Home Inspection

Finding the Best Home Inspector

Updated April 1, 2024 . AmFam Team

There’s a lot riding on getting details right when you’re considering the purchase of a new home. You’re balancing decisions on location, amenities, and schools against being able to afford closing costs and your monthly mortgage.

And then there’s the home inspection, which has the potential to make or break the deal altogether. If the home inspector’s results point to expensive structural issues, you may need to pursue a home elsewhere. Because so much is riding on getting an accurate inspection of the house, you need to know you’ve got a dependable home inspector. Here’s our advice to find someone trustworthy and get actionable details on the home’s issues.

Managing a Conflict of Interest Between the Home Inspector and Your Real Estate Agent

In order to ensure you’re getting an honest report from your house inspector, you’ll need to look carefully at their reviews. It’s also a good idea to ask for references. Contact their clients and ask if any conflicts of interest were present during the process.

Here are other ways to check in on your inspector before you hire them:

Look up reviews of the inspector on Angie’s List, Yelp and Google. Find reliable, impartial home inspectors that are recently well-reviewed. Steer clear of home inspectors that are affiliated with real estate agencies as that can create a conflict of interest.

Ask the inspector if attending the inspection is allowed. If they say no, continue your search and find someone who does. It’s going to be your home, and you need to learn everything you can about its condition. The inspection is your chance to ask questions and get answers.

Look for a conflict of interest when you talk to references. After getting a list of former clients, ask these sources if they have any regrets hiring the inspector. You may find that the inspector and the real estate agent have worked together to skew inspection results. That could leave you with expensive repairs that were not clearly identified in the report. Ask the references to email you their report.

Request a sample home inspection report. Look at the report for structure. It should have a table of contents and a review of systems inspected — like electrical, plumbing, HVAC, etc. If you got a real inspection report from a former client, compare that against the sample and be sure they’re built the same. It should contain color photographs and a detailed summary of issues with estimates on repair costs.

How to Avoid Buying a Money Pit With a Home Inspection Checklist

Some homes have so many problems that the term “money pit” actually fits. If something’s not up to code, your inspector may inform you but it could cost thousands. Here’s how a good home inspector can help you avoid buying a home that keeps costing you money:

Have a checklist of your own. Ask your inspector if they’re willing to review and comment on your personal home inspection checklist. Be sure your inspector’s willing to listen to your concerns.

Find out about extra fees now. Often, home inspection companies will build an “ala carte” menu of ancillary inspection services. Find out if they charge individual inspection fees to inspect a chimney flue or a septic system, before you hire.

Check for radon and mold. Mold remediation and radon mitigation are expensive problems and can impact the wellbeing of everyone in the home. To avoid big financial surprises, be sure your inspector is willing to drop off test kits and perform health-related inspection services. Indoor air quality testing with samples sent for lab analysis should also be included.

Request a pest and termite inspection. If your area is susceptible to termites, be sure your inspector will perform a thorough inspection. Also verify that a rodent infestation inspection will occur.

Test for lead paint. If your home is old enough, have the inspector test it for lead paint. When lead paint is uncovered, it can be expensive to remediate.

Ask for a thorough pool inspection. If the property you’re considering has a pool, be sure that your inspector examines the deck, steps, interior finish, cleaning and filtering system and the diving board.

Inspect the exterior insulation and finish (EIFS) and stucco. When homes have specialized outside finishes, they may be susceptible to moisture, mold and decay.

The condition of the water heater can speak volumes. During the home inspection, you’ll find that the age of appliances and home systems comes into focus. You can learn a lot from the condition and age of some appliances. If the home’s been well maintained, you’ll probably that find the water heater’s in good shape. If other major appliances seem run down or ill-maintained, you should consider requesting a whole home warranty from the seller.

Why Your Inspector Should Have Errors and Omissions Insurance

Your inspector’s errors and omission insurance policy protects you in the event that they miss something important during their visit. If they make a mistake or don’t inform you of a major defect on the property, that coverage can help them cover the cost of the resulting financial damages you suffer. This is professional liability coverage you should verify the inspector has before signing. Here are other key matters to consider during the home buying process:

Confirm their NAHI, ASHI, InterNACHI standing. Membership in the National Association of Home Inspectors, the American Society of Home Inspectors or the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors is key.

See licensing and bonding documents. Get a copy of their licensing and insurance credentials. Be sure they’re up to date. Qualified inspectors will gladly offer up these documents.

Check in with your lawyer before you sign and after the inspection. You’ll be signing a legal agreement when you hire a home inspector. It’s a good idea to have your real estate attorney review the contract before signing. Have your lawyer create an inspection notice after the inspector’s competed the report. This should be done before you get a copy of it to the seller. Sometimes, the report details language that needs legal adjustment. Clearly stating facts and wording can help to ensure the contents are enforceable.

As you're considering your options for a home inspection, remember to check in with your American Family Insurance agent. Your agent can help you build a homeowners policy that is crafted to meet your home’s unique needs. With great protection in place, you’ll have the peace of mind you need to focus on making the most of your new home.

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