With hundreds of home inspectors in central New York vying for your business, finding a really good home inspector is an important however difficult task. Hiring a poor home inspector is at best – a waste of money; at worst – the heart ache of owning a home you wish you had never bought and thousands of lost dollars. Following are 7 tips to narrow down your home inspector search.
1. Don’t Put Much Faith in a Home Inspectors License. NY State is flooded with inexperienced home inspectors due to the extremely low bar set for licensing. Just about any person in NY State can become a licensed home inspector with no experience of any kind required except a 3 1/2 week course. This is really a joke compared to other professional licenses like plumber or electrician which require several years of documented and verified on the job training before licensing is even considered. Joe Mahr of ABITCO who runs Home Inspector Training in Syracuse says, “100% of the students that complete our training course have passed the New York State Home Inspector License Exam.” The bar is set so low in NY it’s practically impossible to fail! Be sure to choose an experienced home inspector, usually the more experience the better.
2. Choosing a Certified Home Inspector Helps a Little. Licensing of home inspectors only sets a minimum standard, and in NY State that standard is very low. It is no guarantee but hiring an inspector who is associated with a professional home inspection association can help weed out the fly-by-night inspectors. Three of the top more reputable associations are the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), the National Institute of Building Inspectors, (NIBI) and the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI.) Please note that these associations and sometimes their members are competitors, each claiming they are the best and downplaying the others. Read more on Choosing a Certified Home Inspector.
3. Don’t Hire a Cheap Home Inspector! Cheap home inspectors may save you a few dollars up front but can cost you dearly with horrible inspections – Google home inspection nightmares. Inspections costing significantly less than average are a huge red flag. These cheap inspectors are most likely desperate, dishonest or both. Cheap inspectors don’t have the experience, training or concern to properly identify defects, they do terrible work. Low cost home inspectors fill out reports while at the house instead of actually doing a detailed inspection. On the phone they might say the inspection will take a couple of hours but don’t be surprised if they collect their money and are out of there in less than an hour. Their report may look spiffy at first glance but will lack meaningful detail and substance. Read my article on comparing inspection reports so you can identify a cheap report.
4. Be Careful with Realtor Referred Inspectors. A huge conflict of interest exists between the real estate agent and their client. It’s like a used care salesman advising who should inspect the car before you buy it. True story: One realtor says to another realtor in reference to a home inspector who, in his opinion, was taking too long to do an inspection, “Why don’t you use my inspector, he will pass any house and he only takes an hour.” Wow! How does this same realtor speak to his clients, from his point of view of course. He would say something like “This inspector is really good, I use him all the time.” With realtor referrals ask yourself, is the referral in your best interest or the realtors?
5. The Best Home Inspectors are Rarely Recommended by Realtors. Most realtors are well aware of which inspectors do really thorough inspections, reporting all significant defects and make recommendations to the buyers. Realtors often refer to these inspectors as “deal breakers” because buyers sometimes back out of purchase agreements based on their reports. These are the type of inspectors you want, those with integrity, who work diligently for you the buyer and are not intimidated by seasoned realtors nor try to earn realtors referrals or favor at your expense.
Many realtors conclude whats best for the home buyer is not in their own best interest as a realtor. For some realtors the ideal inspector is one who performs the inspection quickly with little attention to detail and glossing over or failing to mention certain deficiencies are viewed favorable. Many inspectors have businesses that thrive primarily on realtor referrals, I’ve seen their short, scant home inspection reports. I remember vividly an inspection report shown to me by a home owner which had the start and finish time written on the report; this 7 page check-list report was filled out during the inspection, a copy of which was handed to the buyer at completion. The total time for the inspection including filling out the report was less than one hour!!! Many realtors simply adore this particular inspector and refer her continuously. She is business savvy I will give her that, she makes $350 in one hour and is off to another inspection. That same $350 for me involves at least 5 hours, inspection and report writing.
There is a lot of fancy language inspectors use to limit their liability and shift the burden of inspection which basically allows them to avoid inspecting. In fact most inspection software has limited liability wording built into their templates. They can provide a nice looking report it just doesn’t have much useful information, it ends up being more of a puff piece than an inspection report. See comparing inspection reports for some examples of these.
Of the 2000+ home inspections I performed very few have been from realtor referrals. Many realtors have let me know they were not happy with my work. I’ve been told in numerous ways many times by realtors, “This inspection is taking too long” “can you wrap this up, I have to go” “are you sure about that” “I don’t think you can say that” “It’s not that bad” “Your report caused me to loose that deal” and much more with a few curse words added in. At the same time some of these same realtors have hired me to inspect when buying their own homes and referred me to family members, but rarely if ever refer me to their clients.
Most realtors feel they have too much time and money invested in their clients to jeopardize a deal falling through by recommending that old time inspector with loads of experience, who is detailed as hell, they reason he might ruin the sale. Let me set the facts straight: It is not the inspector who ruins a deal by reporting truthfully on the condition of the home, it’s the condition of the home that spoils the sale; the inspector is just the messenger delivering the information to the buyer helping them to understand more clearly the true condition of the home who decides in their own best interest to cancel the sale.
A true professional home inspector has only the home buyers best interest in mind, will be honest in his findings and recommendations and is beholden to no realtor, even if that realtor referred him. It is a rare realtor who will recommend that old time, experienced inspector who is detailed as hell. It is a rare realtor who puts the home buyers best interest above their own commission. I am honored to know a few such realtors who recommended me. Sometimes it means more work for them when one or more deals fall through due to concerns revealed by a home inspection. I’ve inspected 3 or 4 houses for some clients before the settled on one they were happy with. For a short list of rare realtors who put their clients interests above their own, click here.
6. Verify Credentials and Check for Complaints. The internet is a great research tool, you should inspect the inspector to ensure he’s legitimate. Anyone in business for at least a few years these days should have a lot of source info on the web; type in the inspectors name and company name. Beware of anyone with very little web presence. Unfortunately to gain a competitive edge, some inspectors who lack integrity will pad their resume, lie about their experience and professional associations etc. to boost their credibility. Check the state licensing board to see if the inspector is active and up-to-date. You can also check the professional association to which the inspector belongs and do the same. Checking for proof of insurance is not a bad idea either. The local Better Business Bureau is also a good place to check, they rate businesses based on length of time in business and number of complaints and disputes and if they are resolved or not.
7. Buyer Beware for Syracuse Home Inspection. Be Aware that the greater Syracuse and Central New York area around Syracuse has one of the highest concentrations of home inspectors per capita of anywhere in the nation. This is due to the home inspection school located in East Syracuse which has litterally graduated hundreds and hundreds of home inspectors in the past several years. When I started my home inspection company in 1997 I was one of three home inspectors who advertised in Syracuse. Today there are littlerally hundreds of inspectors working in central New York, most doing it part time, and many with out much home inspection experience.