Since home inspection is a relatively small cost start up business, there tends to be a lot of “HGTV Cowboys” so it is critical that you find a professional or it’s a waste of your time and money. You will find persons on many different levels of competence, with varying experience, different price ranges and dissimilar tool boxes.
1. What is his/her background and experience? Were they cleaning carpets or fitting you for shoes last week?
2. What certifications do they hold? One trade association requires a 20 question test and a fee of $35.00 to become “Certified”. Another large association has questions like “Circle the correct spelling of the word receptacle” with 4 choices on their test. The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) is the oldest and most respected association with highest technical standard in the industry nation wide. A Standards of Practice, Code of Ethics and Continuing Education are typical requirements.
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 like Building/Electrical/Mechanical/Plumbing Inspector, etc.
4.How long have they been performing home inspections? Issues can be unique to states or regions. 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 in the south.
5. How many inspections have they performed? This is a trick question. Someone who has done 4000 inspections but has only been in business for 4 years means they are doing 4 inspections per day. In other words, you are getting a one hour inspection.
6. 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.
7. 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?
8. 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 more.
9. 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 who’s responsible for what.
10. Do they perform repair work on houses they inspect?This would be an obvious conflict of interests. Other conflicts include paying or accepting commissions for inspection work, collusion with third parties, etc.
11. Are they familiar with historically defective building products and building practices? Do they know about Federal Pacific Electric, Zinsco, Louisiana Pacific,Georgia Pacific, Masonite, polybutelene, EIFS, aluminum wiring, lead based paint, Chinese drywall, etc? Often, inspectors dependent upon check lists fail to include or mention these.
12. Are they familiar with building science? In southern climates, a good working knowledge of building science is critical. Problems can often be detected before they become problems if the inspector understands building science.
13. 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. A brain surgeon with 20 years of experience charges more than an intern. A Mercedes costs more than a Ford. Look at the experience, credentials, time spent at the inspection, individual attention received, the inspection format, and then consider the value of the investment, and the risk. Somewhere there will be a balance. No home inspector will catch 100% of the problems, but some will shed far more light on them than others.
14. 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.