The purchase of a home is one of the biggest financial decisions you will ever make and, of course, you want that decision to be a well informed and backed by data and information. When it comes time to choose and hire a home inspector, there are a number of questions you’ll want to ask.
- Are you a member of a professional inspection organization?
Reputable home inspectors will be members of one of these organizations: the National Association of Home Inspectors, the American Society of Home Inspectors or the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors. Many states also have statewide associations, which are acceptable alternatives. Each organization has certification and licensing procedures and requires members to follow procedural and ethical standards when conducting home inspections.
- Do you focus on residential inspection?
Make sure the inspector has training and experience in the unique discipline of home inspection, which is very different from inspecting commercial buildings or a construction site. If you are buying a unique or older home, you may want to ask whether the inspector has experience with that type of property in particular.
- How much experience do you have?
Ask how long inspectors have been in the profession and how many inspections they’ve completed. They should provide customer referrals on request. New inspectors also may be highly qualified, but they should describe their training and let you know whether they plan to work with a more experienced partner.
- How long will the inspection take?
On average, a home inspection should take two to three hours to perform. If you’re dealing with a large home, a fixer-upper or an older home, the inspection should take even longer. Don’t hire someone who promises to be in and out within an hour or two, as this is too short a time to thoroughly inspect a home.
- What will you inspect?
Keep in mind that it’s not a home inspector’s job to inspect things that can’t be seen. The inspection won’t reveal any wiring problems hidden behind drywall or any mold problems under the shower tiles. With that said, an inspector should evaluate every possible visible place in your home, including the roof, basement and attic. And the home inspector should be in physical shape to access these places, even if a ladder or flashlight is required. An inspector should also look at things such as the water heater, furnace and electrical box. Again, the inspector may be unable to tell you if your home’s systems are up to local codes. But the professional should have enough knowledge to inform you if the systems are safe or in need of major repairs.
- Can I attend the inspection?
The answer should be yes. A home inspection is a valuable educational opportunity to learn about your home and talk about any possible repairs that may be needed. An inspector’s refusal to let you attend should raise a red flag.
- What kind of inspection report do you offer?
Most inspectors will provide a report within 24 hours. It’s important to be sure the inspector’s reporting style will meet the requirements of your lender as well as your own personal preferences. Ask to see samples of their previous home inspections if you aren’t sure.