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10 Questions to Ask When Evaluating a Home Inspection Company

Most people, understandably, start interviewing home inspectors by asking "How much do you charge?" While it's important to know this information, it's not the most important, and certainly not the only question you should ask in order to make an informed decision in choosing your Home Inspector. Keep in mind that home inspections are not a commodity. It's not like going into the grocery store and buying a dozen Grade A - Large eggs or a pack of #2 pencils, where price is the primary differentiator between one supplier and another.

When you hire a Home Inspector, you are hiring a consultant to work on your behalf. Experience, qualifications, communication and interpersonal skills vary widely from inspector to inspector. Some inspectors specialize in volume and low price and may perform up to three or more cursory inspections in a day, then hand their clients a hand written checklist at the end. At the other end of the spectrum are inspectors who have a high level of expertise, are ruthlessly thorough and may spend many hours performing a single inspection and documenting their findings. These inspectors may never do more than one inspection per day. Obviously, you would expect the cost, and value, of inspections performed by the people at these opposite ends of the spectrum to be quite different.

As a consumer, you deserve to know what kind of inspection you will be receiving so that you can balance the cost of the inspection with your other priorities. We have prepared the following 10 questions that we feel you should ask anyone that you are considering hiring as an inspector. In the course of your discussion, in addition to the direct responses, you should also assess intangibles such as: whether you comfortable with their communication style; whether they really listening for and addressing any concerns you may have; whether they established a rapport with you; etc.

1. Besides your license, what credentials and certifications do you have?

Look for evidence that the inspector considers him/herself a professional and actively pursues greater knowledge. Code certification from the International Code Council (e.g., IRC residential inspection certification) is an excellent indicator and makes your inspector's comments more credible with builders and other professionals.

2. Do you perform home inspections full time or part time? How many paid inspections have you performed?

Home inspection requires a very broad knowledge, it's difficult for an inspector to stay on top of their game doing it part time.

3. How many inspections do you perform in a day and how long do you expect to be present at the house you are inspecting for me? How long after the inspection should I expect receive my report?

If an inspector performs three or more inspections a day, don't expect them to hang around and answer many questions for you. If you are the inspector's only client that day, you can usually expect that they can spend the time necessary to properly inspect a complex house, answer questions and explain their findings in detail. A report handed to you at the end of the inspection, simply isn't going to have much detail. A thorough, detailed report can easily take two to three hours, or even longer, to prepare.

4. Do you give or receive payments or other consideration for referrals?

Avoid situations where inspectors give or receive kickbacks from agents, service companies, specialty inspectors, etc. Ideally, the only money changing hands is directly from you to the inspector and any other professionals working on your behalf so that you are not paying loaded fees and there is no confusion as to whom the client is.

5. May I see a copy of your home inspection service agreement?

If they balk or don't have one, that should be a red flag to you. When you review the agreement, you should expect to see some limitation of liability. However, you should look for an agreement that is fairly balanced and includes a satisfaction guarantee.

6. Would you send me a copy of an actual inspection report for a house similar to mine?

Don't consider any inspection company that won't send you a sample of an actual inspection report. When you get the report, look at it in detail. The inspection report is a tangible representation of the level of detail and thoroughness of the inspection. Many inspectors use commercially available reporting software. Often times these tools produce impressive looking reports, but don't really contain much useful information about the actual house that was inspected. When looking through the sample report, make sure that it contains meaningful information about the actual property that as inspected vs. a report that contains mostly generic boilerplate type information.

7. Do you intend to walk on the roof? Under what circumstances do you not walk on the rooftop during an inspection?

Some inspector's almost never walk on rooftops, while other do whenever it's safe to do so. No inspector can see the same level of detail when looking at a roof through binoculars that they can by walking the roof surface.

8. Do you carry General Liability Insurance? Errors and Omissions?

If not, find out why. In many states, including Texas, insurance is mandatory.

9. Have you ever had a complaint filed against you or been disciplined by the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC), Better Business Bureau (BBB) or other consumer agency? If so, what was the outcome?

heck on their answer by looking at the Texas Real Estate Commission website. Their license database is searchable and any disciplinary actions will be shown. While you're there, check on the agents/brokers too. Here's the query for my license: TREC License Lookup.

10. How much will my inspection cost? What services are included in the basic fee and what services cost extra?

Now that you have the information that you need to be able to compare companies, it's time to bring the cost component into the equation.

Good hunting to you.