How to hire a home inspector
For most of us, our home is the biggest investment we'll ever make. For those preparing to buy, a quality home inspection is key.
An inspection is usually required for a home purchase. A quality home inspector will look at every nook and cranny to gauge structure stability, present and potential dangers. But remember, a home inspection is not a guarantee or a warranty - it may not find everything.
According to a 2007 poll of Angie’s List members, 30 percent said their home inspector’s oversights ended up becoming a major expense down the road. Some of the costly mistakes included mold, asbestos, termites, leaking roofs, even rats on one member’s property.
Angie's List 9 Tips for hiring a home inspector:
- Do your homework: Real estate agents are often quick to pass out recommendations for home inspectors, but check Angie's List to see how members rated their experience with the inspector before you hire. Ask to see proof of state certification or proof of membership in the National Associations of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI), National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI) or the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI).
- Experience: Both NAHI and ASHI require a minimum of 250 inspections, however most experienced professionals will say it’s better to find someone who’s performed at least 1,000 inspections and has at least three-to-five years of full-time experience.
- Licensing & Insurance: Ask to see proof of licensing if your state requires home inspectors to be licensed, and inquire about proof of general liability insurance as well as and errors and omission (E&O) insurance.
- Costs: Home inspections generally cost at least $400, and typically take three to four hours. The costs will vary depending on such factors as the age and size of a home.
- Get involved: While it’s not required that you attend the inspection, you should in order to discuss expectations and findings.
- Know what to look for. This includes structural problems; roof damage; fire hazards, such as improperly vented chimney flues; electrical safety issues, including old wiring; and problems with plumbing and major appliances, like the HVAC system and hot water heater. Inspectors should physically crawl the attic and crawl space, if possible, rather than just taking a quick look around from the opening or doorway.
- Read the report: Many inspectors provide the report the same day as the inspection. The report should be thorough and easy to understand and should include narrative accounts of the inspector’s findings that are specific to your house, along with pictures and diagrams. Many inspectors will also include photographs with their reports. Keep in mind that few houses are perfect, so you should expect some issues to be found. Don't hesitate to question your inspector about the report.
- Home inspections aren’t just necessary for old homes: Newer homes can have just as many problems as an older home. And, if you are building a home, inspections at key points during construction should be a part of the process.
- Useful info: A home inspection report reveals problems that need to be fixed. You might use this information to renegotiate the price that you originally offered or you may be prepared to adjust your selling price.