Home inspectors can tell you lots of stories — if you have the stomach to hear them.
Snake skeletons inside fuse boxes. Giant, pillowy mold colonies thriving under the floor. Car jacks supporting floor joists. Plastic bottles used for drain lines. The stories are so common that it’s become a regular feature on This Old House’s website, where they’ve compiled photos and stories into a 36-part series (and counting).
Take a gander and you’ll understand why you need a home inspector who’s not going to “phone it in” on the investigation of your potential new house. And for all the egregious sins documented above, there are many that are less obvious and would go missed by anyone without a trained, discerning eye.
You’re likely quite concerned and possibly even terrified … as you don’t want to end up in a hot mess. So let’s talk about how to choose a home inspector you can trust.
Most people will ask friends for recommendations on plumbers, electricians, roofers, tile installers and the like, so it’s natural to think of friends for home inspection suggestions too. While this isn’t necessarily a bad idea, keep in mind that it’s a lot easier for a layperson to tell if their tile was installed straight or their kitchen sink is draining than it is to know if a home inspector caught all the trouble spots that might cause a homeowner grief in 10 years.
All that to say, if you’re asking friends for a recommendation, be sure to ask them why they liked their inspector. If the answer is, “They were the only ones who could do it on Saturday,” or, “He was in-and-out in an hour!” well, those are actually the opposite of good recommendations.
People often ask their real estate agent for suggestions. We get asked all the time, at Carter & Associates, and we’re happy to provide a list of inspectors we’ve done good business with in the past. Potential homebuyers may be uncomfortable using an inspector who has an existing relationship with a Realtor — which we completely understand.
So how should you shop, then?
Angie’s List is a good place to gather names, with inspectors assigned star-ratings by folks who used them. The same pitfalls apply as on friend recommendations, but at least Angie’s List aggregates opinions of multiple customers.
In Georgia, you can use the Georgia Association of Home Inspectors list to find certified inspectors in your town. The American Society of Home Inspectors has a national database that lets your search by zip code. The National Society of Home Inspectors does, too.
Once you’ve gathered your list of names, it’s a good idea to run them all through a search with your area’s Better Business Bureau, as well, to make sure there is in good standing and don’t have a pile of complaints against him or her.
Then, start making calls, which will greatly inform your final decision.
Screening the inspectors
Does your potential inspector want you there during the inspection? If not, politely move on to your next candidate. “To get the most from your home inspection, plan to be present the entire time, which usually lasts two to four hours, depending on the size of the home, its condition and how many questions you ask,” says reporter Teresa Mears in U.S. News and World Report. Imagine reading in an inspector’s report about a hairline crack that might indicate a structural problem, for instance, and then not being able to find that crack yourself. If you’re standing nearby, the inspector can point it out to you.
Check their qualifications before hiring. Georgia doesn’t require home inspectors to be licensed, so it’s especially important here to make sure they’re credentialed by a professional inspectors group like ASHI. Also, make sure they carry errors and omissions insurance to protect you if they make a mistake.
Don’t hesitate to ask the inspector for references, but more importantly, ask for a sample report. Mears reports that many inspectors post such reports on their websites. This sample report will familiarize you with what to expect from yours, and it gives you key insight into the intelligence of the inspector.
Oh, and one final tip: Look for an inspector before you shop for a home, suggest the fine folks at HGTV. “If you choose a home first, time is critical and you may feel pressured to pick the first inspector you meet.”
Buying a home is the biggest purchase you’re likely to make and one that will impact the lives of you and your family for years to come. As the real estate agents that help make that purchase happen, Carter & Associates wants to make this is a good match for you, and you don’t stumble into any unfortunate surprises down the road.
We are here to help! Contact us with any questions.