Randy Sipes, a past president of the American Society of Home Inspectors, had gone out to do a home inspection. He was standing on the sidewalk when a man walked up to him.
The man asked Randy if he would make sure the home was safe for his family. Randy promised to do so. But the man asked again. Though confused at his persistence, Randy reassured him.
After a while, the man shared that he had only 5 years to live. He needed Randy to make sure the home would be safe for his family, even after he was gone. And Randy wholeheartedly agreed.
“[Randy] told that story several times,” says Tim Buell, the current ASHI president, “and that’s probably the best way I can explain what we do.”
While it’s easy to label home inspectors as just bearers of bad news, if they’re doing their job right, they’re actually a blessing in disguise.
A home inspector will evaluate whether your home is safe enough to sell. The inspection report sets the stage for buyer negotiations, and a sloppy home inspection can send buyers toward the door or leave you dealing with a botched report.
In some states, home inspectors aren’t even regulated or licensed. However, you don’t have to go through the process of finding a home inspector blind.
Using 8 simple steps recommended by reputable home inspectors and top real estate agents, you can thoroughly vet your home inspector and feel confident that the professional poking around your home is experienced, trustworthy and qualified.
How to Find a Trustworthy Home Inspector
The main job of a home inspector is to figure out if a home and its components are safe and in good working condition.
In almost all cases, the sale of your home will be contingent upon the home inspection. After a buyer makes an offer on a home, it’s their job to choose a home inspector and line up the inspection in order for the sale and negotiations to move forward. Typically the buyer’s real estate agent will coordinate finding the inspector or call on someone they’ve used in the past and trust.
As a homeowner, you can do background research on the home inspector your buyer selected. You also have the option to hire a home inspector yourself for a pre-inspection to get ahead on any material defects that might come up later.
If you’re selling an older home, a pre-inspection can save you from any big surprises down the line. However, a pre-inspection can also open a can of worms, and it means you have to disclose whatever you find to buyers before they make an offer.
Whether you’re buying or selling a home, issues that threaten health and safety shouldn’t be brushed under the rug, so home inspectors need to be on their game.
According to Buell, the standards of home inspectors are not regulated outside of associations such as ASHI. Over 20 states have no official oversight of the home inspection industry. So frankly, it’s not uncommon for a self-proclaimed home inspector to waltz in with a flashlight and a clipboard and botch the home inspection. Not only could this affect your home sale, but it could also put your family’s health and safety at risk.
Here’s how to find a qualified home inspector that will put safety first.
Get a referral from a real estate agent.
A top real estate agent should be able to recommend a trusted, qualified home inspector in the area.
Thomas Day, who ranks as one of the top 1% of agents in Pompano Beach for successfully selling homes, has worked with the same home inspector for nearly 10 years.
“When he’s done with the inspection, he’ll go over the most important things face to face,” said Day. “It gives you the ability to ask questions about what he’s found.”
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Read reviews and client testimonials.
A few minutes of research on a home inspector can reveal a lot. An experienced trusted home inspector will have client reviews attesting to their professional ability, which a subpar home inspector will lack. Find reviews and resources about the home inspector on their business’s website or a review page.
Bill Hirsch of Total Home Inspection in Norwalk, Connecticut, ranks 5-stars on Yelp and displays client reviews, certifications, and license information on the front page of his website.
“Over the course of 22 years, I’ve established a pretty good reputation so my clients trust me and real estate agents trust me,” said Hirsch.
Here are some popular review websites to search for home inspectors:
- Yelp, a top review site dedicated to presenting unbiased reviews
- HomeAdvisor, specializes in pre-screening local home professionals
- Angie’s List, expert source of verified reviews and ratings in hundreds of categories
- Google, popular platform with strong system for vetting fake reviews
Request copies of their license and insurance.
Some states do not regulate home inspectors and therefore do not require state licensing to practice. In states that don’t regulate home inspectors, ask home inspectors for copies of certifications (see below), liability insurance, reviews, and reports by the Better Business Bureau.
Your home inspector should carry errors and omissions insurance, which is a type of liability insurance that covers mistakes that they may make. A good home inspector will always be vetted by an insurance company.
Find out if your state regulates home inspectors here. If your state regulates home inspectors, ask to see their license to confirm eligibility.
Ask if the home inspector is certified.
When a home inspector is certified by an association, it provides standards of practice and a code of ethics that the home inspector will follow. While this doesn’t prove that the home inspector is the top of their class, it shows that they will go the extra mile to assure credibility in their business––and it’s not a simple task.
According to Buell, to get certified by ASHI, a home inspector must perform 250 home inspections, pass the ASHI standards exam, pass the ASHI ethics exam, and pass the National Home Inspector Examination (NHIE), which is put together by the Examination Board of Professional Home Inspectors (EBPHI).
Here are accredited home inspector associations:
- American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)
- International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI)
- American Home Inspectors Training (AHIT)
- National Society of Home Inspectors (NSHI)
Request a sample report.
Ask prospective home inspectors for a sample inspection report. This verifies the clarity and depth of their inspection process and can help identify the experience level of the home inspector.
A home inspection report reviews over a thousand home components, but there are four things that an inspection report should always include:
- Identify the issue.
- Explain why it matters.
- Suggest how to fix it.
- Take a photo.
Learn about how the inspection works.
Educate yourself on every step of the buying and selling process, including how home inspections work and the top things home inspectors look for. These guides will highlight the most important things to know about home inspections, so you can help provide a safe and healthy home for your family.
Be there for the home inspection.
Whether you are buying or selling a home, a good home inspector will urge you to attend the inspection. Note: it’s a red flag if the home inspector doesn’t want you there. This is the chance to ask questions about the issues reported and obtain a written report of the findings.
Day is always present at the home inspection when representing real estate clients. “If I’m working with the buyer, we can see first hand what the problem is,” says Day. “If I’m working with the seller, I know exactly what he’s looking at and can either rebut it or find an expert to look at it.”
As a highly acclaimed inspector, Hirsch agrees. “I insist that [the homeowners] are there so I can explain it,” he said.
Bring in your own experts.
Home inspectors are trained to identify problems in your home, but not every home inspector is an expert. When the inspection is complete, have the home inspector explain the areas of concern with you. Then, bring in an expert to verify the issue.
“On a recent sale I did, the buyer’s inspector thought that the electric panel was outdated and obsolete,” Day said. “I had my electrician go out there and look at it. He said that there was nothing wrong with it, the parts were still readily available and it could last another 10-20 years.”
Failure to bring in experts after a home inspection to verify the report could give buyers a reason to negotiate the price due to a mistakenly reported issue. Ask your real estate agent to refer trusted experts such as electricians, plumbers, and roofers.
The Comfort of Trusted Professionals
Real estate transactions are highly stressful and often one of the biggest financial decisions of your life. With the top professionals in your corner, you can find peace of mind during your real estate process. Top real estate agents and qualified home inspectors will help you sell your home without any hidden issues.