How To Choose A Home Inspector

Not all home inspectors are created equal.  Of course they all should be licensed to do inspections in the state of Ohio. All inspectors ask you to sign a limited liability pre-inspection agreement before the inspection and provide you with a written inspection report after the inspection.  But this is where the similarities end.

There are over 245 licensed home inspectors in NE Ohio, so how does a home buyer go about picking a home inspector?  Are they all the same?  Do they all get up on roofs and crawl through attics?  Are they all experienced enough to do a good job on your home?  So how do you find out?

First of all, asking an inspector what they did in a former life in order to determine if they were in the trades or a building contractor has nothing to do with determining the effectiveness of that home inspector today. This is because most trades people or contractors only specialized in one area of the building trade, say plumbing, electrical, framing, roofing, HVAC, etc. There are several areas of a home that an inspector must have competence in when inspecting a home which cannot be acquired without ongoing education and experience in the field.  Since there is no way for you to verfiy what the inspector is telling you this is a bad question to ask.

That said, probably the most important thing to understand and have proof of is how many inspections your potential inspector has performed. At least 1000 home inspections is a good base line for a competent inspection company or inspector to have performed. Less than a 1000 and you are taking a chance with them. But how do you verify that they have actually performed over 1000 inspections when you call them? Just because their web site says they have performed over X amount of inspections doesn’t really mean they actually have. Who is going to call them out if they haven’t? If they tell you over the phone they have, do you believe it? Many people like to stretch the truth…and are OK with it because they justify it in their head. This is a very critical point. You are taking a risk with an inspection company that has performed less than 1000 inspections inspecting your house, and its a good idea to have them prove to you that they have performed at least 1000 inspections.

So when you are interviewing inspectors ask them how many home inspections they have performed. If it’s more than a thousand ask them if they can email you their past 5 years of clients with their phone numbers  as references (an inspector typically will be in business for at least 5 years to get to 1000+ inspections). If they say they don’t have that available or that violates some sort of privacy law, tell them goodbye. 

If they do have that list available, they should be able to send it to you that same day and it should add up to at least 1000. At Detailed Home Inspections we have done over 5000 inspections. Send us an email request and we will be happy to send our past 5 yrs of clients for you to call at random to see how effective we were AFTER THEY HAVE LIVED IN THEIR NEW HOME FOR AT LEAST A YEAR.

The second thing to consider is the inspector’s reporting format. Do not hire an inspector without first reviewing their sample inspection report. Our inspection report recommendations are straight forward and to the point. We rarely recommend bringing another expert or trades person back to the house for further evaluation because we are not sure if there is a problem or not. Watch out for inspectors who do this as they are just covering themselves from a liability standpoint which ends up costing you more money because you will have to pay for another trades person to review the item. This is just an indication of the inspector’s lack of experience – when you ask for an inspector’s inspection report look for this.

Typically, the only time we recommend further evaluation is when there is foundation or structure damage and a licensed structural engineer needs to evaluate it to sign off on it or provide instruction for repair or there is a potentially large cost for correcting an issue and you should have a hard cost estimate from a licensed contractor in hand in order to understand the cost implications so you can negotiate with your Seller.

We provide an easy to read html or web based style report published the same day as the inspection with high quality pictures along with a summary page. We are fortunate enough to have had many competing inspector reports forwarded to us over the years so we know what is out there and have taken the very best elements from these reports to combine into our own. A lot of these reports are hard to read and follow which gives even us, experienced inspectors, a headache! Some of these reports don’t even include pictures or are actually hand written check lists. Others are just plain hard to follow. Before you hire an inspector you should be familiar with the type of report they deliver and how soon they give it to you.  

We use a commercially available reporting format by Spectora which is available to other inspection companies – but we have tailored it to our inspection and reporting style that we have developed over the last 18 yrs – so it is easier to read, navigate, and understand what our recommendations are.   Check it out Here

Now what about testimonials and reviews that the Inspection company either has posted on the internet, social media, or on their literature or web site? It’s all sunshine and rainbows isn’t it? “So and So was so very thorough and complete in their inspection….we would recommend him or her to anybody!” It’s easy to get a smiley face review right after the inspection BEFORE the Buyer has lived in the house for a few months or a year. Every Inspector gets those reviews, if they ask for them, whether they have done thousands of inspections or 50 inspections, and yes we collect them as well and will probably ask you to write one for us if you hire us and like us!.

But see, now you are an expert selector of home inspectors. You now know that the REAL review of the Inspection company or Inspector’s ability comes from the un-solicited review that you get from a past client who has lived in the house for 1 to 5 yrs. Not from what the inspector did previous to home inspecting. Not from their fancy web site. Not from the list of certifications the inspector has. Not from on line reviews. Not from your conversation with the inspector over the phone. And not from your Realtor’s list of 3 inspectors they give you – which they are REQUIRED by  state law to do so, if they are recommending Inspectors.

Just because an inspector is on your Realtor’s list of 3 inspectors to call doesn’t mean that all 3 of them are effective home inspectors. But you now know how to select an effective home inspector. Ask for their past 5 years of customers with phone numbers so you can call one or two of them at random. Most people are happy to give an honest review of a service performed for them – especially one as important as a home inspection. Don’t be timid. You have nothing to lose in calling past customers of a home inspector and its the only way to determine how good they really are. Nothing else matters.

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