Finding a good home inspector can be a tricky thing. There are different ways to go here. Grab a drink, sit back, and ponder this.
The realtor’s guy
Your realtor might have their go-to guy and will set up the home inspection with him for you.
Pro: No work for you. If the realtor is ethical, the inspector will be good and work for you.
Con: Depending on the ethical leanings of the realtor, they might use that inspector because he will do a fluff job that won’t endanger the deal to ensure the realtor gets their commission. I.e. the inspector will really work for the realtor, not for you.
The realtor’s list of guys
Your realtor might give you a list of 3-5 inspectors they like and ask you to call and interview them, and decide which one to use.
Pro: You just have to make a few phone calls and pick one. If the realtor is ethical, any of the inspectors on the list will be good and work for you.
Con: Again, depending on the realtor, those inspectors might work more in favor of the realtor instead of in your favor. This move with the list is done by the realtor so that if something goes tits up, they can say, “Well, you chose him, not me, so it’s not my fault.”
You go online and search for “home inspector <your town here>” and look at websites and reviews, and pick your own.
Pro: You are in control and pick the one that you think is best for you.
Con: Can be a lot of work. You might have no idea what to look for and what to check or ask. Worse, often the good inspectors don’t have to advertise anymore, have shitty or no websites, don’t pay for SEO or Google Ads because they don’t need it. As a result, you might only find the guys online that spend the most money for advertising and web presence and look the slickest. However, they might not be actually all that great at their job or pretty new to a business where experience is incredibly important. You do not want a guy who’s been doing it for just a year or two.
Online search at referral or review sites
You go to “reputable” sites like Angie’s List or Yelp or Home Advisor or Better Business Bureau and pick from the top ranked ones.
Pro (well not really): You are in control and pick the one that you think is highly recommended so they must be good.
Con: All those sites are pay-to-play. There is no quality control at all – period. Don’t trust those sites. Just… don’t. Sigh.
Referral from somebody you know
You ask around and get a referral from an acquaintance who used a guy who was fantastic.
Pro: Word-of-mouth referrals can mean a lot, especially when coming from a trusted source.
Con: A referral is just an anecdotal experience and doesn’t necessarily mean all that much. One person having a random experience does not mean much as a quality check. Now, if multiple people independently recommend the same guy…
Referral from a professional trade organization
There are some professional trade organisations for home inspectors. The biggest and best one (in my completely subjective opinion) is InterNACHI – International Association of Certified Home Inspectors. They hold home inspectors to a higher standard. They require background check, continuing education every year, following a code of ethics, etc. You can go to InterNACHI and use their directory to find InterNACHI certified inspectors in your area to call and interview.
Pro: You will get a qualified certified home inspector who cares enough about his business and trade to go through the additional effort to become an InterNACHI certified inspector.
Con: While you will probably get somebody who is really good at what they do, they might not have the best customer service skills or web site, or are hard to book because they are so busy, or…
Do your due diligence
Regardless of which route you choose, you MUST do your due diligence. For each potential candidate, go through the following steps:
- Verify them. If your state/country regulates/oversees/licenses home inspectors, contact the appropriate agency and ask whether they are properly licensed, have any strikes on their record, etc.
- Research them online and see if you can find reviews on a neutral/objective site.
- Call them and interview them. You should ask them a number of questions that will help quickly weed out the bad ones.
Here are some questions you really should ask:
- Do they take continuing education every year to stay current and better themselves?
- Are they doing it full-time? Since when?
- How long do their inspections take?
- Do they do a thorough in-person walk-through with you at the end of the inspection where they explain the house to you and answer all your questions?
- Do they have proper GL and E&O insurance?
- How fast do you get the report?
- Can you see a sample report?
- Are they available for questions after the inspection?
Interview each one. Grill them. See how they talk to you, check their customer service and people skills, and compare them. A five minute phone conversation with each should make it pretty easy for you to choose the right one.
This is really important – regardless of whether home inspectors are regulated in your area, meaning there is a certain minimum standard they have to meet (which doesn’t necessarily mean much), or are not regulated in your area, meaning any jackass with a clipboard and a flashlight can call himself a home inspector.
In case it isn’t obvious after all that: Do not ask them how much they charge. Price should never really be a deciding factor when selecting a home inspector. If you choose the cheapest guy you can find just so you can save $40 bucks, or the fastest guy so you can save an hour of your free time, then you deserve the fallout from that bad decision. Also, check this guide if you’re looking for tips and guides about saving energy and electricity.
You’re about to make the biggest purchase of your life. Get some right homeowner’s insurance. And do your research and make sure you get the guy most qualified for the job.