There are so many home inspectors…how do you choose?
The quality of your home inspection will make or break your real estate experience. Here are 11 questions to ask a home inspector so you can rest assured that you are getting a quality inspection.
Whether you’re a homeowner or an investor, hiring a home inspector can be a daunting experience. Your real estate agent, friends, and family members have all offered suggestions, and a brief Google search shows that there are hundreds more to choose from.
This is when most people throw their hands up and say, “This property is already going to cost me a fortune. I’ll just pick the most affordable home inspector I can find.”
But that is exactly how NOT to pick a home inspector.
At BIS, we have seen firsthand the importance of getting a quality home inspection. In fact, the inspection is arguably the most important step in the home buying process.
Whether you’re buying a house, condo unit, or investment property, it pays to hire the most trustworthy, accurate, thorough, and—above all—qualified home inspector you can find. In this article, we’ll give you 11 questions to ask a home inspector so you can be confident of their qualifications before allowing them to look at your potential home.
Why Do Inspections Matter?
The first question is one you should ask yourself: Why does having a quality home inspection matter?
We’ve written about this topic before, but it’s a point worth emphasizing. Think about how much you’re spending on your new property. If you’re about to spend upwards of $200,000 on something, you want to make sure you know exactly what problems you’ll be signing up for.
Remember, there’s no “Lemon Law” when it comes to real estate. Once you close on the property, it is 100% your responsibility—warts and all.
Hiring an unqualified inspector is the same as not having an inspection at all. Don’t risk your investment!
Questions to Ask a Home Inspector
There’s nothing wrong with using suggestions from people you trust to find a home inspector. But you shouldn’t hire them based on name, availability, or even price. So how do you choose?
A thorough vetting process should help you distinguish the qualified inspectors from the competition.
Here are 11 questions to ask a home inspector.
1. How many years have you been in the inspection business? How many home inspections has your company completed?
All Florida home inspectors must complete the same number of education hours to become a licensed home inspector. What sets the good ones apart is the amount of hands-on experience they have inspecting actual properties.
Having extensive experience makes it that much easier for an inspector to spot problems that could cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars…problems that an inexperienced home inspector may not catch.
The longer a home inspector has been in business and the amount of inspections they’ve performed should give you a good idea of the amount of experience they have. A new inspector who only does home inspections as a side business simply won’t have the same level of experience as a company like BIS, with 40+ years of experience and more than 75,000 inspections under their belt.
A professional inspector must be able to offer their experience and qualifications for you to review as well as referrals for you to contact if necessary.
2. What licenses from the State of Florida does your company hold? May I see a copy of all your licenses?
All home inspectors must be licensed to perform home inspections in Florida…but this is only the bare minimum of requirements.
The Florida Department of Professional Regulation requires a home inspector to possess a Home Inspector license (HI 0401) which is acquired by taking an examination after attending a course of not less than 120 hours. That is pretty much all there is to it. No prior construction experience is required. (This is why the level of experience is so important!)
If an inspector can provide a copy of additional licenses—such as General Contractor, Engineer, or Termite Inspector—this should put them ahead of their competitors.
Even if they can provide a copy of their licenses, it’s always a good idea to verify the license and see that it hasn’t been revoked.
You should also ask which professional organizations they are a member of. Three of the best inspector associations are F.A.B.I (Florida Association of Building Inspectors), InterNACHI (International Association of Certified Home Inspectors) and A.S.H.I. (American Society of Home Inspectors).
3. Does your inspector have the knowledge and experience to look for building code violations?
Sometimes, knowing whether or not a system functions is not enough. It’s also important to recognize when something meets professional building codes.
Not all home inspectors are competent in this area. Spotting building code violations requires a thorough knowledge of current building codes as well as significant experience and education.
4. Do you use subcontractors for any inspections?
The use of subcontractors isn’t always a negative thing. But if the inspection company must farm out inspections due to lack of licensing, experience, or education, it will become your responsibility to check out each of those companies as well.
It is worth noting, however, that it’s illegal for your inspector to hire a termite company and receive payment from you for the termite inspection. Further, the inspector that’s going to do your termite inspection has to have an ID Card from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations that matches the name of the inspection company.
5. Will I be able to attend the inspection?
Any professional inspector should not only agree to this, they should welcome it!
The inspection is an excellent opportunity for a buyer to learn more about the building and what to expect from ownership. For example, a homeowner will want to know where to turn off the water in case of an emergency, how much life is left in an HVAC unit, and a rough estimate of the cost of a garage door replacement.
Should an inspector decline your request to attend an inspection, this would be a major concern and an excellent reason not to hire that particular company.
6. What can I expect during the inspection?
All home inspections must meet the requirements for the state they are conducted in while also complying with a strict code of ethics.
But again, this is just the bare minimum.
A quality home inspector should go above and beyond what is “required” and focus on gathering a complete and accurate picture of the property’s condition. Ask for a copy of a recently completed property inspection and confirm what areas of the building will be inspected.
For instance, here in South Florida, many home issues are weather-related, so special attention should always be focused on areas where water (and mold) can pose a problem. Also, our hot, humid temperatures mean you want a home that has a properly working air conditioning system.
Another question to ask is, “Do you inspect for shower pan leaks?” Many home inspection companies do not perform a water test to check for shower pan leakage. But an undetected shower pan leak can cost anywhere from $2,500 to $20,000 or more.
7. How long will the inspection take?
This is one area where “faster” does not equal “better.”
Shy away from anyone who claims they can inspect a property in an hour or less. This is simply not enough time to get a thorough, accurate picture of a property’s condition.
How long should a good inspection take? It depends on the size and age of the building, but a proper inspection should take several hours.
8. Do you provide a written narrative report with photographs of defects?
Inspection companies that offer a checklist without an explanation of the problems they uncovered can be confusing for a layperson.
Most buyers find that a written, “narrative-style” report with images is a much easier format to understand and gives them a more complete picture of the building’s condition.
9. When will my report be ready to review?
When you’re buying a property, contracts and negotiations mean that time is of the essence, and a good home inspector will respect that.
Some reports may take longer than others, but typical home inspection reports should be made available within 24 to 48 hours.
10. Do you do repairs based on your findings?
If the answer is yes, walk away!
Inspection companies that offer to do repairs have an incentive to find problems that do not exist. Besides, it is illegal for a home inspector company or affiliates to perform repairs on the homes they inspect.
Although your home inspector cannot perform the repair work, they are permitted to provide you a general repair estimate. (This can actually be extremely helpful in negotiating with the seller of the property.)
11. Is your home inspection guaranteed?
Keep in mind that no home inspection is a guarantee, nor is it an estimate of the property value. A property inspection is simply an evaluation of the home’s external and internal condition (and a great resource for a prospective buyer).
However, some companies do stand behind their work with limited warranty programs. If this is the case, make sure you get this in writing.
If we could leave you with one takeaway, it would be this: Don’t shop price, shop qualifications.
Saving a couple hundred dollars on the inspection is not worth the risk of potentially losing tens of thousands of dollars later because the inspector missed a big problem.
Ultimately, doing the research and asking the tough questions gives you a better chance of ending up with a property that has no unwelcome surprises.