Need to find a Home Inspector or Appraiser? Bypass your Agent and Locate one on your own

You looked around, talked to friends or acquaintances for recommendations, and found your real estate agent. You should do the same to locate your Appraiser and Home Inspector. It’s really not that hard or time consuming. You can usually find the right one in a matter of an hour or so of research and phone calls.

No matter how honest a real estate agent or broker is, few of them want to see a potential sale go south because of a low appraisal value or a home inspection report full of listed defects. One of the ways is for an agent to recommend an appraiser that will almost guarantee the sale price or a home inspector that isn’t very picky or does a very quick inspection. There are many, many good appraisers and home inspectors out there. However, for those that have an “in” with an agent that recommends them, they may be more than reluctant to give a bad report. No one wants to shoot the goose that lays the golden egg so to speak. An appraiser or inspector will feel a bit of loyalty towards that agent that recommended them, and may not have your interests fully in mind.

One of the ways to avoid this apparent conflict of interest is to find one on your own. There are many sources to locate a good appraiser or inspector. You can start by looking up 3 or more and calling and talking to them. Several sources include the internet, phone book, friends, etc. If you ask your agent for some, make sure it’s a long list and not just a hand picked few.

Have a list of questions handy. Ask about their experience, national or local professional affiliations, etc. Ask for references and/or copies of their work. Find one you feel comfortable with and that you feel you can trust. It’s hard to determine over the phone someone to trust, but if you do your homework and ask the right questions it will greatly increase your odds.

Another issue will be timing. Don’t wait until the last minute to try to find someone. That will reduce your chances of finding the right person, and you’ll end up hiring the first one that can just meet your schedule.

Try not to shop for the lowest bidder! This is probably one of the largest and longest investments you will ever make so this isn’t the time to become thrifty. Find someone in the middle of the road. Those that are low end of the spectrum tend to be either part-timers or very inexperienced. Those on the high end tend to be the more experienced inspectors or appraisers that don’t really want your work unless you are willing to pay through the nose for it and can meet their schedule.

Finding a home inspector or appraiser on your own will help to avoid any conflict of interest with your agent and will almost guarantee that you will have someone working in your own best interest.

Here are a few sources to locate a qualified home inspector.

In Wisconsin

Wisconsin Home Inspector Directory [HTTP://wisconsin-home-inspectors.com]

Wisconsin Appraiser Directory

National sites

NACHI Home Inspector Directory

Home Inspection USA Directory

How to Find and Hire a Competent Home Inspector

Chapter 1: Getting Started and Taking Control

Professional Associations

Before you can even begin to contact and compare home inspection companies, your first goal is to secure a list of likely home inspector candidates from a reliable and trusted source. A good first choice to consider for obtaining a list of names are the nationally recognized associations that many home inspectors belong to. To help you get started, I highly recommend ‘The American Society of Home Inspectors’ (ASHI) and ‘The National Association of Home Inspectors’ (NAHI) not only because both ASHI (founded in 1976) and NAHI (founded later in 1987 by an ASHI member) were the first of their kind but also because they still remain the two most prominent and sought after associations in the home inspection profession today.

The next step is to contact the Association you have chosen to obtain a list of its members within a fifty mile radius of the area where you’re planning to buy a home. For those with online capability, the best way to proceed is to visit the Association’s website to see what they have to offer. If you prefer or have to use the phone, most Associations provide a toll free number you can call in order to speak with someone who can answer your questions and provide you with the information you need. In either case, keep the following points in mind as you begin to build and refine your name list: 1) try to end up with at least six to ten names, 2) always ask for and jot down each inspector’s rank or membership status within the Association including how long they’ve been a member, 3) in some cases you may need to contact more than one Association, and 4) take note that a home inspector may belong to more than one Association.

Referrals From Trusted Sources

Another good source of names to consider are referrals from trusted family members, friends and co-workers you have grown to respect over time, not to mention your attorney. In fact, real estate attorneys are usually very discriminating when it comes to recommending a home inspector who will serve their clients’ best interests, and not the Realtor’s, during the real estate transaction process.

Sources To Exclude

Unless a realtor happens to be in the family or a very close friend with your best interests at heart, all other realtor referrals should be considered suspect and disregarded making sure that none have since found their way onto your list. As for relying upon the phone directory, this is paramount to rolling dice or looking for a needle in a hay stack and is definitely not the way to go about finding a good home inspector!

Candidates And Newbies

As you continue building your name list, you want to be sure to exclude newbie home inspectors. To do this, you have to learn a little bit about an Association’s membership. For example, ASHI has what they refer to as Candidates and Members. By definition, an ASHI Candidate is one who has yet to attain full membership status by satisfying certain criteria as set forth by ASHI. This is significant since Candidates are often newbies to the profession, meaning they are just learning the ropes, and typically have little experience inspecting homes. Given this information, exclude all ASHI Candidates from your list unless you’re willing to hire and pay a home inspector to learn at your expense. In no disrespect to newbies, while all have to start somewhere, there’s no substitute for experience!

Also note I have purposely used ASHI to explain this procedure as I am not familiar with how the other association memberships are structured. Therefore, if any of the names on your list happen to belong to an association other than ASHI, you would be will advised to learn what you can about their membership as well.

State Licensing

Some states require licensing of home inspectors while others do not. If the state in which you’re looking to purchase a home does require licensing, then you need to verify that the inspector is licensed in that state and that their license has not expired so you don’t end up with a worthless home inspection. This information can normally be obtained online as well as over the phone by contacting your local state agency that handles licensing of home inspectors. To find out if your state requires licensing refer to ‘Links’ under table of contents. Incidentally and for what it’s worth, never hire a home inspector based upon licensing alone or you could be in for a rude awakening! More on this later.

General Liability And E&O Insurance

Insurance is somewhat similar to licensing in that the states that require home inspectors to be licensed may/may not also require the home inspector to carry general liability and/or errors and omissions (E&O) insurance. If the state you’re planning to buy a home in requires inspectors to be insured, you should be able to easily verify this along with their license since the state will not ordinarily issue a license to a home inspector who has failed to meet this requirement. It’s also a good idea to ask the inspector to produce a copy of their certificate of insurance before/on the day of the inspection for further verification. Similar to licensing, for states that don’t require home inspectors to carry E&O insurance, never base your final decision to hire a home inspector on insurance alone! More on this later on.

Summary

Secure a list of inspection candidates from a well known and trusted source.

Sources include Professional Associations like ASHI and NAHI, and referrals from trusted family members, friends, co-workers, and your attorney.

Refrain from using Realtor referrals and the phone directory

Exclude ASHI Candidates and all newbie inspectors from your list.

Verify that the home inspector is licensed and insured in your state if so required.

Does Your Home Inspector Have a System

Choosing a home inspector can be a nervous undertaking especially if you have no one to ask so as to get a referral to one. When choosing a home inspector try to find a home inspector that has system to what he or she does.

Most people have heard the horror stories of home inspectors that arrive late, are dressed like they just woke up or recently crawled out from underneath a car, and spend only 45 minutes or so at a house and claim that they are done. Often these inspectors use a sloppy hand written report and still leaves questions. I have read home inspection reports that provide little useful information.

When Habitation Investigation arrives for a home inspection, they arrive a few minutes early and wearing a pair of clean khaki pants, and a clean blue shirt. A tool pouch and computer are carried in to the home and set up in the kitchen where the notes on the home inspection will be entered into the computer and the reporting software. The home is then inspected in a sequence that aids in locating issues such as water leaks.

Habitation Investigation has a system and a sequence to the inspection process. The use of the computer and the report writing software allows for consistency and detail in the comments regarding the inspection findings. The report system also has the areas and systems of the house tabbed to ensure that each area is completed.

My typical home inspection takes 2.5 to 3 hours at the home to complete. After this time I will return to my office to place the digital images taken during the inspection in to the report. This makes the inspection report one of the most detailed around and the easiest to understand.

When searching for a home inspector be sure to select a person or company that has a system to help ensure consistent and high quality inspections. Finding a inspector that uses a computer and takes pictures as part of the inspection report also helps ensure that there is a system to the inspection process. There are several report writing programs available to home inspectors and are all decent. The biggest factor in if your home inspection experience will be positive or negative depends on the home inspector. It takes effort to do a thorough inspection, doing inspections is not a career for the lazy. Look for an inspector that has a good reputation, positive comments and a system to conduct the inspections.