Once you narrow down your home inspector search to a list of names, its time to make calls and conduct some interviews. Conducting an interview is the best way to determine if a home inspector has what your are looking for. Following are some tips and questions for interviewing home inspectors to help you best assess their competencies.
Keep these Tips in mind as you conduct your home inspector interviews:
- Tip – Don’t be shy. It is important for you to find the best inspector for the job. Tens of thousands of dollars or more may be at stake depending on who you choose as your home inspector.
- Tip – Remember, you’re the one doing the hiring, you need to ask some questions. The inspector should take time to answer your questions, their customer service starts here. You determine if they are a good fit for your needs, if they are willing to to work for your best interests, if not move on to the next candidate.
- Tip – Have your questions ready and grill them. Best to write down your questions, the four main things you are looking for are:
- Years of extensive experience
- Thoroughness and detail
- Good communication including a quality narrative inspection report with photos
- Ability to perform the ancillary services you require such as radon testing, well, septic and water testing etc.
- Tip – When asking questions, listen for hesitation in their voice. If they are a professional, the answers should flow very smoothly with confidence and authority. If they have to think about how to answer these questions or if their is uncertainty in their voice they may be poor communicators, inexperienced or both; you don’t want either, move on to the next candidate.
- Tip – Look for a good communicator. You want someone who can explain things in terms you understand and to your satisfaction. If they talk over your head or are difficult to understand, or seem rushed or bothered by your questions you should keep looking.
- Tip – After the interview, conduct follow up before you hire. If you think you found your inspector, be sure to view and compare their sample reports; verify their experience, certifications and time in business; check for independent reviews, those not on their own website.
- Tip – Schedule the inspection when you can be present, if at all possible.
Questions on How Extensive Their Experience is:
- How long have you had your home inspection license? (NY state began licensing in 2005)
- How many years have you been doing home inspections? (less than 3 years, I would look for another inspector)
- Whats the total number of homes inspections have you conducted? (You really want an inspector with at least 200 – 300 paid inspections)
- How many home inspections do you do a year? (Most NY home inspectors are part time from from 1 to 100 inspections a year, full time would be about 100 to 2oo or more per year.)
- What other work do you do, besides being a home inspector? (this can give you an idea of their experience relevance, if it is work related to home inspection if not, not so good)
- What type of home inspection experience do you have? (the closer related to home building, repair, electrician, plumber, engineer etc. the better / if it seems to be unrelated to home inspection, get another inspector)
- How many years did you work in…(related field)…? (the more the better, 15 or more years will give them wisdom and knowledge they can carry over to home inspections)
- What did you do before you were a home inspector? (the closer related to home building, repair, electrician, plumber, engineer etc. the better / if it seems to be unrelated to home inspection, get another inspector)
- Are you certified? (InterNACHI or ASHI certified is a plus, but doesn’t mean a whole lot)
Questions on Thoroughness and Detail:
- How long does your inspection take? (Less than two hours, get another inspector, especially if that includes writing the report)
- Can I tag along during the inspection? (if they hesitate or say no, ditch them)
- Can I ask questions during the inspection? (If not, ditch them)
- Do you go on the roof? (If not, that’s ok as long as they put ladder to look at the edge of the roof, use binoculars etc.)
- Will you go in the crawl space? (yes, if it is accessible is the best answer / keep in mind a large or overly fat inspector who can’t fit in hole or small door is not required to inspect inside) If not, How do you inspection the roof? (yes, if it’s not too steep or slippery and won’t damage the shingles is the best answer )
- Do you go in the attic? (yes, if it is accessible is the best answer / inspection from the hatch is acceptable, if it is not readily accessible)
- Do you remove the electric panel cover? (yes, if it is readily accessible is the best answer / if they say no get another inspector)
Questions on the Quality of Their Inspection Report:
- Do you have a sample report I can take a look at? (If not get a different inspector)
- What type of inspection report do you deliver? (best answer – a “narrative report” / If it’s a “check-list” get another inspector)
- Is the report computer generated and typed? (best answer yes / If it is hand written get another inspector)
- How many pages is the inspection? (Should contain at least 20 to 30 pages of actual reporting, not boiler plate generic information)
- How long does it take you to write the report? (2 to 4 hours minimum for a good narrative report / If the report is written while doing the inspection, get another inspector)
- When is the inspection report ready? (best answer: within 24 hours, emailed to you / If report is delivered at inspection, should consider getting another inspector who spends more time on the inspection – compare their sample reports.
- Does the inspection report include digital photos? – with captions and arrows? (yes to both of these is the best answer / If no pictures are included get another inspector)
- Are the photos in the report sections? (best answer) – at end of report? (second best) – or on a separate CD? (third best)
- Are you available for follow up questions by phone and email? (If not, get another inspector)
- Can you do a re-inspection if needed? in case there is snow on the roof, or a repair is made that needs to be confirmed (The inspector should make themselves available even if they may charge a fee to cover time / if they won’t make themselves available get another inspector)
Question on Additional Services You may Need:
The more they services thy offer the better because you may not know what you need until the actual inspection. Be sure to ask about any services you know you will need. Good inspectors can usually recommend if you need a certain type of test or if it would be a waste of money. A knowledgeable inspector may be able to tell you what you need to know without even doing the test based on their experience in areas such as mold, lead and asbestos.
- What type of ancillary testing do you perform?
- radon test -ask how they test (Caution: many home inspectors only use one test kit, real estate transactions require two test kits side by side or the use of a continuous radon monitor (CRM) for certified for Real Estate radon tests.
- mold evaluation and testing, if yes are you a certified mold tester? (mold testing should be done by trained and certified inspectors)
- mold testing, if yes what type of testing do you perform
- air sample mold spore trap/cassette (Usually the best for home inspections, requires an air pump, this is usually gives the most useful information if done properly)
- tape lift is (very limited in nature)
- swab sample (very limited in nature)
- viable spore “Petri Dish” (very limited in nature)
- water purity test – better home inspectors will offer several different types of water testing, and packages
- well flow test
- septic load and dye testing
- lead in paint test
- lead in water test
- asbestos sampling (asbestos can be found in many common building materials such as insulation, floor covering, roof shingles, ceiling tiles etc. this is a good to do if extensive remodeling will be done on older homes.
- indoor air quality evaluation and testing, allergens, pet dander, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) etc. (these tests are best performed with air pumps or bulk sampling kits)
- Sick House Syndrome evaluation and testing
- Electromagnetic Frequency (EMFs)evaluation and testing (this is not a common service but sometimes needed for homes near high voltage power lines)
Questions on Scheduling the Home Inspection
- Do you schedule inspections on the weekends?
- Can you accommodate my schedule? Try to schedule when you can attend the entire home inspection if at all possible, even if you have to take a half day off work. You will get more out of it, and the inspector may do a better job.
- Could I meet you for an evening inspection after I get off work?
Some Final Words
Prioritize Inspector Qualifications. Keep in mind that being friendly and personable and even a good communicator are actually pretty low on the importance of home inspector qualifications. Experience, attention to detail and good report writing are by far the most important factors. Looking at the home inspection report alone can also reveal attention to detail and experience to a pretty good degree.
A good home inspector will also ask you a few questions. Before I do an inspection I questions to help me understand how I can best serve my clients needs. I will ask questions during the inspection customize my service to their specific needs. I will help them to help determine if it may be in their best interest to have an added test or inspection performed beyond the basic inspection standards of practice such as a mold test, or well flow, water purity or some other test. My goal is always to provide the best service I can.
Your home is a major investment. Whether you intend to stay in it forever or plan to move someday, chances are good that you will spend the next several years in your new home. Why not take the time up front using these tips and questions to help you hire the best home inspector you can find and get a quality home inspection and report. This will give you peace of mind and help ensure you won’t come across any unexpected surprises down the road?
Hiring an experienced home inspector is the best way to ensure your questions and concerns can be addressed. Not every inspector has the experience to give you good ideas and solutions. Many offer no comments or recommendations at all, they simply are not knowledgeable enough. This is where a properly experienced inspector can be invaluable. What I like most is helping new home owners to have peace of mind.
“Everyone knows that home ownership is the American Dream. That dream can quickly become a nightmare, however, for uninformed buyers (or buyers with careless inspectors). Even newly constructed homes can harbor costly mistakes – mistakes that may not be visible to the untrained eye.” from “Inspect before you Invest” article on finetuning.com
“Tips and Questions for Interviewing Home Inspectors”
Is provided by A Best Home Inspection for consumer education. Tom Francis is a licensed New York home inspector with more than 30 years experience and has performed more than 2000 home inspections. If you would like to interview him for a home inspection in central New York, you can contact him at: