7 strategies for choosing a home inspector

An important step in the home-buying process is choosing a home inspector, something that you don’t want to leave in the hands of Google. While I leave the choice up to my clients, I do provide them a list of several in the area they can contact, along with the following information to help them “inspect their inspector” and make the right choice.

  1. Do your research: Start by asking family, friends, and trusted colleagues in the area for recommendations if they’ve recently purchased homes and had a good experience with their own home inspector. Your Realtor should also be able to provide you with a list of several options you can check out. You can also look for credentials from respected national organizations such as the National Association of Home Inspectors, the American Society of Home Inspectors or the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.
  2. Ask what they check – and what they don’t. Home inspectors generally look at everything from the roof to the foundation and in between. But they are restricted to general visual inspections. Still, it’s important to know what they will and will not inspect. For example, your inspector will most likely check things such as water heaters, the furnace and electrical boxes. But they won’t check things that can’t be seen on the surface such as electrical writing inside the walls, or potential mold under the bathroom floor. If they see warning signs of potential problems they are unable to pursue, however, they will often recommend that you follow up with an expert such as a roofer, HVAC installer, electrician, etc. Having a clear understanding of what the inspector can and can’t do will ensure that you walk away from the inspection happy.
  3. Inquire if the inspector will do all of the inspections personally, or if they hire a third party to do the work? Know who will actually show up so you can check their qualifications beforehand.
  4. Ask up front what they charge. Typical rates here in the Arlington, Virginia area range between $300 to $600 depending on the size and type of house.
  5. Experience counts. Inquire how many inspections they’ve done, for how long, and if they are familiar with specific types of homes or issues your property might have. For instance, historic homes might have unusual features that new inspectors are not familiar with.
  6. Request a sample report be sent to you ahead of time. If this is your first home purchasing experience, or you want better insight into the services this person will be providing, seeing a sample of their work will demonstrate the type and depth of information you’ll be receiving, and allowing you to ask questions ahead of time.
  7. Last, but not least, be sure you can attend the inspection. If you are there during the process, your home inspector will be able to explain the home’s systems, how they work, point out any issues they see, and provide clarifications if needed. Don’t hire someone who won’t allow you to be there during the inspection, this is a definite red flag.