There is a team of people needed before you buy a home. One of them is the home inspector. The inspector may be one of the cheapest members of the team, but a very important one.
Years ago I wrote a newsletter that I passed out to all the realtors in my area entitled “All Home Inspections Are Not Created Equal.” While very self serving, it pointed out the differences between me and all the other kids doing inspections. I did that because I thought my services differed, and they did. I wanted them to compare.
Usually people call me and simply ask what I charge. Is that all you want to know? That is not the best question to ask! A more important thing to know is, perhaps, have I ever done this before? Experience is important! What the inspector does is important! The report is important! There are many things that are important. But how do you inspect your inspector prior to hiring him?
You might want to find out a few things. I have some suggestions:
• What is his experience? How long has he been in business? What did he do prior to becoming an inspector? Is he full time? How many inspections has he done?
• Does he have specialties? Your house might have special characteristics like EIFS, stucco, be historic, remodeling, etc. Ask.
• Is he the member of any associations? This may be more important than state licensing. I was disappointed many years ago when Virginia began licensing home inspectors. Many of us home inspectors were at the hearings. A lot of what happened was to promote the self interests of a member of the state licensing bureau, (who obviously knew nothing about home inspections) more than to protect the industry or the consumer. In my opinion what they did was to lower standards and flood the market with inspectors. State tests are often watered-down versions of association tests. Check on the Standards of Practice and Ethics of his associations. Therein lie great bona fides.
• Does his association have ongoing education requirements? I am the member of five associations, all of whom require continuing education. Personally I perform over 30 hours every year.
• Does his association have annual recertification and testing? This is important. The industry changes as do building techniques and products, codes and laws. Information abounds and he should be in touch. Even an annual test can teach.
• Does his contract state what he does and does not do? His process should be thorough and comprehensive and his agreement define what he does do. Inspectors do not have X-ray vision, but there are great tools that can help.
• How does he do his report? By hand, checking off boxes? Computerized? Photos? My report cross references into our book – it is quite thorough. Does he back his work?
• Does he have a website? If so, it should be informative enough to allow your clients to do plenty of homework before they call for an interview or to hire him.
• Is he service oriented? One good indicator of that is what happens to your phone call. Who answers the phone? If he is not in the office, and no one answers, is it made clear how to contact him? Is he prompt in getting back? My wife answers the phone in our office. I can tell from what clients say that she is terrific to deal with, and I am sure preferred over me to schedule an inspection… Sometimes realtors will call, say hi to me and ask for her. Hmmm…
• Is he available for a pre-inspection interview? I have had clients interview me for over an hour before the inspection. No problem with that!
• Is he available for post-inspection counseling and questions? He should make this clear. And be available for years…
I am sure there is more. But that is a good start! Make your own list!
My recommendation: Inspect your inspector. Squeeze him, thump him, tap him, smell him and make sure he is ripe BEFORE you cut in!