Buying a house can be stressful and emotional. When my husband and I purchased our first a few years ago, we were able to get an FHA loan. The program required that we hire a home inspector before buying. In retrospect, that was the best thing we ever did.
This gentleman walked though the house that ended up becoming our home, telling us about potential problems like the old knob-and-tube wiring. He looked for signs of pests like termites (but didn’t find any). He gave us an opinion on how many years the old octopus furnace, originally a coal-burner, would last. (As it turned out, we squeezed just two more years out of it than he had thought.) He told us how long the roof would probably be good for. He left us with a checklist of things every homeowner should attend to annually and answered all of our questions. The entire process took about three or four hours. Later, we got a three-ring binder stuffed with information.
How do you find a decent home inspector? We started with www.bbb.org, and followed a recommendation from the Spokane Neighborhood Action Program that was helping us.
Here are some additional tips to keep in mind when hiring a home inspector:
At this time, industry licensing is sketchy. Some states don’t even require it. And of those that do, qualifications may be minimum. Home inspection is not currently regulated by the federal government, either.
Your home inspector could be a residential architect, a building contractor, or a structural engineer or other professional. Don’t be shy about asking for their experience. Structural engineers are required to be licensed.
Check with any regulatory bodies or licensing boards for complaints. In some states, like Texas, the Real Estate Board oversees home inspections. Check with www.bbb.org (you can also see positive and negative customer reviews).
Questions to ask:
- Are you familiar with this type of home?
- Do you specialize in residential or commercial property?
- How long have you been in business?
- Are you a member of any professional organizations, like the American Society of Home Inspectors, National Institute of Building Inspectors or the National Society of Professional Engineers? (Many have a “Find an Inspector” widget on their homepage.)
- Can I be present during the home inspection? (If not, that is a red flag.)
- Do you carry “errors and omissions” insurance? If not, why not?
- Do you offer a guarantee? (Some firms offer a written agreement obligating them to reimburse you for eligible repairs that may develop during the guarantee period. For example, if the furnace was working fine when inspected in summer, but doesn’t work when you turn it on in October, the firm would pay for the repair.)
If your realtor recommends someone, be aware that there is a potential for a conflict of interest. If things go well, the realtor gets a commission and the inspector gets repeat business. Ask: Is this a home inspector you personally would hire, or recommend to your family and friends?
Also, check out our blog on Vetting the Lender.
Buying a house can be a wonderful investment, and it is freeing to be able to do whatever you want in terms of paint, pets, and landscaping. Do your homework first, and you will be happier in the long-run.
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