All too often home buyers will choose a home inspector based solely off of the price of an inspection. That is the absolute worst way to choose a home inspector. Why? Because all home inspectors are not created equal, just as all home inspection reports are not created equal. When hiring a home inspector you want…no…you NEED a home inspector that will describe and document the ENTIRE condition of the home as it sits on inspection day.
No doubt you have heard home inspection horror stories of items that were missed or defects that were somehow overlooked. While a home inspection is never a guarantee that 100% of all defects in a home will be found, studies show that if you hire the RIGHT home inspector, approximately 90-95% of defects CAN be found and reported on.
So how to choose?
Again, do not let price be your guide! I have actually lost a home inspection over $5.00!! Seriously! No offense, but that is absolutely ridiculous. You are not buying a gallon of milk, you are placing your trust in someone to inspect your home! You need to do your homework. When you are choosing an inspector based solely off of the inspection price, in most cases the old adage holds true…you get what you pay for.
How do home inspectors charge? Many of the larger franchise inspection companies charge enormous fees to cover the cost of their offices, marketing to realtors (which is a conflict of interest), their vehicles and staff. On the flip side many of the smaller independent home inspectors charge too little because they are either too inexperienced or they are in direct competition with the larger companies and are trying to gain an edge.
The following questions (in order) can be used as a useful guide in what you really should be asking a home inspector before making your selection.
1) How long have you been in business. In this industry a home inspector does not become “seasoned” until around the 2-3 year mark. Anything over 5 years and the inspector is in the running to be considered a Jedi.
2) How many inspections have you performed? A good minimum answer would be 200 for one home inspector.
3) How long is your report, what is covered and what is not? Ask for a sample copy of an actual inspection report so you can see for yourself what it looks like and what kinds of things the inspector is calling out. You will be VERY surprised once you do this and I assure you, it will make your decision a much easier one. Many of todays home inspection reports simply do not make the grade when it comes to describing in detail the overall condition of the ENTIRE home. Most inspection reports are about 15 pages long. Approximately 3-4 of those pages are filled with disclaimers and useless information to the home buyer. That leaves you with maybe 10-11 pages of information, and to be perfectly honest, that is just not enough to describe an entire home. A good home inspection report should be AT LEAST 30 pages long and preferably larger.
4) Are you in good standing with the Better Business Bureau and/or any other performance based associations such as Angie’s List or Yelp? While this also is no guarantee, it seriously limits your chance of getting ripped off by someone who is not looking out for your best interest. You can easily verify their answer by visiting the appropriate websites and search for the company by name.
5) How much do you charge? Most inspections are based off of the total square footage and foundation type of a home. The average home inspection runs around $300.00-$400.00. While that may seem like a lot of money to shell out in one pop, think of it this way. You are looking for someone to inspect your potential new home. How much is THAT worth to you?
One last thing to remember: Do not always rely on your real estate agents “list of approved home inspectors”. Why? Because you do not know how those home inspectors got on that list. Did they pay to be on the list? (very common). Do they bribe the agents with money, candy and gift cards to be on the list? (very common). Do they “go soft” on their inspections as to not ruffle the agents feathers? (very common). OR are they the most qualified, the most experienced and most thorough home inspectors in town (not common at all).
The choice is completely yours to make when it comes to choosing a home inspector. Do not feel pressured into making a wrong decision. You want to feel comfortable in the fact that you did everything you could possibly do to ensure that you are getting the best home inspection possible. While some agents are looking out for you by recommending certain inspection companies, there are many who aren’t and there is an inherit conflict of interest present every time an agent refers a home inspector. Be smart and choose wisely.