I have out-of-state family who are in the process of buying a new home. I told them I'd find a good home inspector in their area, assuming I would already know someone in their area from an online discussion group or from ActiveRain. No such luck. Oh well... the search begins.
At first, my search for a home inspector started out kind of fun, a little like searching for a house. It was easy for me to weed out home inspectors, but I actually ended up weeding out way too many. I was left with no one, for one reason or another.
I found several themes on home inspector web sites. The 'basic' web sites were all extremely similar - it was "Hire me because:"
- A home is probably the largest investment you will ever make. Blah blah blah (and now, stop talking). Why do so many home inspectors need to tell people this? If someone is shopping for a home inspector, they're probably already sold on the idea of a home inspection.
- I'll give you peace of mind. I'd rather find someone who will give me the straight story, even if the information doesn't give me peace of mind.
- I abide by [insert association]'s Standards of Practice. So does everyone else.
- I'm licensed. Gee, lets hope so if your state requires it.
- I'm independent. You mean the real estate agent doesn't pay you off to ignore defects? I suppose that's good...
- I charge less than my competition. I assume there is a reason for this.
I found many web sites that turned me off right away; these sites had common themes to them.
- Claims to be the best / most detailed / most comprehensive / most thorough / etc. They're making a claim that's impossible to prove. I don't trust this person.
- As many colors and fonts jammed in to one page as possible. This reminds me of a little girl who got in to her mom's make-up bag.
- Claims that their home inspection association (ASHI, NACHI, NAHI, etc) is better than the other associations. Badmouthing other associations or claiming superiority of their association doesn't make them look better; it makes them look petty.
- Warnings about blind home inspectors. I've never met a blind home inspector. I feel as though I'm being talked down to when I hear warnings about unqualified home inspectors, and I'm afraid they're going to talk down to my family members during the inspection. Just tell me about yourself.
The better web sites give more specific information about the home inspector.
- I have these certifications
- I'm a member of this association
- I walk on the roof to inspect it
- I crawl through crawl spaces to inspect them
- I've been in the business for a long time
- I'm thorough, detailed, patient... and many other adjectives.
After looking through enough web sites, it becomes hard to compare all of that. Also, none of this stuff tells me the person is a good home inspector; it just tells me they are qualified to be a good home inspector.
Online presence = bonus points
I didn't exclude any home inspectors from my search just because they didn't engage in social media, but I certainly gave them bonus points for doing so. It helps me learn more about them. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube... all that stuff helps me to learn more about the company.
Of course, I also gave bonus points to home inspectors with active blogs. How could I not?
Online reviews were also nice to see.
...but it all boils down to the report.
For me, it all comes down to the home inspection report. This is the single most important part of deciding on a home inspector for me, because it tells me more about the home inspector than anything else possibly could. I started writing about what I look for in a home inspection report, but it started turning in to a whole new topic. I'll save that for another day.
Unfortunately, many of the inspectors that I decided were the most qualified didn't even have sample inspection reports on their web site. If I had found a home inspector with a good inspection report, I would have recommended them, but I couldn't find one. I got a few referrals from the ASHI online discussion forums, so I contacted the inspectors that were referred, asking for sample inspection reports. You'd think I was asking for social security numbers.
One inspector made me promise not to share the report, even after he removed all of the identifying information, and another refused to let me view a sample report. No joke. The one who sent me a report with no questions asked actually had a very good report, and she's the one I'll end up recommending to my family.
Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections