Reuben's Home Inspection Blog

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My Search For A Home Inspector (and my complaints about other web sites)

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.

Home Inspector Search

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.

Blah

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.

Turn-offs

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.

Turn-ons

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

        

Comment balloon 37 commentsReuben Saltzman • December 20 2011 06:14AM

Comments

When my daughter bought her home in Orem, Utah I had a hard time finding anyone to recommend.  They ended up finding someone, and my one-year inspection later found many things that should have been noted on the first one. 

When my son bought his house in the Seattle area I had no problem recommending people to him.  I didn't even have to look at their websites!

While the home purchase is a big expense (not necessarily an investment), the investment that brought me the biggest returns was an adult class for $45 teaching me how to do drywall.  That was one skill growing up I had no experience with.  That $45 made me a lot of money later!

And OF COURSE my website points out that homes are expensive, but then relates that to the minimal cost of doing an inspection!  People often don't think that way...  I DO NOT say that a home is a big "investment..."

The inspection report published on my website CLEARLY states the buyers' names - Roscoe and Lulabell Homebuyer.  They didn't mind their names being used.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Realtors know home inspectiors better than anybody, because over time they deal with so many.  They see the reports both as buyers agent and as sellers agent.  I would have reached out to a few AR agents in that area, and asked them who they would suggest.

Posted by Dianne Goode, Realtor/Broker (Raleigh Cary Realty) over 6 years ago

Jay - it's too bad my family wasn't looking for a home in Northern VA.  I would have had a much easier time finding a good home inspector!  

From about 2000 to 2008, the first line of text on my own web site explained to people that a home inspection was one of the largest investments they'll ever make.  Please don't ask me why.  I don't know.

Dianne - duh!  That seems so incredibly obvious to me now...

 

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 6 years ago

Reuben, excellent post, I agree the sample report really shows how competent the inspector is.

Posted by David Popoff, Realtor®,SRS, Green ~ Fairfield County, Ct (DMK Real Estate ) over 6 years ago

I have a sample report on my web site. Why wouldn't you? Oh yeah, probably because the report the company produces isn't very good. When anyone calls me I always ask, direct them to my sample report. Even then many still go for price. Amazing! 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 6 years ago

If we could clone Reuben, Jay, James, Charles and a few other AR Home Inspectors the world would be a better place. 

Yesterday someone in the real estate world but NOT a home inspector, not a real estate agent.... he's a vendor, not someone that I know, but he does represent an interesting product, so I put him in a Google+ circle when he put me in a circle.....  Anyway although his company sells a product nationally  I now know  he lives in the Twin Cities.  He shared something from a local newspaper and when I clicked to it, it was Reuben Saltzman.

 

Posted by Maureen McCabe, Columbus Ohio Real Estate (HER Realtors) over 6 years ago

Reuben, all that I can say is "Exactly!" :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 6 years ago

Well I think your family member should have flown you out to inspect the home....easiest choice and the best at the same time!

Posted by Shar Sitter, Home Staging and Redesign Minneapolis/ St. Paul, M (Rooms With Style) over 6 years ago

Reuben, should I be a little worried that you are "turned on" by certain Home Inspection sites ;-)

jk, I know that I have only added a home inspector to my preferred list after spending some time talking to him (so far there are no "her"s).  To stay on my list, requires a little more.

I value knowledge, accreditation, throroughness, good "bed-side" manner (including promptness) and a detailed report.

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) over 6 years ago

David - thanks.  Now I have to write a follow-up on inspection reports.

James -  same here.  Whenever people ask about price, I first warn them that I'm probably the most expensive inspector they're going to call; this gets people curious.  I tell them to compare my inspection report to any of my competitors, and they'll quickly understand why I charge more.  This has been very effective for me.

Maureen - You said it!  I was able to get onboard with the local newspaper as a local blogger.  I post three blog entries a week, and I've had very positive feedback from it.  

Charles - I tried following your advice on searching for a home inspector online, but I ended up weeding out everyone.  I couldn't completely use your model :)

Shar - that's actually what they wanted to do!  I'm not licensed in their state, so it really wouldn't have been an option.

Chris - LOL!  For real.  

As I'm sure you know, there are very few 'hers' in this industry.  My sister thought she wanted to get in to this industry, but after a few months of mentoring with me and my dad, decided it was too much of a male-dominated field. 

I place a strong amount of value on all those things you mentioned... especially promptness.  I'm so funny about prompness that I usually arrive a half hour early to every inspection, just in case.  If the owners are still home and they're not ready for me yet, I'll sit in my truck and wait.  Better that than be late.   

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 6 years ago

This is a very tough thing.  I belong to several sites for business networking and I know that I have not always been able to find qualified people taht I need

Posted by William Feela, Realtor, Whispering Pines Realty 651-674-5999 No. (WHISPERING PINES REALTY) over 6 years ago

Reuben, I think given the current state of inspectors around the country---unless you get very lucky---any "selection model" that actually works will likely result in a less than successful inspection :)  How is that for cynical?  While there  are lots of good inspectors out there---there just simply are not enough in all areas.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 6 years ago

They're hard to find a real good one. I do know several bad ones though. Dealt with them as well.

Posted by Robert L. Brown, Grand Rapids Real Estate Bellabay Realty, West Mic (www.mrbrownsellsgr.com) over 6 years ago

William - ever tried Angie's List?

Charles - That's not cynical, it's just realistic. I completely agree.   

Robert - me too :)

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 6 years ago

Reaching out to Realtors in that area is probably the best way to start your search. We are the only other professionals around for the inspections and can tell you from experience which ones will do a good job not to mention we are in front of a lot of different inspectors. It's not just about doing a detailed and thorough inspection but it's also about how they discuss the reports with the clients. 

Posted by Raymond Kennedy (Keller Williams Preferred Realty) over 6 years ago

Reuben, you bring up some very interesting points about the websites you visited. Probably things we should all consider changing on our own sites.

Posted by Tammie White, Broker, Franklin TN Homes for Sale (Franklin Homes Realty LLC) over 6 years ago

Reuben, perhaps asking for recommendations from agents you trust might be one of the best methods of finding an inspector in another area as well. I've seen very few inspector web sites that know how to promote themselves. Most inspectors I know work on a referral basis from agents ... few market themselves independently.

Posted by Gabrielle Nemes, 206.300.8421, S King & Pierce County RE Advocate (RE/MAX Select R.E.) over 6 years ago

Boy, I feel your pain. I would hate to have to pick a home inspector in a distant town. I have a couple of really good ones here, but, wow.

You COULD check with a top AR Realtor though, and see who they use. I have more more luck finding good agents on AR, from all over the country.

Posted by Jon Quist, Tucson's BUYERS ONLY Realtor since 1996 (REALTY EXECUTIVES TUCSON ELITE) over 6 years ago

Interesting point. I've never had anyone ever ask me about my report other than if I can e-mail it. I know the report writing software I use has an inspector locator. I usually stear people to Inspectorseek.com as a starting point for an Inspector. But if anyone needs an inspection in Nevada I will gladly share a report.

Posted by Rob Ernst, Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor (Certified Structure Inspector) over 6 years ago

This is a great post that includes info on the different reports, some of which I didn't know about. Thanks for sharing your journey as I will soon need an inspector in a different area.

Posted by Sandy Acevedo, RE/MAX Masters, Inland Empire Homes for Sale (951-290-8588) over 6 years ago

I love your post Reuben, especially how you break down your critique of what constitutes good vs. bad website content for marketing one's business. I'll keep that in mind when I create mine.

I look forward to reading about what to look for in an inspection report :)

Happy Holidays!

Posted by Andrea Lueth, REALTOR - Sugar Land Texas Homes for Sale (The Real Estate Experts) over 6 years ago

Wow, if my family needed to hire a contractor, I would have a tough time finding one for them. Your post does make me re-think how I am perceived when searched. Maybe that's something we should all take a look at for the new year.

Great post Reuben.

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366) over 6 years ago

Reuben - This is so interesting.  Yes, it's never good to just focus on category benefits.  You need to provide a reason to choose you.

Love that you found a woman inspector.  Yay.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 6 years ago

Those of us that know realize that it'snot how splashy the web site is, but who the person is behind it that matters.

Posted by Gabe Sanders, Stuart Florida Real Estate (Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales) over 6 years ago

I love the humor you interjected into this post.  Very nice and your points are spot on.  A lesson to all though on the websites.  So many are just plain ole junky.

Posted by Paula McDonald, Magnolia Realty ~ Granbury, TX 936-203-0279 (Magnolia Realty ~ Granbury) over 6 years ago

Reuben, I hope you need to find an inspector in Bourbonnais Il someday, because I pretty much hit every point you liked in your search. Interesting points all of them and I agree with your observations. 

Posted by Scott Seaton Jr. Bourbonnais Kankakee IL Home Inspector, The Home Inspector With a Heart! (SLS Home Inspections-Bradley Bourbonnais Kankakee Manteno) over 6 years ago
I found the best inspectors don't just present the report, but actually go through the home with the report and and the Client explaining the major points and why certain comments were made. This helps turn a sometimes ovwhelming amount of information into lamen's terms and helps the Client determine if a negative on the report is really a big issue or not and clearly relates the real issues that need immediate attention (if there are any).
Posted by Clint Pater, Re/Max Elk Valley Realty over 6 years ago

Reuben,

I really enjoyed your post. I like the fact that you gave specific details on what you see as a Pro or a Con on those websites. I think that there are very comparable issues with real estate agents, and most websites for that matter.  Thank you very much for being so clear and detailed in your post.

Posted by Bill Cullen (REMAX Absolute Realty Inc.) over 6 years ago

Reuben, if nothing else, I know what to look for when recommending a home inspector now.  Thanks for the details.  I learned a lot from your hard work.  8-)

Posted by Mike Cooper, Your Winchester, VA Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) over 6 years ago

Reuben, i didn't know sample inspection reports were proprietary information. These are the only things you can gauge an inspector by when you don't know anyone in the area. Good points.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA over 6 years ago

Hi Ruben. It really isn't so easy looking up someone "on the internet". Reading through your experience will make me go back and look at my own information so I can avoid at least some of the 'turn-offs'.
Thanks for sharing,
Bruce

 

Posted by Bruce Kunz, REALTOR®, Brick & Howell NJ Homes for Sale (C21 Solid Gold Realty, Brick, NJ, 732-920-2100) over 6 years ago

Reuben -- as noted by so many above, you have done us all a great service by putting this information together in a way we can use in our future research.  It will be interesting to read your sample report blog.

May you and yours have a safe and enjoyable holiday season!

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) over 6 years ago

Rueben:

Your were so thorough in finding an inspector for your family member.  You gave me some things to re-consider about my website.  Nice post.

Posted by Evelyn Kennedy, Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA (Alain Pinel Realtors) over 6 years ago

Raymond - Yeah, Realtors would certainly be an option.  I didn't like the inspector that my family member's Realtor had recommended though.

Tammie - You're right, this info doesn't have to be specific to home inspectors.

Gabrielle - I was really looking for someone who focused on marketing themselves independently.

Jon - I wish I could have found a home inspector here on AR!  What happened to that search feature where you could narrow down professions in a state?

Robert - as I'm sure you already know, "Inspectorseek.com" is a Nachi web site that claims to have "All of the world's best inspectors in one place."   These types of claims annoy me.  An accurate claim would be "All of the Nachi inspectors in one place."

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 6 years ago

Sandy - I hope you can use my experience to help on your search.

Andrea - whenever you create a web site, I suggest you work with someone to professionally design it unless you're really good at that kind of thing.  Lots of people think they are...

Tom - hopefully this will get a few good people to improve their web sites.

Debbie - yeah, what are the odds that it would have been a woman?  About 1 in 100?  :)

Gabe - Definitely.  Another turn-off that I forgot to mention was splashy flash.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 6 years ago

Paula - 'plain ole junky' is a great term for a lot of 'em.

Scott - I just checked out your web site, and you're right!  I do have one piece of advice for you though - fix your sample report link.  It doesn't work.  It might work on your computer, but try it from someone else's.

Clint - agreed.  I would prefer to have the inspector do the entire inspection with my family there.  It's not a requirement, but I think this leads to a better understanding.

Bill - thanks!

Mike - I haven't gotten to the most critical part yet - the report :)

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 6 years ago

Michael - you're completely right.  I don't know why someone would consider their report proprietary information.  

Bruce - good deal, glad this was helpful.

Steven - thanks, and same to you!

Evelyn - thank you.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 6 years ago

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