum wiring, lead based paint, Chinese drywall, etc.? Often, inspectors dependent upon check lists fail to include or mention these.

14. Are they familiar with building science?

In Florida, a good working knowledge of building science is critical. Problems can often be detected before they become worse if the inspector understands building science.

15. Do they perform a lifetime safety recall check of major appliances?

There are nearly 200 million recalled appliances. Are any of them in your new house? You should find out and track them!

16. Do they inspect the security system?

We partner with experts to inspect the existing system, or install a new one for free!

17. Does their price reflect the complexity of the inspection?

You will no doubt discover a wide difference in price between home inspection companies. Why is this? Two reasons: complexity of the inspection and qualifications of the inspector. Old, large houses with crawlspaces, pools and problems cost more than small new homes on slab foundations. Also, when talking quality, you get what you pay for.

Look at the experience, credentials, time spent at the inspection, individual attention received, and the inspection format. After this, consider the value of the investment, and the risk. No home inspector will catch 100 percent of the problems, but some will shed far more light on them than others.

18. Does the company have business systems in place?

A company with staff, with office administration software, inspection software, contact, distribution and training systems will be in business long after those who schedule their inspections from the attic.  

About this Experts Contributor: Jon Bolton, the Inspectagator, is a professional home inspector and has performed several thousand home inspections since 1998 and now sets a vigorous pace as a market leader transforming the direction of Professional Home Inspections. He specializes in home Inspection in the Orlando area.

As of August 7, 2014, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

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