In every industry, there are always those who are really good and really bad, and most of the time we just hope to end up somewhere towards the upper range. My industry is not different, except for the fact that in my state we are regulated (Thank God) and in other states, they are not so much, which makes it easier to eliminate some of the bad “inspectors”. Yet, even despite this, because someone is certified doesn’t mean that they have any idea what they are doing. I’m going to outline several tips below, to avoid choosing a bad inspector.
Can anyone be a Home Inspector?
Check the credentials. In our state, you simply have to pass the National Exam. Now, in all fairness, I’m a college graduate and currently a graduate student, I’ve served in the Navy and I hold not only a Home Inspector license but also a Home Builder license and a real estate license as well, so when I tell you that this was the hardest exam I’ve ever taken, I’m not lying. Yet even still, if you dedicate enough time to something you can pass nearly anything. The key here is hiring someone with a building or contracting (HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical) background, not the guy who used to be an accountant (yep, we have those around here) or who have no construction experience (we have those too). Would you hire someone to INSPECT something that they haven’t even built before?
Should you Hire an Engineer?
I’ll probably catch some slack over this but don’t rush out and find the first engineer who is an inspector and have them do all of your inspections for you. For starters, I would see if the engineer has ever moved from “designing” to “doing”. See the thing here is that framing the walls, and taking a class on framing the walls, is different. The engineer likely couldn’t build his way out of a wet paper sack. Lastly (and this is my favorite), when you are operating as a home inspector, guess what you can’t do? Function in any other role! That means if I’m an engineer, and I see a large crack in your foundation, guess what I can do? Absolutely nothing. Except what every other inspector does: write it up and recommend further evaluation by a licensed engineer! And in the state of Alabama you cannot touch that house for several years in any type of construction or repair way if you did the inspection!
These are the guys that inspect on Saturday and Sunday only because they have real jobs during the week. I’m not knocking those getting started, but this business is one that requires time invested with clients and for that reason, we do everything we can to schedule around the client’s time and not simply our own. When was the last time you saw a Realtor make $1M in commissions who only worked weekends? Hire someone who eats, sleeps, and breathes this business. Or, someone who just does it as a full-time gig.
Hire someone who has a good reputation and that has at least several hundred inspections under their belt. We all have to start somewhere, but in truth, there are so many things that can be missed that you don’t want that taking place on your house! Experience is important (though too much leads to complacency) and not enough is dangerous. There has to be a middle ground that suits everyone the best.
To be truthful here, I’m 27 years old and there is not another inspector in my state who is in as good of shape. That’s not to say that I’m the most athletic inspector (or am I?) as if that were a thing, but that you have to be able to get skinny to get in crawl spaces, sometimes JUMP to get into attics, and sometimes run up the side of the roof to get to the top. If you can’t do those things, then you need to offer a steep discount on price because those areas are going to need to be observed by someone who can.
Don’t forget to look at YouTube videos, Facebook pages, websites, review sites, past clients, Realtors that use them, etc. There are plenty of ways to check to see that you have a winner before you waste money and time with someone who should be doing accounting or something else that they do during their 9-5.
Spencer Brothers, CPI
Sterling Home Inspection, LLC