Updated: May 19, 2020
Congratulations! After months of searching through hundreds of listings on Zillow, Redfin and your realtor’s emails you have finally found the one property you are willing to bet your money on, but do you want to gamble with likely your biggest investment yet? Unless you plan to level the property to the ground and start from scratch, you are in need of the right home inspector to protect your investment. The truth is there are many inspectors out there, so how do you find the right one for you?
Your realtor will likely recommend one or give you a choice of two or three. Don’t be fooled. Would you give your money to the most convincing seller or to the one that sells the best product? Choice is yours, but if you choose the latter here are 5 tips to follow:
1. Take your realtor’s recommendation with a grain of salt. Investigate the referral. Go to their website and read about who they are and what they offer. The more free advise they give and the more you learn on the website, the better you should feel about the inspector. An inspector who is willing to freely share their knowledge has the heart of a teacher and will help you understand the structure and functioning of your new home. Learning to understand and maintain your home will save you big bucks down the road.
2. Call the recommended inspector(s) and ask them some educated questions. Now, all inspectors follow the same basic Standard Practices of Operation based on the state requirements. All inspectors are certified and licensed, so how can you tell the difference? The difference is in the details. Ask them how much time they spend on a property the size of the one you are planning to purchase? Do they and how do they inspect the roof? Do they use thermal imaging and is that an extra? Should you need any ancillary services such as an energy audit, mold testing or radon test, do they assist you with the process? Would they come out to reinspect if the seller makes repairs and would that cost me extra? You have lots of questions to ask but make sure you do your due diligence to avoid headaches in the future.
3. Explore several options. Most people spend hours upon hours on Amazon or other retail sites comparing prices, quality, reading reviews etc. Treat your biggest investment the same way, thread with caution and research. Checking out multiple websites and hearing the pitch of multiple inspectors will give you a better idea of the difference that exist between the different inspectors and companies. While some inspectors may bribe their clients to leave reviews with juicy discounts, most reviews are authentic and will give you a taste of the experience they had with the respective inspector. Look out for those who seem to go above and beyond and provide you with the best value for your buck. At the end of the day you are spending a pretty penny on this deal and need to make sure you get it right the first time around.
4. Social media presence is important these days, but what does it really do for me when choosing a home inspector? Let’s face it, we all rely on our senses to access information…so it should come as no surprise that a picture is worth a thousand words. On social media you are likely to see your inspector in action, view some videos so you can get a taste of how they interact with others or the camera as you will be trusting them with the safety evaluation of your home. When my wife and I were buying our first home back in the day before I even thought about becoming a home inspector, we wanted to make sure the inspector we chose understands and takes child safety seriously and uses that lens when inspecting the home. We sure are glad we found one from the anti-tip bracket to the hot water tank temperature pressure relief valve we have been able to keep our family safe at home.
5. Of course, it all comes at a price. Price matters to all of us, but its actually simple- you pay now or you pay later. Selecting an inspector who charges the most is (shocker!) not always the best. Same as there are no perfect people, there are no perfect homes. Paying for a home inspection will likely help you negotiate a lower price for the property, thus saving you money right off the bat. Good quality inspections usually contain pages and pages of pictures, graphs, tips and written explanations and can serve you as a repair checklist. So how much should you pay? Depends on what you found out under tips 1 through 4. The better the home inspector, the higher the price (usually) and now you know how to evaluate they are worth your trust.
When it comes to your money bet with caution. Your realtor may have ulterior motives such as financial remuneration for the recommendation or promise of an easy inspection that would guarantee the deal will go through. Either way, there is nothing of value for you in that deal. Granted, there are some realtors that are just looking out for your best interest and are there to help you. The only way to know for sure what kind of realtor you are dealing with is to put them through the test…the test of 1 through 5 that is. Whether they pass or not would not matter as you would have put your money where they belong- with your best investment.