Hire a good home inspector when buying a home

Hire a home inspector when buying a home to avoid costly repairs and surprises once you close on the home.


When you are buying a home, one of the most important things you can do is hire a good home inspector, have a good real estate agent by your side and have a good attorney to assist you. Home inspections and the inspectors who perform them remain a popular topic for our readers. Last year, we published a column from a woman who wanted to know if it was okay to buy a property where the seller failed to pull permits for improvements that seller made to the home.

We suggested that the reader hire a good home inspector to give her a sense of whether the seller had made proper updates to the home.

That piece generated a few thoughtful responses from home inspectors, which we published recently. With the spring home buying market here or around the corner, we thought this reader’s comment might add to the conversation. (We edited this readers comments for style, clarity and length.)

Comment: I am a licensed home inspector licensed with 24 years experience in the building trades and another 25 years experience conducting home inspections.

I found your recent article on home inspections and have some comments on the points raised by the reader who sent the letter to you and some of the answers you gave that reader.

Word of mouth is not enough when hiring a home inspector

The reader said that “people generally hire home inspectors by word of mouth or advice from friends.” I don’t think this is accurate. In my little corner of the world, most people rely on their real estate agent to recommend an inspector. People ask their agent to make recommendations because they trust the agent (usually), and they know the agent is (or should be) familiar with the inspectors in the area.

This reader mentioned that “very seldom does anyone research the company, their qualifications, their certifications, their past performance, etc.” I know this isn’t accurate. I can tell by the traffic on my website that plenty of people are researching me and my company. I don’t know where a municipal inspector could possibly acquire the data to support this assertion.

Municipal inspector is not the same as hiring a good home inspector

“I am surprised that more home buyers do not seek out the local building inspector to perform a presale inspection. Maybe the reason is this simple: When an inspector arrives, they recognize the home and [it] may have had past code violations.” I can think of a few reasons why a home buyer wouldn’t want a municipal inspector to perform a home inspection:

● If a municipal inspector finds a violation that he or a coworker should have seen during a building inspection, would he report it, or would he ignore it to avoid making himself or his coworkers (or his boss) look bad. The municipal inspector might have a conflict of interest.
● Does the municipal inspector carry errors and omissions insurance and general liability insurance? If not, how does he protect himself and his client from an expensive mistake? Home inspectors should have this type of insurance.
● A municipal inspector is responsible for looking at new work. The inspector needs to verify that it complies with the current building code. Most buyers purchase existing older homes. The building standards for older homes may differ from today’s standards. In some instances standards back then could be quite low or non-existent.

A good home inspector judges the quality and durability of a home. That’s where the art of a home inspection comes to be. The inspector should not use an instruction manual, because there isn’t one. That’s where it’s critical for you to hire a good home inspector.

You might need a good home inspector for a newly constructed home as well as an existing home.

“You should use a professional, qualified home inspector on a home now and not when building a home.”

Based on my own experience, this is simply bad advice. I have inspected more than 8,000 houses. One of the worst was a new house with a fresh certificate of occupancy. The garage floor was flat as a billiard table and failed to slope toward a drain or vehicle doorway. You need this slope for spills. The veneer of the home was built straight into the ground and should have had a clearance of at least four inches above the ground with some form of flashing or weep screed for moisture. This home had none of that.

“The field of home inspections is an open field. Once the field gets to a level where certifications or licenses are required, it can become a consistent inspection process benefiting all buyers and homeowners.”

Choose a home inspector based on that inspectors experience and not licensing or affiliation to associations

I think that licensing is the last thing upon which a home buyer should rely when choosing a home inspector. Instead home buyers should choose a home inspector with years of experience in the building trades. The more years of experience the better. The buyer should ask for copies of recent inspection reports to review. The report should be easy to read, and it should describe the reason for each repair recommendation. If the home inspectors report is full of disclaimers and recommendations to obtain additional inspections, then the home inspection is of little or no real value.

You should also ask the inspector how much time he will spend on the inspection and report. Do you want the inspector who gets the job done in three hours or less. Or, the inspector who will spend four hours or more? The difference between a home inspector that simply checks boxes from a checklist and one that knows what to look for is of most importance.

You shouldn’t rely too heavily on a friend’s recommendation when it comes to hiring a good home inspector. Your friend may have met two or three inspectors in his lifetime. Instead, ask your real estate agent for a recommendation (and if you don’t trust your agent to judge who are the best inspectors in the area, then you need a new agent).

Sound advice is to hire a good home inspector.

As to your original article, your advice is sound. Hire a good home inspector. Especially a home inspector that has extensive and years of experience in home inspections.

©2021 by Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin.