Hiring a home inspector shouldn't be a simple matter of doing a Google search and picking the top name that pops up on the screen. You wouldn't choose a doctor or dentist in this manner—and the same applies to finding the right home inspector, whether you're a seller in need of a pre-listing inspection or a home-shopper interested in placing a bid on a property. To help guide this important decision in the home-buying process, we've compiled nine questions you'll want to ask before hiring a home inspector:
- Are you licensed and certified? If the state where you reside requires licensing of home inspectors, you'll want to make sure that the inspector you choose holds this license—your assurance that the inspector meets the state's highest professional standards. Further, ask about advanced educational certifications such as CHI (certified home inspector); PHI (Professional Home Inspector); ISHI (International Society of Home Inspectors); InterNACHI (International Association of Certified Home Inspectors); and others.
- How long has your company been in business? Find out about the company backing the inspector you choose. Are they well established and have a strong track record of professional service that spans a couple of decades? (a-pro, for example, has been around since 1994.) Knowing this information will allow you to make your choice with greater confidence.
- How well do you know housing in your market? It goes without saying that a home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, may come with different concerns and common issues than a property in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Inspectors with intimate knowledge of your community will be better equipped to address the regional quirks of the home you want to have inspected.
- This deal is time-sensitive. When can I expect to see the home inspection report? What will the report include? Swift delivery of the home inspection report is often a key factor when tight deadlines need to be met. Don't hesitate to inquire about when you can anticipate receiving a full report. Hiring a company like A-Pro, which provides the report within 24 hours, can make the difference in keeping the buying process on track. Beyond finding out about the speed of delivery, take the time to ask what the inspection covers and what is not covered. The more you understand about the purpose of the inspection and what it entails (A-Pro provides a 500-point inspection covering all major systems of the home), the better you'll be able to use the report when negotiating a fair selling price. Also, ask if the company offers free services that others do not, like A-Pro's room-to-room Foundation Level Survey—a $150 value that comes with every complete home inspection.
- What guarantees do you offer? Not all home inspection companies provide guarantees of service. If they do, ask about the details. For example, A-Pro customers receive a 120-day “If We Don't Report It, We Repair It” accuracy guarantee—protection in the rare case that a defect to a covered system or component is not noted in the home inspection report. A-Pro also has a “No Further Evaluation” policy that comes with a complete inspection.
- Do you have references from people who have used your service? It seems obvious that an inspection provider would have a long list of satisfied customers to present to you, but you should ask and find out for yourself. Also, do your due diligence and check out online reviews—you can learn a lot about the quality of service you can expect.
- Can I attend the inspection with you? Find a company that encourages its home-buying customers to attend the inspection (it's not mandatory to attend, of course, but it's always a good idea). By walking the house with a knowledgeable and friendly inspector, you can be there to see for yourself the good, the bad, and the ugly of the property; ask questions on the spot, and gain the peace of mind of knowing your inspector has done a thorough job of evaluating the visible/operational parts of the listing. You should demand this level of transparency from your home inspection provider.
- What other services do you provide beyond the inspection? This question goes hand in hand with #4. There are certain components of a home that are not included as part of a traditional inspection. Ask your inspector if they are certified to provide other services such as mold inspections, pool and spa inspections, camera-based assessments of the home's main sewer line, radon testing, lead paint testing, wood-destroying insect inspections, and other checkups that you may want before moving in. Having a single provider that can handle all your home inspection needs saves you time and helps you build a valued relationship that can benefit you over the full extent of your time in the home—and when you decide to find another property.
- What if I have questions once I receive the report? You should expect your inspector to answer, “No problem. I'm here to help when you need me.” For professionals like those at A-Pro, there can be no other response to this question. Inquiries should be handled as promptly as possible, but as a customer, it's important to understand that inspectors are busy people, so be patient if your answer doesn't come instantaneously. When you do receive your response, it should be delivered in understandable language that clearly spells out issues with the home. In short, find a home inspector with communication skills as good as their ability to evaluate a roof or foundation.