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   Home Inspection HOME      15 Questions to ask before hiring a Home Inspector

15 Questions to ask BEFORE hiring a Home Inspector

 
You should never hire a Home Inspector before first asking some basic questions of that inspector.
If the inspector that you're speaking with has a problem answering a few questions, then move on - any inspector worth his salt will be happy to tell you about his experience, his methods, and any other aspect of the home inspection that concerns you.
 I've compiled a list of questions to ask that may save you a lot of anguish (or money) later on.
The best approach is to call the inspector , tell him or her that you're looking for a Home Inspector, and ask the following questions in a straightforward manner.
Be sure to write down his responses so that you can compare the inspectors that you're "interviewing" later on. 

 
 

 
1.
"What Home Inspection Training do you have?"

 
Training and education requirements for Home Inspectors vary widely from state to state, so you have to be certain that your inspector is trained AND LICENSED to conduct inspections in your state. 

Most states require a certain minimum number of classroom instruction hours and also a requirement for "field training" before testing for the Home Inspection license. Ask the inspector where he received his training and how many hours of instruction he received.

Ask if he's licensed (a must) and ask him to provide his Home Inspector License number for later reference. Refer to ASHI's guide to Home Inspector Licensing Requirements By State.

Write down the inspector's responses and don't be afraid to CHECK WITH the inspection school or institution where he received his training.
 

2. "Are You Experienced at Residential Inspections?"

 
Some inspectors may specialize in inspections of commercial properties, so this is a fair question to ask. You wouldn't want to hire a Home Inspector to check out a residential home if his only background is inspections of commercial real estate like businesses, warehouses and factories.
 

3. "Do You Maintain Membership in a Professional Home Inspection Organization?"

 
Most Home Inspectors maintain membership in one or more professional organizations. Membership provides the inspector with resources for education, training, and the sharing of knowledge and experiences between Home Inspectors. All of these organizations require that their members be licensed to practice home inspection in their respective states, and require them to uphold a Code of Ethics (or Standards of Practice) to protect the home buyer as well as the integrity of the organization as a whole.
 
These organizations include:
 
and many others. 
 
Each organization has different criteria for membership. 
ASHI requires that their inspectors perform at least 100 Home Inspections before being considered for membership, while membership in NACHI requires that the inspector pass a series of online tests before joining their ranks.
My advice would be to bypass any Home Inspector who is not associated with a professional Home Inspection organization. 
 

4. "Do You Receive Continuing Education in the Field of Home Inspection?"

 
The Home Inspection business is changing every day. Things like heating systems, building materials, and technology are moving ahead by leaps and bounds. A Home Inspector needs to have continuing education in order to keep up with these changes.
For that reason, most states require that Home Inspectors receive continuing education at regular intervals. In New York for example, inspectors are required to take a minimum number of hours of CE every 2 years. 

You may think that continuing education for a home inspector is not a big deal, but consider this:
Let's say you're thinking of buying a home that has a geo-thermal heat pump - a method of heating and cooling that has grown in popularity in recent years. Would you hire a Home Inspector who isn't familiar with this system because he hasn't received any education in 20 years to keep up with the changes?
 

5. "Can You Provide References?"

 
The inspector that you're interviewing should be able to provide you with some references from past inspections - unless of course they are new to the Home Inspection field. 

Every inspector that you speak to will be eager to reference a few clients who have told the inspector what a great job he's done. Ask the inspector for names and phone numbers and FOLLOW UP by calling the former client. 

You may think that calling those former clients is a waste of time. After all, that person has already praised the inspector for his work and in the inspector's mind he has left a trail of happy customers. But that's not always the case.

A Home Inspector may have done a stellar job with the inspection for a former client, but sometimes there is more to the story. After the inspection, the client may have realized that the inspector missed something or failed to explain the implications of a defect in the home from that inspection. Or the former client may have complaints about the inspector's availability to answer questions AFTER the inspection. 

That's why you need to follow up by calling those former inspection clients and asking questions such as:

- Were you satisfied that the inspector did a thorough job with the inspection?
- Was there anything that he MISSED that you wish he had alerted you to?
- Were you satisfied with the Home Inspection Report that he provided?
- Was the inspector punctual?  
- Did the inspector conduct himself in a professional manner?

The more questions you ask, the better picture you will have of that Home Inspector - his methods, business practices and professionalism.
 
 
 

 
6. "Are you insured and what type of insurance do you carry?"

 
Some defects and conditions in a home may constitute a latent defect - a defect that is not readily detectable during the course of a Home Inspection. 

Example: a rotted exterior window sill that was re-painted by the seller to hide it's condition.

Home Inspectors may carry Errors and Omissions insurance to protect themselves in the event of litigation. The insurance pays for the inspector's legal expenses and also the award in a situation where the home inspector is held accountable for missing the defect. 

While Errors & Omissions insurance may not be required in all states, it's not a bad idea to choose a home inspector who is insured with E&O. 

Why? 

Many Home Inspectors form an LLC (Limited Liability Corp) which protects their personal assets like their home and automobile in the event they are sued. If that inspector misses a major defect in the home during his inspection, you may be left with no recourse if his company is registered as an LLC unless that inspector carries E&O insurance.
The Home Inspection COMPANY (LLC) may simply declare to the court that the company's assets are less than the amount of compensation awarded and declare bankruptcy, close the business, and leave you holding the bag for thousands of dollars in repairs on the home you bought.

Some states require home inspectors to carry basic liability insurance - but not all.

Check the insurance requirements in YOUR state before hiring a Home Inspector. 
 

7. "How long have you been in business as a Home Inspector?"

 
The length of time that a Home Inspector has been in business can be an indication of his professionalism and dedication to the realm of Home Inspection. 

After all, a poor inspector is not likely to remain in business because of complaints from customers or lack of business caused by a poor work ethic or business savvy. The bad ones simply don't last very long in the Home Inspection business.

Bear in mind that there are plenty of very competent inspectors out there who may have just recently started their business, so the longevity of their business is not a CLEAR indication of a good inspector. However, the inspector with long business resume under his belt may be the safer bet.
 

8. "How many inspections have you completed?"

 
There is no substitute for experience. An inspector can have a million hours of classroom instruction, but that instruction cannot compare to hands-on experience in the field.
If possible, choose a Home Inspector who has completed a minimum of 10 inspections.
 

9. "What type of Home Inspection Report do you provide and when will I receive it?"

 
Pay attention because this is more important than you think.
 
A Home Inspector is required to provide their client with a written report detailing (at the very least) any defects or deficiencies that were found during the home inspection. 
Written reports vary - from simple handwritten notes to computer-generated reports with color photos and detailed explanations.

Handwritten reports have their merits, but personally I would rather have a report that contains pictures and explanations. 
A written Home Inspection Report may cite (for example) a crack in a basement wall, but without a photo that contains a reference point, you may be searching for hours to locate that crack. 

Also, some Home Inspectors tend to overestimate a home buyer's knowledge of the systems and components in the home. Consider this scenario: 
The written report states "The TPR valve is faulty".
Which leaves you with just another question - "What the heck does a TPR valve look like and where is it located?".
With a report containing photos, you'll be able to determine that the TPR valve is located on the hot water tank. 
 
Of equal importance is when you'll receive your Home Inspection Report.
Immediately after the inspection? The next day? Next week?
 
You may be under time constraints in relation to the inspection and the contingency, so be sure that the inspector will get your report to you with time enough to review it before the contingency period is up.

Some Home Inspectors come equipped with a "mobile office", enabling him to offer you a computer-generated report at the conclusion of the inspection. This may sound great as far as convenience, but you may be better off telling your inspector to generate your report within a few days if your contingency permits. I have personally been pressured into a "right now" report and feel that the customer gets short-changed in that arrangement. A Home Inspector simply cannot remember everything he's observed when under pressure or time constraints, and may omit some very important information in your report if you're standing beside his car door after the inspection and waiting for your report to be printed. The inspector can generate a more thorough report if he has time to digest everything he's looked at during the Home Inspection.
 

10. "Do you have a Sample Report that I can look at?"

 
There are literally hundreds of different Home Inspection Software applications that are in use in the Home Inspection business, and they aren't all alike. Some are quite inclusive, while others simply fail to cover important aspects of the inspection. The same applies to written Home Inspection Reports or those where a printed template is used for the inspection ( a fill-in-the-blanks report). 

If the inspector has a sample report that you can look at, ask him to send it to you (via email) and check it over carefully. Be sure that you understand the format and that you're able to understand his descriptions of systems, components and any defects that he might discover. 

Let's face it - some people who are well-versed in their professions tend to "talk over the head" of those who are less knowlegable about a particular subject. If you've ever had a doctor who hit you with the medical jargon and left you standing there wondering if you're dying of acute gastro-intestinal distress, then you get it. Your inspector needs to explain everything in a manner that you can comprehend, or your Home Inspection Report is useless. Make sure that you understand the report!
 
 
 

 
11. "Can I follow along during the inspection?"

 
Most Home Inspectors will encourage you to accompany them during the inspection. It's easier for the inspector to point out defects or future concerns if you're right there to get an explanation. During the Home Inspection, your inspector may notice some minor things that he wouldn't normally include in your report and give him a chance to address them in real time. 

Following along will also give  you the opportunity to ask questions about things that YOU notice and ask for some clarification and perhaps an opinion on whether the issue needs to be prioritized or mentioned as a bargaining chip in the home buying negotiation. After all, the Home Inspector works for YOU, not the seller.
Your Home Inspector should be willing (and even eager) to let you come along during the inspection.  

But be aware...if you follow along during the Home Inspection and discuss an issue related to the components, systems, or defects in the home, it does not absolve your inspector from the responsibility of including any MAJOR defect or concern in your Home Inspection Report.
 

12. "How long will the Home Inspection take?"

 
I've included this one just for planning purposes and added a cautionary message. Everyone is busy these days and they'd like to know how much time to block out of their day for their Home Inspection.

The time it takes to perform a Home Inspection will vary greatly from inspector to inspector. Of course, a larger home will take longer to inspect than a smaller one due to size alone. 

As a general rule, the Home Inspection should take no less than 2 hours. Personally, I've never performed a Home Inspection that took less than 2 1/2 hours...most have been between 3 and 4 hours, but I suppose for a home of 1800sf or less it might be possible.  
It's important to give your Home Inspector plenty of time to do his job - never rush him. You're paying him to do a thorough inspection and if you make him feel rushed, he may miss something that could cost you dearly in the future. There are horror stories galore of Home Inspectors who breezed through an inspection in an hour (now all out of business, presumably) so give the inspector as much time as he needs. An extra thirty minutes NOW could save you many thousands down the road. 

If you contact a Home Inspector and he assures you that he'll be in and out in less than 2 hours, keep looking. Speaking from experience, a Home Inspector cannot perform a complete thorough inspection in less than 2 hours. 

*If the home includes things like a geothermal heating or cooling system,  total solar feed, or wind-generated supplemental power, it will naturally take longer. You should also be advised that inspection of solar, wind and geo systems falls outside the scope of the typical home inspection. Be sure to mention any "unconventional" power or plumbing systems when you speak to a prospective inspector. 
 

13. "Do you provide services such as Radon Testing, Mold Testing, etc?"

 
Another thing to consider when "inspecting your inspector" is ancillary services. Ancillary services are any service that your Home Inspector provides that are seperate from the Home Inspection. 

These include:

 
These services are in addition to the fee for your Home Inspection and will naturally cost an additional fee. Make sure to ask about the fee for any additional services so that you have no surprises and stay within your budget.

If you feel there is a need for additional (ancillary) services, then be sure to include those services in your SEARCH for a Home Inspector. Each inspector offers a different array of services, so be sure that the Home Inspector that you hire is qualified to perform the services you require. 
 

14. "Can I contact you after the Home Inspection regarding the report?"

 
Any Home Inspector worth his salt will have no problem with contact after the fact. An inspector who doesn't welcome questions and feedback about his past work isn't worth your investment. It's a sign of someone who doesn't stand behind their skills. 
If the inspector has a website, look for reviews. Comments are "vetted" for favorable reviews of course, but you may be able to get a sense of his professional integrity by reading them. 
 

15. "Can you do repairs or suggest contractors to correct problems that you find?"

 
The ultimate trick question.

To my knowledge, any Home Inspector who belongs to a professional Home Inspection organization is forbidden to do repair work or recommend contractors to work on homes they have inspected. It's a matter of "conflict of interest". The rule is designed to prevent your Home Inspector from pointing out imaginary defects and offering a solution, or profiting from his Home Inspection by referring work to friends or family. 

IF YOUR HOME INSPECTOR OFFERS TO FIX DEFECTS OR RECOMMENDS ANYONE FOR REPAIRS, PASS HIM BY.
Then promptly report him to the professional home inspection organization to which he belongs, as well as your state Attorney General.
 
 
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I hope this helps you make an informed decision when searching for a professional Home Inspector. - Ken
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 




 

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