You’ve trusted your real estate agent’s advice throughout the home-buying process, but should you also rely on her to find a home inspector, too? Your agent likely has a list of thorough and qualified home inspectors, so going with her recommendation is probably a safe bet. But understand that you’re by no means obligated to work with the person your agent recommends.
“Most agents have worked with multiple home inspectors, and they can provide you with a list of recommendations,” says Bruce Elliott, ORRA president and Realtor® in Orlando, FL. “Whether you choose to go with one of the suggested inspectors or opt to find one of your own, it’s important to do research. Take the time to look up reviews online and ask for references.”
Even if you choose to hire the inspector your agent suggests, real estate expert Michele Lerner suggests shopping around to make sure you’re hiring an inspector who charges a reasonable fee.
What does a home inspector do?
The inspection, while not absolutely necessary to get a mortgage, is generally considered one of the most important parts of the home-buying process. The inspector will look for problems with the property you’re considering purchasing. He’ll examine the entirety of the house, including the HVAC, electrical wiring, boiler or water heater, plumbing, roof, foundation, and interior spaces. He’ll also look for evidence of termite damage.
Keep in mind the inspector can look only at what’s out in the open—he won’t be breaking through walls. A good inspector will do a thorough examination of everything visible that could cause problems later on.
Depending on where you live, you’ll hire either an engineer who can examine everything or an inspector who will flag potential issues to be looked at more thoroughly by another professional. Both will provide you with a detailed report afterward to guide your next steps.
If the inspector finds any problems, you and your agent can decide whether to ask the seller fix the problems or provide compensation—or even walk away from the deal altogether if the issue is serious.
Additionally, the inspection is a great time to learn the basics of maintenance for your new home. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and use the opportunity to create a punch list for yourself later. As the inspector is pointing out issues, he’ll help you understand what you need to do after closing to make sure your house is kept in top condition.
“A house doesn’t have a check engine light,” says Frank Lesh, executive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors. “Your inspector will point out things that need to be replaced or repaired in the future.”
Where can you find a home inspector?
To find a home inspector on your own, Lerner recommends asking for recommendations from lenders, contractors, or your potential community’s homeowners association. Two organizations that provide certifications are the National Association of Home Inspectors and the American Society of Home Inspectors; visit their websites for inspectors in your area.
If you need to find an inspector with a particular specialty—for example, someone who specializes in historic homes, radon detection, or lead testing—you can search the ASHI website for specialized inspectors in your area.
“You can also ask friends or colleagues who’ve recently purchased a home—or search sites such as Angie’s List and read reviews online,” says Lerner.
What should you look for in a home inspector?
When you’re interviewing inspectors, ask about their experience, price, and certification. Different states have different requirements, and some are more stringent than others.
You’ll want to check their references and ask for a sample report. After eliminating anyone who isn’t qualified, look for someone whose communication style works for you.
In the end, whether the inspector you hire was your agent’s recommendation or someone you found on your own, the most important thing is that you found someone you trust. After all, buying a house is probably the biggest purchase you’ll ever make; you want to go to closing feeling confident that you’re making the right decision.
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