The home inspection contingency is one of the clauses in the initial home buying contract that protects the buyer. Of course, you can waive the inspection if you want in your offer, but we wrote about reasons you should never waive a home inspection.
A home inspection is highly recommended by experts on all fronts. You’ll want to do your research to learn about each of the different home inspection companies in your area and decide which you feel is most qualified to work with.
We created this home inspection guide to take you through the steps of how to choose the perfect home inspector for your needs and what resources to look at.
What is a Home Inspection?
If this is the first time you’re buying a house, you may not be familiar with a home inspection. It’s an optional step in the overall home buying process. A home inspection is where a professional inspector comes in to check out the property, doing a very thorough investigation.
The inspector looks for mechanical issues such as structural integrity, electrical wiring, mold growth, pests, plumbing, drainage issues, etc. Unless you’re a professional inspector yourself, these issues are very hard to identify with the naked eye.
Also, the home inspection contingency allows you to opt out of the deal and get your initial deposit back if any deal-breaking issues pop out during the inspection. Or, you can renegotiate for a lower price if the seller is open to it, to account for the issues you found during the inspection.
Of course, there will be times when no issues are uncovered during an inspection. It may feel like money wasted but it’s still the right choice. It’s better to spend a little money upfront rather than discovering expensive repair costs later.
How to Choose the Best Home Inspector?
Now that you’re familiar with what a home inspection is, you’re ready to hire a home inspector. You’ll find more than enough options with a simple Google search. But it’s not as simple as choosing a random inspector out of the blue.
The inspection could be the maker or the breaker of the entire deal. And a real estate deal is often the biggest transaction in an average person’s life. Hence, the need to thoroughly assess all possibilities before deciding.
Your Realtor’s Referral
People in the real estate world are very well-connected. The nature of their job forces them to have networks across every walk of life, including home inspectors.
Start with your realtor, asking for referrals to home inspection companies that they’ve used before in previous deals with other clients, that they trust.
Conduct your own further research on the recommended inspectors to make sure they are quality contractors to hire before proceeding. Here’s how…
Find the Credentials
In this age of information technology, finding credentials for a home inspector is a walk in the park. However, your first instinct should be to contact friends who have recently closed on a house purchase. If they have any recommendations, feel free to your friends to find out their experience with the inspector.
If no one can help you this way, you can always look into crowdsourced platforms like Yelp, HomeAdvisor, or Angie’s List.
Then there is the Consumer’s Checkbook that covers Boston, Chicago, Twin Cities, Washington, D.C., Delaware Valley, Puget Sound, and San Francisco Bay Area.
Last but not least, you have accredited organizations like the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), the National Academy of Building Inspection Engineers, the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), and so on.
What we’re trying to say here is that finding credentials for home inspectors is just a few searches away.
Use the Better Business Bureau Filter
After you go through the whole array of home inspectors on the internet, you must have a short list of candidates who look appealing. Before you start making calls, go to the Better Business Bureau directory and run the names.
The BBB directory has a record of all complaints lodged against different real estate professionals. If the names come out clean, it’s time to call them for an interview. Of course, you eliminate the inspectors who failed to comply with the BBB standard.
This is the most critical part of choosing the best home inspector. You need to ask them questions. No, not to test their professional knowledge. But to see if they can deliver what you want or not.
When you make the appointment, feel free to ask them to bring previous reports they’ve done as samples. You may not understand the entirety of the report but it’ll give you a good idea of how thoroughly the inspections are done.
Also, don’t forget to ask about additional tests that your property might need. It’s very possible that you’re moving into a completely new climate and there are local laws you’re not aware of. A local home inspector will recommend any additional fees you may need to pay in advance.
This is where you have to be a better judge of character. Is the person trying to upsell the tests? Or, are they caring for the betterment of your purchase? Whatever your gut feeling tells you, go with it.
At the end of the day, you’re better off with more experienced inspectors, people who have spent more time in the industry than others. It’s because experience is way more valuable than certificates only.
The more years of experience they have, the more likely they’ve come across many different things to look out for in your home.
Different Types of Pre-Purchase Home Inspections and Estimated Costs
If this is your first real estate purchase, chances are high that you’re not familiar with the types of inspections out there. Here is a quick overview of them.
As the name suggests, an inspector will come and visually inspect every aspect of the property by walking around. This is the most basic version and it costs anywhere between $200 to $500, depending on which state you’re looking at.
Not all issues are apparent to the naked eye. If you include thermal imaging in the inspection process, it reveals issues from inside the walls, furnace, and plumbing. This usually costs an additional $250.
Add another $150 to the inspection bill and you get a radon test. This is only necessary if the house you’re buying is in an area known for higher radon concentration. The HVAC system should be able to filter the gas and that’s what the inspector will look into.
Last but not least, lead is an important step if you’re buying a relatively older property. Lead can be extremely toxic if it remains unchecked. If it’s a brand-new construction, you may skip this step. This is quite expensive, adding another $300 to the bill.
A home inspection is not something to take lightly. Not doing it can have serious financial issues in the future. And not doing it right can have other implications. We’ve shared the roadmap of how to find the best home inspector. It doesn’t matter what area you’re in, the same rules apply.