How to Find an Inspector
How to choose a good Home Inspector and get a Quality Inspection
For most people, the purchase of a home is the largest investment they’ll ever make. Getting an independent, expert opinion on the operability of the structure and its systems is a no-brainer. But not all Home Inspectors have the same experience, training, or certifications – what’s more is there are currently no federal regulations governing Home Inspectors. Home inspectors are governed only by whatever laws are in place in the state in which the inspection is performed, and these laws vary greatly. So how do you make sure you’ve hired the right person for the job?
When shopping for a Home Inspector, it’s vital that you do your homework and interview each Inspector based on the tips below.
It should be stated up front that all Home Inspectors are not equal in skills and knowledge just because they have a state license and insurance to perform home inspections. The license weeds out the truly unqualified person that can’t pass the license test but it doesn’t weed out the poor Inspector that has limited knowledge and experience. When purchasing an expensive home, a good knowledgeable home Inspector is a must. Remember, purchasing a house is a one shot deal. If you buy a house that is a repair nightmare and a money eater you’re stuck with it.
Finding the Home Inspector
Tip 1 – Word of Mouth
Word of mouth recommendations, we believe, are one of the best methods for finding a good professional Home Inspector. Talk to friends that may have had a home inspection even if the inspection was done years ago. Sometimes a friend may even have the original Home Inspection report that they may share with you so you can see the detail and the quality of the report. The Home Inspection report will be addressed later in this article, however, it should be noted at this point that the report should be computer generated and have photos of any necessary repairs.
Tip 2 – Is the Inspector a Member of a Home Inspectors Association?
In New Jersey, the top three Home Inspector Associations are NACHI (National Association of Certified Home Inspectors), NJ-ALPHI (New Jersey-Association of Licensed Professional Home Inspectors) and ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors.) All three are excellent associations recognized by the state and authorized by the state to conduct courses providing continuing educational credits required for home inspectors to maintain their license. The Inspectors that belong to one or more of these organizations are usually serious and knowledgeable Inspectors familiar with the latest equipment and methods of conducting a home inspection. This is not to say that an Inspector that belongs to one of these associations is automatically a good Inspector; it is just a positive indication that he may be a good and knowledgeable Inspector. Classroom study is only one step in becoming a good and knowledgeable Home Inspector. The real evaluation comes from performance in the field inspecting houses and not missing any serious necessary repairs.
Tip 3 – Home Inspector’s Web Site
All Home Inspectors are listed on the web site of the different Home Inspector Associations. After you have selected an Inspector or two from the Home Inspectors Association see if the Inspector has a web site. It seems that the Inspectors that have a good size detailed web sites are the Inspectors that have been in the business a long time because most times it takes years to develop a large informative site. Again because an Inspector has a large site doesn’t mean he’s a good Inspector. It’s just a positive indication that he may be a good Inspector because of the length of time in the business.
Tip 4 – Home Inspector License and Insurance
All Home Inspectors in the State of New Jersey must be licensed and carry at least a half million dollars worth of insurance. Still, it doesn’t hurt to ask if the Inspector has an up-to-date Home Inspector’s license.
Tip 5 – Interview the Inspector on the Phone
Call the Inspector on the phone. If a live person answers the phone it’s a good indication that the inspection company is a full time business. We all have to let a call go to the answering machine once in a while, however, if you leave a message and you don’t hear back within an hour, move on to the next Inspector. The only time we let the call go to the answering machine is when we’re booking a job. Our office rule is “Give full attention to the person on the phone and don’t worry about an incoming call.” You can get right back to another client as soon as you finish with the current one. Some good questions to ask the Inspector or the booking person are as follows:
- Does the Inspector cover the area where the house inspection is located?
- Once you explain what type of house will be inspected, ask for a breakdown of the pricing for the Home Inspection, termite inspection and radon testing. Pricing will be covered later in this article.
- Does the company do their own termite inspection? JP Inspections always uses an independent termite company simply because New Jersey is loaded with termites and the other company gives a guarantee and is insured.
- Ask specifically what will be inspected. A good Inspector will take their time and explain exactly what will be inspected. This is important! If you find that they do not wish to answer too many questions, you may conclude that you’ll get the same treatment if you call back with a question about the inspection.
- Ask if they work weekends and is there an extra charge for a weekend inspection.
- Ask if they test all the appliances. Most companies only test the stove and dishwasher. JP Inspections will test every appliance, washer, dryer, refrigerator, microwave, stove and dishwasher at no extra charge.
- Ask what type of report you will receive and how long will it take for you to receive the report.
- You will need to know if there a charge for cancellation in case you book an inspection and have to cancel or postpone it.
TIP 6 – How About Pricing?
Don’t choose an Inspector on price alone. This is probably the number one mistake a buyer makes. The Inspector that charges less may not give you a full-detailed inspection. This could cost you quite a bit if repairs are discovered after you own and occupy the house. You are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy the house so you should not try to save twenty five or fifty dollars by skimping on the inspection of that house. Make sure that you are hiring an Inspector with plenty of knowledge and training means not shopping for price alone. Training, certifications and continuing education does not come cheap to the Inspectors and inspections – as with most things – you get what you pay for. Go with the Inspector you feel can best give a good and thorough inspection.
Tip 7 – Allegiance to the Buyer
The only allegiance the Home Inspector should have is to the buyer, not the realtor, not the attorney, and not a repair contractor. The difference between a customer and a client is the customer is someone who buys a service or a product from you may never see them again. A client is someone who is under you protection. Your job as a home inspector is to protect the client by finding and reporting major home maintenance and repair problems that could cause the client financial loss. JP Inspections only has clients, not customers. We do not solicit realtors or lawyers and we are not affiliated with any repair contractors. Sixty percent of our business comes in from the Internet, forty percent from recommendations from former clients, and only ten percent from realtors that want a good thorough inspection.
Tip 8 – Home Inspectors Chosen by the Realtor
A good suggestion is to hire a professional Home Inspector of your own choosing. The realtor will usually give a buyer some brochures for three suggested Home Inspectors to choose from to do the home inspection. Home inspectors recommended by a realtor may well be a good Home Inspector. But it is advised that you do your own homework and check out each inspector that was recommended and if you are still not satisfied, go to the Internet and conduct a phone interview with the different home inspection companies. Many times a realtor will not recommend an Inspector who is very thorough because finding too many cosmetic repairs could “kill the deal.” Every time we hear a realtor say the Home Inspector “killed the deal” the Inspector didn’t kill the deal the house killed itself because of the serious repairs that were discovered. The bottom line is: do your homework and hire your own home inspector.
Tip 9 – Should the Buyer Attend the Inspection?
JP Inspections insists that the buyer attend the inspection and stay right with the Inspector. As the Inspector conducts the inspection he will explain to the buyer the maintenance and repair problems found and certainly the buyer will have questions for the Inspector. If an Inspector says that he doesn’t want the buyer to accompany him on the inspection, in plain English, find another Inspector
Tip 10 – The Home Inspection Report
At the conclusion of any inspection you should receive a report on the Inspector’s findings. Reports styles are going to vary widely. From hand written to computerized reports (check list or narrative type). No matter which type of modern day report used, it should include photos of repairs and maintenance problems. At JP Inspections we use the computerized narrative type report with photos. We feel it is a more detailed report than the checklist and easier for the buyer to read and understand. Items marked as “fair”, “poor”, “inadequate” without any further explanation will not help you understand what the problem is or what exactly to repair.
Tip 11 – What is inspected in a Standard Home Inspection?
The following is just a quick list of the systems that will be inspected. With JP Inspections all appliances that are included in the sale will be tested as a courtesy at no extra charge. Appliances are not included in a standard Home Inspection.
Systems that are inspected:
- Basement, Foundation, Crawlspace, and Structure
- Attic, Insulation, and Ventilation
- Doors, Windows and Interior Bathrooms, Kitchens and more
Tip 12 – How about the Termite Inspection?
When inspecting for termites, hire a termite expert. That’s exactly what JP Inspections does with every NJ Home Inspection. We do not look for termites; we have an independent affiliate exterminating company perform all our termite inspections. Not only will the inspector look for termites but he will also do a complete Wood Destroying Insect (WDI) inspection. The termite inspection is a complete Home Inspection which includes not only termites but carpenter ants, powder post beetles, carpenter bees, etc.
Tip 13 – How about Radon Testing?
Every home should be tested for Radon for two reasons:
1. The Surgeon General Health Advisory had this to say about radon: “Indoor radon gas is a national health problem. Radon causes thousands of deaths each year. Homes should be tested for radon. When elevated levels are confirmed, the problem should be corrected.”
2. If the radon test shows high level of radon you will want the seller to have a professional radon mediators company install a radon venting system and that should be the end of a radon problem. In other words, don’t lose a good house over a high radon test level, however, a radon venting system costs thousands of dollars and with a high radon level you would want the seller to pick up the cost for the venting system.