An excellent and concisely written post for every buyer out there. I have to admit I don't know of many buyers who interview a home inspector before hiring him, but it is probably one of the best things you can do for yourself in the home-buying process.
So, does the buying public know about how to choose a home inspector?
How would YOU go about choosing a home inspector?
One very common way is email. I happen to know this to be true. Think about it - does email seem like a good way to interview anybody? A doctor or dentist? A school administrator? A new boss? How about a plumber?
It takes a lot of time by email, and the answers are likely not very complete!
IF IT DOESN'T SEEM LIKE EMAIL IS A SOLID METHOD TO INTERVIEW THEM, THEN WHY WOULD IT BE THE PREFERRED METHOD TO DECIDE ON SOMEBODY TO INSPECT WHAT IS LIKELY THE MOST EXPENSIVE THING ONE BUYS IN A LIFETIME?
It might seem old fashioned, but if I was to investigate anybody, it would be by telephone.
Why? By phone (or even better, in person) you have the opportunity to listen to someone's thinking. How do they respond to questions? What is their phraseology? How well do they answer specific questions, or are they evasive? How direct and forthright are they in their answers?
Certainly I could go on.
What would be the best things to try to find out?
I would think experience and final product.
Sometimes my phone rings and all I hear is, "How much to you charge for a home inspection?"
Is that really all someone wants to know?
That's a weak question for two reasons:
1. It discounts. It DISCOUNTS things like experience and final product!
2. It's assumptive. It ASSUMES all home inspectors, and home inspections, are the same. Therefore price is the only thing that counts.
Are all doctors or school teachers or museum tour guides or electricians or pick your profession all the same in terms of experience, skill, trustworthiness, personality or final results?
Well, if they are, then find the cheapest and good luck!
AGAIN, BUYING A HOUSE IS A PRETTY IMPORTANT DECISION. THE CHEAPEST PRICE IS SIMPLY NOT THE BEST APPROACH!
What would you ask your home inspector?
As a home inspector, I can tell you that I appreciate a phone interview very much. The questions that make the most sense to me regard:
- Experience. How long has the inspector been in business? What did he do before becoming a home inspector?
- Methodology. What does he do? How does he do it? Does he differ in any ways from other home inspectors out there? What kinds of inspections are done? Any cool tools? What are the inspector's perceived strengths?
- Qualifications. Most states have requirements, but even if a state doesn't - are there any relevant associations, awards, qualifying entities associated with the inspector? Is the inspector involved with continuing education?
- Final product. What do buyers get for their money? How is the final product conveyed?
- Post-inspection counseling. This is crucially important! I want to be the go-to guy after the inspection when there are questions, or my clients want to do repairs, remodeling or whatever!
- Can he speak the language well enough to educate? If not, the final report is likely to be just as weak as his speech.
- Pricing. Certainly that is a consideration. But what do you get for your money?
- Any personal experiences the buyer feels are important! Life experience is a cruel, yet effective, teacher! Don't be afraid to bring up past experiences. They count for a lot.
In my opinion a home inspection is 30% EXPERIENCE AND CONSTRUCTION KNOWLEDGE, 30% QUALITY OF THE FINAL PRODUCT, 30% ABILITY TO CLEARLY EXPLAIN AND EDUCATE, and 10% PEOPLE SKILLS.
Most of that is learned through experience or inherent to the person and cannot be taught.
My recommendation: the best way to choose a home inspector is to seek recommendations and have a look at the company website, and if you like what you see there give the company, or individual, a call! Recommendations can come from any trusted source - friends' experiences, family, consumer websites, other home inspectors, realtors, or other real estate professionals. Have your questions lined up before any conversation. Ask if it's a good time to talk and if it is, then have a nice interview. Hear what you hear and feel what you feel! And go from there.
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia