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Hiring a Home Inspector: What to Look For

Home inspections should be common practice amongst prospective homebuyers. Enlisting the services of a certified home inspector is well worth the additional charge, as they will serve to mitigate the risk of hidden costs and provide peace of mind. However, hiring a home inspector should not be taken lightly. Appointing the right personnel for the job requires extensive research and dedication. It is important to know what to look for when hiring someone to inspect a house.

There are five particular areas to focus on when hiring a home inspector:

Qualifications

When hiring a home inspector, it is important to familiarize yourself with their individual qualifications. Persist to ask open-ended questions about their training and experience, as it relates to your particular home. The age and location of the house should play an important role in determining the right inspector for the job. You may require an inspector versed in hazardous materials, geological formations and even structural engineering.

Their responses should highlight several credentials and qualifications. For instance, many should have some training in construction and building maintenance standards. Make sure the home inspector you hire is certified, as there is no shortage of home inspector associations.

One important approach, that is often overlooked, is referrals by friends and family. Beyond their suggestions, reputable real estate agents should already have a list of trustworthy home inspectors they rely on. High-profile agents demand qualified inspectors because they want their buyer to be aware of anything that may be wrong.

Most importantly, find out why the inspector is qualified to perform inspections. Understanding the intentions of an inspector can go a long way in any transaction. Make sure they have your best interests in mind. While this may seem rudimentary, it is perhaps the most overlooked aspect of acquiring an inspector.

Obtain Sample Reports

To better understand the credentials of a potential inspector, request a sample report detailing previous jobs. In receiving a previous checklist or inspection report, you gain access to the level of work expected from each inspector. In particular, take notes on whether or not the information is presented in a professional way. Is the information presented and explained clearly and completely? Are there notes and explanations or just a series of check-boxes?

Longer reports are usually indicative of a diligent individual. While there are no length requirements for inspection reports, more comprehensive notes will detail the scope of a potential problem.

For reference purposes, a comprehensive home inspection report should be anywhere between 20 to 50 pages and contain a variety of photos that highlight potential problems and defects. By comparison, a report consisting of three or four pages should raise a red flag. It is nearly impossible to include a detailed report on so few pages. Don’t forget, no house is perfect. Even newer homes have a myriad of problems that require an attention to detail.

References

References have always been a valuable tool in hiring a home inspector. Not from people you may know, but those who have already been serviced by the inspector in question. Ask for any names and telephone numbers of the people that have already used his or her services. Do not be afraid to call them and ask how their experience was. Be sure to talk to those homeowners that have lived in their house for a lengthy period of time, as some problems overlooked by an inspection can surface years later.

In addition, check to see if the inspector is referenced on the Internet. A bevy of sites exist in which individuals can post their experiences with home inspectors.

Memberships

It is not a requirement for home inspectors to be affiliated with a particular state association. Membership to one of these groups should, therefore, not be your sole criteria for hiring a home inspector. However, all else being equal, representation in an accredited association is a plus. These groups provide their members with training and certification programs and up-to-date information about industry practices and inspection standards. Professionals in the industry recommend the following associations:

Errors and Omissions Insurance

While hiring a home inspector should alleviate many of the headaches that accompany buying a home, they are not without fault. Even the best, most credible, home inspectors are capable of making a mistake or overlooking a problematic situation. Therefore, it is imperative that you find out whether or not they have insurance for errors and/ or omissions.

By enlisting the services of a company with this type of insurance, you can protect yourself from any problematic situations that may arise from inspector negligence.

Does the company or individual inspector stand behind the report? Is there any sort of guarantee and how long does it last for? These are questions you should ask.

Other Factors to Consider When Hiring a Home Inspector

The following should also be taken into consideration when hiring a home inspector:

  • Review a Sample Home Inspection Report: Though reports can vary in length, comprehensive reports average between 20 and 50 pages and contain color photographs highlighting defects or problems.
  • Avoid Hiring a Home Inspector That Recommends a Contractor: By offering to direct you to a contractor, the inspector could be creating a conflict of interest.
  • Inquire About the Length of the Inspection: To preform an adequate job, a home inspector should take at least three hours.
  • Is There a Re-inspection Fee?: While not required, many reputable inspectors will verify recent changes without charging for additional services.
  • Attend the Home Inspection: Doing so will give you a better idea of what to expect and the scope of the potential project.

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