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How to Select a Good Home Inspector authorHow to Select a Good Home Inspector
by Charles Skoning of Safe Family Home Inspection Services, LLC
01-13-2006

On a daily basis I get calls from my clients asking me what a home inspection includes and how much will it cost.  The typical inspector has some sort of mantra that they repeat about the inspection being a roof to foundation inspection. They then go into a dissertation about plumbing, electrical, furnace, blah..blah..blah. Call a few; they pretty much all say the same thing like they were programmed.  Is this what the client really wantís to know? Many of my clients are calling on the advice of their attorney or real estate agent and they donít know why they want a home inspection.  I think more relevant questions would be: What does the home inspection mean to me, the buyer, and why are you qualified to do it?

Well, for Mr. or Ms. Buyer a home inspection is your way to find out if the home you are purchasing is really what it seems. The home inspection is part of your due diligence, in other words, to make sure you are buying what you expect. If you are purchasing what you expect then you will have peace of mind that you are making a wise home purchasing decision. If the inspection report is not acceptable then you have the opportunity to move on or make changes to the conditions of your contract. That is, if you have an inspection contingency in your purchase agreement.

In making a purchasing decision, information is power. A thorough home inspection will give you the information you need to make a wise decision.  The information you receive from the report should be nonbiased, accurate, and from a qualified inspector. Some states, but not all, have some sort of standards of practice, licensing or education requirement to inspect a home. If you live in a state with a licensing requirement, request a copy of the state standards of practice from your inspector.

The standards of practice vary from state to state so it is also wise to obtain a copy your inspectorís professional standards of practice. The two professional standards that I recommend are from the American Society of Home Inspectors or the National Association of Home Inspectors. Obtaining these standards is very important for those of you who are purchasing a home in a non-licensed state with no standards. By reading these standards you will know the minimum level of reporting your inspector will provide. Some inspectors may exceed these minimum requirements, and usually the best ones do.

A license to practice is the stateís way of saying that the inspector has passed a test of minimum competency and also may have attended a training program.  If you think about it, the purchase of a home may be one of the largest investments you ever make. In addition, the safety and welfare of your family living in that residence is at stake. The relationships of the systems in a home are complex and it takes someone with critical thinking skills to identify potential issues. Some may say that experience is important and to that I agree; however, twenty years of pounding nails does not give you the required education to analyze a possible moisture problem or truly understand the proper and safe operation of your furnace. Make sure you are comfortable with the credentials and experience of your home inspector.

In addition, a professional home inspector has passed a rigorous national test administered by the Examination Board of Professional Home Inspectors. This is a requirement in some states for licensing but not all. Most inspectors that have gone to these lengths are also members of professional organizations like the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) or National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI) or both.  These organizations have a strict code of ethics and continuing educational requirements to maintain membership.  Both ASHI and NAHI publish magazines to help keep your inspector on top of new issues regarding inspection and home safety.  Not all home inspector organizations are created equal, and it is my opinion that ASHI and NAHI are the strictest in their membership requirements.

Most professional home inspectors also carry Errors and Omissions Insurance (E&O). This insurance is a measure of a good inspector. The insurance is costly, but it helps protect the inspector and gives the client peace of mind that they are working with a professional.

The cost of a home inspection varies a little across the country, according to the American Society of Home Inspectorís Business Operations Study 2005, the average cost of a complete home inspection is around $318.00. With the median home price around $218,000.00 (National Association of Realtorsģ, 11/28/2005) the cost of the average home inspection is approximately .15% (thatís fifteen hundredths of a percent) of the cost of the home. This is a very small expense to know that the home you are about to purchase is in acceptable condition. I know of people who pay more for a service plan on their television. Although, a home inspection is not an extended warranty, it has been my experience that seven out of ten times a deficiency is found that would cost more to repair than the cost of the whole inspection. Would you like to know that before you buy?

The price of a home inspection may be more reflective of the efforts of the inspector.  To do a thorough inspection some home inspectors take longer than what is typically quoted on many websites; 2-3 hours. In my opinion I do not believe, unless youíre inspecting a dog house, that a proper home inspection can be completed in two hours. I have found that the typical home takes approximately 4 hours of data collection and an additional hour or two to compile the information into a form that the buyer can use and appreciate. For small townhouses or condoís the data collection portion of the inspection may be shorter if you exclude the exterior or common areas, otherwise they may take just as long a whole house inspection.  In general, shopping price on home inspectors is not a good idea. In order to do a diligent inspection, it takes time; otherwise your inspector is overlooking issues that may be important to you.

In summary, a thorough home inspection is what you, the buyer, want. The inspector should be a degreed experienced professional with the proper licensing and insurance. It may take approximately four hours to complete and cost you about $320. 00. In return you will have the information you need to be confident in your home purchasing decision.  After you move in, there should be very little surprise and both you and your home inspector can sleep soundly at night knowing you did the right thing by obtaining a professional home inspection.


Charles Skoning is a graduate of Northern Illinois University with a Bachelorís of Science in Engineering Technology. For the last fifteen years he has been involved in the inspection of medical imaging equipment and real estate. Charles is licensed and practices in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa. As a licensed radon measurement specialist he also provides radon testing for real estate transactions. Charles attended one of the nationís largest home inspection schools and is certified by the American Home Inspection Training Institute. He is also the founder of Safe Family Home Inspection Services, LLC.

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