EXCERPT: No matter how amazing a home looks, you’ll want to kick those tires—hard—before you buy or list. And that means you need to know how to find a good home inspector.
A home inspector should examine a home and points out any flaws, from a leaky roof to a faulty foundation. Typically home inspections happen in the days after your offer has been accepted but before you close the deal. That way, you can accurately gauge whether you really want to move forward, cut your losses, or renegotiate with the seller for a fairer price.
But an inspection is only as good as your inspector, so you have to make sure you’re dealing with someone who really knows their stuff. Here’s how to find a home inspector who’ll ace the job.
Are home inspectors licensed?
It seems like a no-brainer to hire an inspector who has been licensed or certified, but it’s not as simple as you think, according to Frank Lesh, executive director of the nonprofit American Society of Home Inspectors.
Not every state requires home inspectors to be licensed, and for those that do, the licenses can mean varying degrees of expertise, depending on the state’s requirements. There are also independent groups that certify inspectors where the quality varies considerably.
“Years ago, if you said you were certified, that meant something. But now there are companies online that give away certifications like popcorn,” says Lesh. So it’s important to research what the requirements for a specific license or certification are. ASHI has its own certification that is rigorous and must be renewed every three years. You can search for certified inspectors by specialty on the ASHI website.
Do you need a specialist?
For most people, a good general inspector is all you need. Inspectors check only the visible parts of the home—they can’t open up walls—so if your inspector flags something that looks amiss, you’ll probably call someone else to dig deeper. It’s not at all uncommon to bring in an HVAC specialist, electrician, roofer, or plumber to give you an expert opinion based on something that the inspector put in the report.
However, there are inspectors who specialize in certain types of issues. If you’re buying a commercial property, you will want an inspector familiar with the requirements for the type of business you’ll be running. If you’re buying an older home, you might want someone familiar with historic houses and their common problems. There are specialists in radon testing, lead testing, FHA certification, and all kinds of other specific concerns. If you need someone with a specialty, that will quickly narrow your search even more.
How to interview a home inspector
Once you’ve found a few inspectors who meet your qualifications, you’ll want to talk to them and make sure your communication styles mesh. This is the person who’s going to be explaining what they find in your house to you. You want someone you can trust who explains things in a way that makes sense to you.
Lesh compares it to getting a physical: When you get back all of your test results, you want someone whose bedside manner you like explaining what the results really mean for your long-term health.