If you're about to buy a new house, you're no doubt fretting over the entire process. It's probably the biggest purchase of your life, so you have to be extra careful. That's why millions of Americans rely on home inspections performed by certified professionals. Home inspectors will kick the proverbial tires on a home and point out any trouble spots of which you need to be aware. How can you make sure the inspector you choose is the right one for the job? Take into consideration a number of key factors when looking for the right home inspector.
Getting to know you
Writing in The Washington Post, licensed real estate agent Justin Pierce noted that it's common for your agent to recommend an inspector for you. However, Pierce is careful to mention that the interests of a home inspector, the real estate agent and you the buyer do not always align exactly.
"The home inspector's job is to find problems if they exist," Pierce wrote. "Real estate agents by nature don't like people who find problems with their deals."
This means buyers should take matters into their own hands if at all possible. Pierce encourages buyers to personally vet any potential inspectors. Feel free to interview beforehand and shop around for who you think will give you the best analysis. While it's true that not all real estate agents are out to get you, it's still perfectly fine to seek out an inspector with the qualifications and experience that would make them a trusted asset.
When searching for the right person for your property inspection, be on the lookout for training. Local California newspaper The Daily Republic remarked that buyers can keep an eye out for professional organizations the inspector is a member of. The American Society of Home Inspectors is one of the most common. You'll also want to see if the inspector carries liability insurance, along with an errors and omissions policy. A professional inspection should always go smoothly without any major issues, but in the rare case something does occur, it pays to be prepared.
Know what to expect, and inspect
While a home inspector can give you invaluable information about the home you may end up buying, they are only human. As Pierce acknowledged, there's only so much they can do to sniff out problems in a home. While a home inspection will cover obvious signs of structural damage, it's extremely difficult to detect small, underlying issues that could mean major repairs in a few years. The inspector cannot rip out a wall to check for mold and insects. Nor can they tear out all the wires and check for defects, or find every leak in the plumbing. As a prospective buyer, you're certainly wrapped up in a thousand other worries, making it easy to forget about the limitations of even the best home inspection.
Indeed, the ASHI outlines these limits in their performance standards, which a majority of home inspection services adhere to. The standards stipulate that home inspections cover only what is "readily accessible [and] visibly observable." This means that inspectors are not even allowed to move furniture out of the way to inspect a problem. Inspectors are also not required to provide opinions on "any engineering or architectural service or analysis [or] opinion as to the adequacy of any structural system or component," which could come as a surprise to novice home buyers.
These limitations don't mean that home inspectors will never actually find anything wrong with a home. A professional inspection is still vital for any house purchase, and will end up saving an untold amount of money in the long run.