Should You Hire The Home Inspector Your Agent Suggests?

Real Estate Sales Representative with Fieldstone Real Estate

This post is inspired by a conversation I had with a client and local business man. He is a well established, experienced home improvement contractor. Recently, he had a past customer call him and say that a potential buyer for her home had a home inspection done and that inspector reported that the bathroom fan this contractor had installed was not vented to the outside. Of course, the contractor had installed the fan and he showed the customer where the vent was. This tainted his opinion of home inspectors. I understand.

When he told me the situation, I rolled my eyes. As a listing agent I have seen many poor inspections come back to me... Most are accurate. Most are fair. Some are not. Some are just wrong. Sometimes the home inspector will think he's earning his fee by scaring the potential buyer. Sometimes the home inspector will think he won't get another referral from an agent if he points out all the flaws.

So, what kind of home inspector do you want? I say my buyers want a fair home inspector... one who will not provide a "good" or "bad" opinion, but will report the facts, objectively... In my view a home inspector has multiple roles:

  • Inspect the property and discover significant flaws. They will also discover relatively insignificant flaws, too, but let's be honest... there are a bazillion parts to a home and no one person, in a matter of two hours, can discover every flaw. You want to make sure they catch the big stuff... it's probably OK if they didn't catch something small.
  • Report the property flaws objectively - without scaring the potential buyer or glossing over facts.
  • Provide an accounting of systems... most buyers do not know from walking through the property and reviewing the marketing materials what kinds of systems are in the home. I want a home inspector to tell my buyers what's inside this particular "People House", how old it is, and how it works.
  • Provide usage and maintenance information... Even if you've owned homes before, that doesn't mean you've owned this kind of system. A good home inspector will not know everything, but they will definitely know the most common types of systems. They should be able to tell you how to operate the system and what their maintenance requirements are, as well as their average life expectancy. Proper use and maintenance of systems increases the life expectancy dramatically. That's why some homes have 30 year old water heaters that still work. But, let's face it, that one won't last long, so you need to know that it's going to need replacement soon. And you need to budget for it.
  • Provide insights on repair items - How difficult is it to repair? What might it cost? Is it something Harry Homeowner can do, or should this be left to a contractor?

What if an inspector stumbles across something that he doesn't know much about? Well, he should be able to record certain information, and give you resources. For smaller systems, like a security system for example, the owner may have a manual and be able to provide information on how to use it. And that might be all you need. For other situations where the owner can't help you fill in the blanks, you should get enough information from the home inspector that you know what questions to ask and of whom to ask them.

The inspector's role is NOT to provide advise on contract issues to the buyer. An inspector should not say "you can tell the sellers they have to fix this" because your inspector is not your REALTOR... and he probably doesn't know what your contract says nor does he know the dynamics of the transaction like your agent does. Trust your agent here.

So, should you take your agent's advice about what home inspector to hire? I suppose it depends on the competency and trustworthiness of your agent. I'd like to tell you that you can trust us all... but as in every profession, there are people who are trustworthy and competent, people who are trustworthy but not very experienced and therefore less competent, and people who are experienced but are really just in it for the quickest cash possible. Hopefully, you've found an agent that is trustworthy and competent... and if that is the case, then I think your agent is going to know better than the yellow pages who to hire. After all, they are helping a lot of people buy and sell homes, and that experience and guidance is why you hired them.

I will also tell you that sometimes, agents have a "go to" person, or two... but those people may get too busy sometimes to help you. In those cases, your agent may have to make calls to other agents they know and trust to get other recommendations. It happens. But you'll notice that if your agent is good, he or she does not go to the yellow pages to find you another recommendation...and if they do, watch out.

Buying a home is a pretty big deal... one not to be taken lightly. Although some buyers don't feel the need to do an inspection, I always encourage it. (Check out this post to learn why.) My husband would not allow a professional inspector when we bought our homes - and boy did I live to regret it. I am older and wiser now. If we ever buy another home, not only will I get an inspection, but I will know who to call, too. It will be the same person I recommend to you.

Remember, with me, you've got a friend in the business!

Vicky Chrisner, REALTOR

Ofc: 703.669.3142



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Vicky Chrisner
Fieldstone Real Estate - Leesburg, VA

Thanks Jackson for your early morning comments!  What market are you in?  WOW, you have to list the home inspector on the contract?  Interesting.... Buyers always get to choose the inspector of their choice, always, always - and not subject to approval of the seller (via the offer/contract) in our area.  That seems absurd to me.  How does that work out?

May 18, 2012 08:32 PM #2
Carol Zingone
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Florida Network Realty - Jacksonville Beach, FL
Global Realtor in Jax Beach, FL - ABR, CRS, CIPS

I typically give my buyers a choice, but many times, they ask me who I would use. I've developed a relationship with several, and do have a preferred inspector, who is licensed as a contractor. Does he find things? Yes. Do I think he finds worrisome things that are not a priority? Yes. That is his job.  It's then my job to help my buyers understand the report, and what is truly a concern.

May 18, 2012 08:35 PM #3
Raymond E. Camp
Howard Hanna Real Estate Services - Ontario, NY
Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester

I always give at least three names for inspector's and attorneys and have them shop their insurance policy.


May 18, 2012 09:00 PM #4
Blatt + Cutino
Keller Williams Coastal Estates - Monterey, CA
Broker-Associate 831/206-8070*Call today*

In my opinion, it is best to give clients a choice or inspectors but in reality how can the client really know who to use and who will be the most objective? My experience has taught me that the client will then ask who I recommend and will use that preson. Which makes sense given the position that we hold in the clients mind.

May 18, 2012 10:42 PM #5
Ed & Tracy Oliva
West USA Realty - Arizona - Fountain Hills, AZ
The Oliva Team Arizona Agents

Vicky: This is some good Info for all,keep up the good work and good luck with your business,  E

May 18, 2012 10:48 PM #6
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

This is an important subject and I would seek the best money could buy....Of course the clinet makes the final choice here

May 18, 2012 11:30 PM #7
Sandy Acevedo
951-290-8588 - Chino Hills, CA
RE/MAX Masters, Inland Empire Homes for Sale

Hi Vicky, excellent post, loaded with great information about a topic that is an integral part of the buying process. Well done!

May 19, 2012 01:21 AM #8
James Loftis - West Palm Beach, FL

Hello Vicky,


  As a Realtor I would be very carefull in recomending any home inspector or anyone else. To do could cause

some unwanted  problems for the Realtor.

May 19, 2012 03:33 AM #9
Evelyn Kennedy
Alain Pinel Realtors - Alameda, CA
Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA


Your article is very good.  You give enough information for a buyer or seller to understand why you recommend the people you do.  I'm going to bookmark it to use when there is a question about inspectors.  I have several inspectors I will refer my clients to, but if asked I suggest the one who finds the big stuff and tells the client about the problems without scaring them. 

May 19, 2012 04:07 AM #10
Vicky Chrisner
Fieldstone Real Estate - Leesburg, VA

It's interesting to see a couple of different opinions here.  Jim B & James L... I am curious, how would you expect a home buyer to know how to choose a good home inspector.  Sure, they can read the marketing materials, but without first hand experience, how can they know if the inspector is good or not?  To everyone else, thanks for the compliments and comments... As to the comments about offering several inspectors, I can provide a list... I can provide a link to the certifying organization, but unless my clients have an existing relationship with a home inspector, they typically ask me who I recommend... and I am certain to tell them and to give them information as to why. 

It's quite uncomfortable to have a client choose an inspector who isn't very good.  I have had to have conversations with the inspector and client explaining that a home inspection is not a code inspection.  It is not reasonable to ask a seller to bring an old home up to current codes if there are no defects.  I have also had to have conversations with people explaining that home inspectors, unless they are structural engineers as well, really should not be issuing opinions about the structural soundness of a property. I once had a home inspector "inspect" a microwave and break it.... because he thought it would be a good idea to put a glove in the microwave to test if it was working.  Unfortunately the glove had velcro which is, oddly enough, not supposed to be microwaved.  Funny, yes... only when reading it later.  Not when explaining this to the seller.

Quite honestly, my "go to" home inspector is both a mechanical and structural engineer and a full time home inspector; I feel this makes him more qualified than most.  And, I have never had to have a buyer get a "second" opinion on a matter such as mechanical operations or structural soundness because it's one stop shopping with him.  I have had buyers bring their own inspector and then have to hire a second person to look at some mechanical system or to get a structural engineer issue an opinion on something.  It's a loss of both time and money... why would someone wish to do it any other way?

Obviously, it's up to the buyer... but if the agent is good, then they are likely more qualified than the yellow pages or random web sites to guide their clients.  I mean, really, isn't that what we're paid for?

May 19, 2012 08:14 AM #12
William Johnson
Retired - La Jolla, CA
Retired Real Estate Professional

Hi Vicky, This is an excellent post. I started years ago of finding and utilizing the services of Home Inspectors that were experienced licensed Contractors and or structural Engineers. The amount of information is more complete and comprehensive. When I am asked for a referral , I supply a list of experienced and well regarded licensed contractors. I have one on the list that is a Forensic Home Inspector that does a lot of expert witness work. 

May 19, 2012 08:55 AM #13
Mike Auger
Patriot Property Inspections, Auger Enterprises, Inc - Warwick, RI
Certified Master Inspector

Well put, as a home inspector i do get referals from realtors. I also get referals from my web site. If the realtor is interested in doing the best service to his/her clients, they will reccomend a good inspector. If the realtor is mostly concerned about getting paid, they will lekely refer an inspector who provided a "soft report".


My job is to report defects, inform the client of said defects, and their impact as it affects the dwellings function and safety. As a former contractor i can sometimes provide a rough idea as to cost to repair.


I like to say, iot is what it is, no more no less. You get accurate, complete information, and you can decide how to procede here.


Great post though, I like your attitude towards HI's.



May 19, 2012 10:01 AM #14
Sharon Alters
Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308 - Fleming Island, FL
Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL

Buyers usually want me to recommend the best inspector I know. I have several to recommend, but there is one I have a relationship with and he is also a licensed contractor, which adds much credibility to his opinions. I lovingly call him a "dealbreaker" but in the best way. I don't want my people buying a house with hidden flaws that a less thorough inspector won't find.


May 19, 2012 11:53 AM #15
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

I do recommend inspectors and then give some guidelines to buyer if they want to hire an inspector on their own.

May 19, 2012 12:39 PM #16
Kathy Stoltman
Rockwood Realty - Ventura, CA
Ventura County Real Estate Consultant 805-746-1793

I always give the buyers at least 3 choices and I do state my favorite and why he is my favorite and usually have some samples of reports to send the buyers for review, but always stress that the final choice must be theirs.

May 20, 2012 01:43 AM #17
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