So you are buying a home and need a home inspection. But how do you choose a home inspector that is qualified and that you can trust?
Finding a home inspector
There are several ways to find a home inspector:
- Random online search
- Recommendations from people you know
- Recommendations from your real estate agent
- List of local inspectors on the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) website
Caveat: Be careful with recommendations from certain pay-to-play sites online. There is usually zero quality control. All it takes to be referred is to pay a membership and/or per-referral fee. But just because a contractor is listed on those sites, doesn’t mean they are actually competent.
Choose a home inspector right for you
Now that you have a list of possible candidates, you need to research them and make sure they are qualified, competent, trustworthy, and right for you.
Here’s how you do that:
In Arizona, home inspectors are regulated by the Arizona State Board of Technical Registration. Contact them – btr.az.gov – and verify that the home inspector is indeed registered with them and in good standing, meaning that they do not have any disciplinary action on their record.
Look up their company online and read reviews on Facebook or Google to get a first impression of how previous clients like and rate them. Be cautious though with reviews from certain online sources that could be for-pay or astro-turfed.
Most importantly though, call each one and conduct a phone interview. Here are a list of questions you should ask when interviewing potential candidates to help you choose a home inspector.
How many years have you been in business and how many homes have you inspected?
You want somebody who has been doing this for years and has well over a thousand inspections under their belt.
Do you inspect full-time or part-time?
You want somebody who takes his job seriously and does this full-time as his main profession. Reconsider if they only inspect part-time or on the side to make some extra money.
Are you a member of a professional trade organization such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)?
Any serious home inspector is a member of a professional trade organization to help them grow as an inspector and to further their knowledge. Reconsider if they are not.
Do you take continuing education every year to stay current?
The state does not require continuing education to keep your home inspector license! However, continuing education is very important to keep up with the industry. Professional trade organizations such as ASHI require it of their members. Reconsider if they do not.
How long do your inspections take on average?
A thorough home inspection takes several hours. Thorough home inspectors typically do not inspect more than two homes in a day. Reconsider if their inspection takes only an hour or so and they do many inspections in a day.
Do you do a walk-through with your customer at the end of the inspection?
While every inspector will provide a report where you can read about their findings, there is simply no substitute for a walk-through where they show you in person and on site what they found, and answer all of your questions. Reconsider if they leave immediately after the inspection without giving you a detailed summary and answering all your questions.
Are you available by phone for follow-up questions after the inspection?
Even with a walk-through and a thorough report, sometimes there are questions that arise days or weeks after the inspection. Your inspector should be willing to talk to you on the phone and help you with any follow-up questions. Reconsider if they do not offer follow-up phone consultations.
Do you have General Liability (GL) insurance and Errors and Omissions (E&O) insurance?
This is a trick question. If they are registered with the Arizona State Board of Technical Registration as required, they must have GL and either E&O insurance (preferred) or a bond. Reconsider if they do not have either.
How quickly do you deliver your reports after the inspection?
A good home inspector will deliver the final report with photos within 24 hours of the inspection. Reconsider if they cannot commit to prompt report delivery. After all, you only have a ten-day inspection period, and time is of the essence. However, also reconsider if they send the report immediately at the end of the inspection. It means they do not take the time and make the effort to proofread or verify the report, and are likely only interested in hurrying to their next inspection.
Are your reports checklists or written/narrative-style? Do your reports contain plenty of photos and annotations?
While every inspector will provide some sort of report, there are many different report styles depending on the software they use. A good home inspection report is written in a narrative style in English that is easy to understand, contains numerous photos and annotations to help document the issues found, and provides useful information specific to that inspection. Ask for a sample report. Reconsider if their report is only a basic checklist or does not include photos, or if they refuse to provide a sample report.
Do you always inspect attics and crawlspaces?
As long as they are accessible and safe to access, a home inspector should always inspect attics and crawlspaces. Sure, there are exceptions if there is no access, not enough clearance, or a safety issue. A good inspector will do his best to get into attics and crawlspaces. Reconsider if they make excuses why they don’t. You might laugh, but there are quite a few home inspectors who are too, uh, corpulent to fit or do not possess the agility or strength to navigate attics.
What is your availability?
If they are available the same day, or seem too eager to book you right away, chances are they are new to the business or their business is not going well for some reason. If they are already booked for the next two weeks, they are probably good at their job and successful, but that doesn’t help you since you have only a limited ten-day inspection period. Ideally, you will find somebody who has the experience and can take you within a few days, and is willing to accommodate your schedule and inspect on a weekend if necessary.
Do you charge extra for older homes, crawlspaces or attics, weekend inspections, etc.?
Make sure that they are clear and up front about their fee structure. Reconsider if they offer a very low base rate but then nickel and dime you to death with add-on fees.
What do you charge?
With most of your phone interviews, you will most likely never even get to this question because you have already disqualified them and hung up. This really should be the very last question you ask. Never ask this question first, and never hire a home inspector based on how cheap they are. You are about to make one of the biggest financial commitments of your life and you are hiring a home inspector to make sure you are not making the biggest mistake of your life. Do you really want the cheapest inspector for that job? Or do you want the one that will do the best job for you?
Now you know how to choose a home inspector and vet them to ensure they are right for you.
In case you’re wondering, we can answer all these questions affirmatively and with confidence.