Deciding which home to buy is one of the most important decisions you'll make in your lifetime. It's certainly the most costly purchasing decision you'll ever make. Therefore, it goes without saying that you need a professional inspector to inspect the home you are thinking of purchasing before you close on the deal.
First of all, make sure the inspector is licensed. All home inspectors in Tennessee are required to be licensed. Also, ask the inspector if they are properly insured. Tennessee also requires that all inspectors have liability insurance coverage as well as errors and omissions coverage. Imagine hiring Joe Blow off the street to go into your attic looking for structural problems and water leaks, and your unlicensed, non-professional falls through the ceiling to the floor below. Think of how much money that type of accident could cost. As a licensed home inspector for Tennessee I always carry insurance coverage as required by law.
One simple tip for finding a qualified inspector is to check out their website. If the inspector's website is difficult to read, then his report will likely be difficult to read as well. Quality Home Inspections reports list a quick, easy to read summary of defects at the top of every inspection report, before listing the defects in the report below with further details and photos.
The law also requires that you be given a contract to spell out what is inspected and not inspected and what the costs are. At the home inspection, or before, you should be presented with a pre-inspection agreement. Here's the one Quality Home Inspections uses.
You may be asking yourself how can I trust what an inspector finds. Number one, when choosing a home inspector, realize that a home inspector gets paid their inspection fee at the time of the inspection, so the inspector gets paid whether you buy the home or not. This protects you as well as the inspector as it limits the temptation for the inspector to give you an overly positive report that tones down the defects found in order for the inspector to get paid. Obviously, you want a realistic report as well and one that doesn't blow defects found out of proportion.
Be aware that if your realtor chooses the inspector for you, there is the possibility that the inspector could feel some obligation to the realtor, especially if the realtor regularly chooses that inspector. This opens the door to the possibility that the inspector could hold back, perhaps subconsciously in order to preserve his professional relationship with the realtor. This isn't to say realtors are necessarily going to choose an inspector that is in their back pocket, but as Ronald Reagan once said, "Trust but verify." On the other hand, realtors do have experience working with inspectors and their opinion is valuable in that regard. A good strategy for choosing a good inspector may be choosing your inspector through research on the net, then asking your realtor if they have heard anything negative about the inspector, such as issues with missing major defects or failing to supply their clients with reports in a timely manner.
When interviewing a home inspector, ask what methods they use. For example, do they climb on the roof, or do they only do a visual inspection from the ground? How much trouble do they go to, to find defects for you? As a home inspector, I climb the roof whenever possible, except when there are safety issues such as steep climbs or the roof is easily seen from the ground. I also use a powerful zoom camera that allows me to bring the roof to my line of sight and produces high definition photos that I can observe in detail from my personal computer where I can zoom in on smaller details. It's important to note in the report, exactly what the inspector saw or didn't see. Was he able to see the entire roof for example? If parts of the roof were hidden from view that should be in your inspection report.
Is the inspector able to climb into attics and crawlspaces? Obviously, it may be a little awkward asking a home inspector on the phone whether they are physically able to get into tight places, but, keep in mind, the further your inspector can go, the more likely your home inspection report doesn't leave out any major defects that you need to know about.
Beware of inspectors that are in too much of a hurry to get done. An inspector in too much of rush may be more likely to miss something of great importance. Obviously, time is limited in an inspection. On average a home inspection lasts anywhere from 2-4 hours. It's important that your inspector take their time and pay close attention to details. It's also important, as time is limited, that your inspector gets to the task at hand in an orderly and professional manner.
Originally posted at http://tnqualityhomeinspections.com/tips/home_inspector.htm by Tim Frady Home Inspector for Quality Home Inspections of East TN. http://tnqualityhomeinspections.com/