How to Avoid Hiring a Bad Home Inspector

Tips to Finding a Qualified Home Inspector

Home inspector pointing out a problem to a home owner while standing on a front porch.

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Hiring an unqualified home inspector can be disastrous for you as the buyer. It could even lead to the seller canceling the transaction. There are steps you can take to ensure you are working with inspectors who are professionally qualified. These steps can include asking for credentials at the outset and reviewing a home inspection report they have created for another buyer.

The problem is, few states regulate or license home inspectors. This lack of regulation makes it difficult to differentiate between the competent practitioners from the less accomplished.

Ask for Credentials and Qualifications

Choose a certified inspector. There is no shortage of home inspector associations. One of the best known and oldest organizations is the American Society of Home Inspectors. You can also ask friends for referrals or ask your real estate agent for a recommendation, but in either case, research the inspector's qualifications.

Some inexperienced agents recommend inferior inspectors because they don't want a full-blown inspection that could hamper their deal. Reputable agents demand qualified inspectors because they want their buyer to be informed. Inquire if the inspector has errors and omissions (E&O) insurance as well. This insurance is intended to protect the inspector and the client against losses that occur because of an oversight on the inspector's part.

Review a Sample Home Inspection Report

A good home inspector should agree to send you a sample report. If the assessment is only a few pages long, don't hire that person. While report lengths may vary, comprehensive inspection reports average between 20 and 50 pages and should contain color photographs highlighting defects or problems.

Main areas that an inspection report should cover include:

  • Mechanical
  • Structural
  • Electrical
  • Plumbing

The report details the conditions of the home and what repairs need to be focused on. A good home inspector will be thorough and accurate. Many insurance providers will want to see a copy of the home inspection before insuring the property. Lenders will also want to see a copy of the report.

Avoid Inspectors Who Recommend Contractors or Perform Repairs

Home inspectors are in the business of inspecting homes. If a home inspector offers to direct you to a contractor to work on repairs, that inspector could be creating a conflict of interest. If a home inspector takes it upon himself to recommend repairs, liability issues may ensue.

Some state regulations and inspector associations allow an inspector to undertake specified repairs, but unless the inspector can present qualifications to do so, it's in your best interest to keep inspections and repairs separate. Repairs should be handled by licensed contractors that can be warrantied. Further, permits for repairs should be gotten from your local building authority, usually the city.

The Length of Your Home Inspection

Most home inspections take between two and three hours, and sometimes longer. During the inspection, the inspector will climb into the attic, crawl under the home or check out the basement, climb onto the roof, and should open every closet door in your home. They will check cabinets under sinks and the intakes of air conditioning units.

Usually, inspectors will have high-powered flashlights that they can use to search every corner of your home and will continually jot notes as they work. It is suggested that you walk with the inspector—as you would with any stranger—as they move through your home. However, you should not be required to crawl under the home or onto the roof or supply ladders or other equipment needed by the inspector. Let the inspector point out defects they see and write them on a notepad you are carrying. Use this opportunity to ask questions about minor and major action items they may see.

When judging how long it will take the inspector, you have to take into account the size of your home, the number of systems to be inspected, the number of electrical and main panels, the condition and age of the property, and many other factors. Any inspections that take less than two or three hours may fall into the category of a gloss-over inspection.

In some areas, your inspection may include testing of the air quality of the home for mold. Homes with basements will usually include radon inspections. Most home inspectors do not perform a full pest inspection but may indicate damage they see on their reports.

After the Inspection

After the inspector finishes their review they will usually take a few minutes to finalize their notes. The finalized report will usually take at least one to two days to complete. In some cases, you may receive both an electronic and a hard copy of the report.

The requirements to be licensed as a home inspector varies by state. Each state will have different standards for the systems that will be inspected during the home inspection.