How do I find a home inspector? A good buyer's agent?

girlndocsMarch 12, 2009

Hi all,

We're finally gearing up to buy. There are months to go yet but I want to know what I'm doing.

I know that I want an absolute pitbull of a home inspector. How do I go about finding one? I don't know anyone who's used one recently. What's the best way to find the good HIs without going through the phone book one name at a time? What questions should I ask them if I do go through the phone book?

Same with a buyers' agent. I don't know yet if we're going to use one, but if we do, how do we find one who matches what we want and will do a great job? Don't know anyone who's used one.



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I'm very excited for you! There are lots of things you must seriously consider, of course, and it sounds like you are on the right track.

I had a buyer's agent, and I am glad I did have one. The house that I did buy had a listing agent that was VERY unprofessional and would do anything to sell the house. However, DO NOT, and I repeat, DO NOT, put all your faith into a buyer's agent. Make sure you do alot of your own homework and question everything. At the end of the day, any agent - buyers or sellers - are looking at accomplishing one thing: to sell you a home.

Absolutely DO NOT use any inspector the buyer's agent or listing agent, or anyone that has a stockhold in selling you a property. Find your own. I hired one that was highly recommended from my trusted buyer's agent, and he screwed up royally. Missed so much...$20K worth of things that should have easily been found. But, he was working with her to make the sale go through. And inspectors are not that worried about reprecussion of a bad inspection...the most they could ever get is a little slap on the wrist and to refund your inspection cost back. Surely not enough to cover damages that should have been found.

Home inspectors DO NOT move anything. So this is what you should do yourself: look under area rugs for trouble, move the curtains to see the windows better, move the refrigerator to see what is lurking beneath (in my case it was a rotten floor), ask to see the house after it rains, etc. Go in yourself with a flashlight and look into every corner. Better yet, take knowledgable friends and family with you. Specifically have these questions asked and answered: when was the electric updated and where? when was the plumbing updated and where? how old is the septic system? How old is the roof? Also make sure you get the water tested. VERY important, especially if you have well water.

Another very good thing to do is to go to the town hall and see what permits were pulled for work done on the house. See what was done professionally. Big things count: roof, septic, electric, plumbing, and installation of a furnace. Make sure you have the chimneys checked as well (not doing so cost me $4,000 to have them updated as they were caved in and I waived the chimney inspection).

Don't think the ASHI organization is the pinnacle of excellence in finding a great home inspector either - that is used mostly for advertising so HI's can say they are part of some national organization where their credentials are checked. The take a test once, pass, and that's it.

Find your HI through friend's recommendation. Interview several yourself. After all, YOU are hiring them to do a job.

As far as a buyer's agent, do the same thing: interview a few, ask alot of questions. You are basically giving them a listing on a potential sale. So, you have every right to check them out to see if they really do have your best interests at heart. So do, many do not. Remember, they want a sale, period.

Good luck, Kristen, take your time, and ask, ask, ask questions galore to find the right people. They are out there, it just takes some digging.

Best to you!!!

    Bookmark   March 12, 2009 at 8:50PM
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Good advice from clover8.

Here are a few more pieces of advice:

1. Ask your attorney for a referral.

2. If your state licenses HI's make sure you choose one with a license that is in good standing (the licensing board can tell you this).

3. A good responsible HI will carry errors and omissions insurance...even if it is not required by law. This provides recourse to you should he make a mistake (General liability only covers the HI if he damages something during the inspection.) Check to make sure the insurance is in effect.

4. Ask how long the inspection will take. Average house should take at minimum 2.50 hours.

5. Get a copy of the pre-inspection agreement before you hire so you know what the inspection covers and what it does not cover.

6. Home inspections DO NOT include inspections of testing for mold, wood destroying insects (termites and such), radon, well, septic, underground oil tanks, etc.

7. Theses are additional services. If offered make certain that the HI has the proper license if required and/or certifications, education, training and experience in these disciplines.

8. Dont fall for a same day report. It is the least informative and benefits the HI only as he can cram more inspections into a day.

9. Look for a narrative report with digital pictures of deficienciesÂabout the specific houseÂnot just a bunch of boiler plate about houses in general.

10. Ask for 3 references from about a year ago.

This wonÂt guarantee an excellent inspectionÂ..but it will give you the best possible chance of getting one.

Best wishes.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2009 at 11:41AM
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Thank you both.

About 5 years ago, we thought (wrongly as it turned out) we were in a position to buy, and did make an offer on one house. The agent we were working with provided a home inspector, and I bet you can guess how that turned out -- the inspection supposedly went "just fine", but when the bank appraiser took a look at the house she found massive damage to a beam under the bathroom that reduced the house's value to half of the price we offered! So definitely: never again. Only a HI *we* pick.

The specific suggestions were very helpful, both the ones about looking under rugs and everything, and the ones about what to ask a HI. Thankfully, most of the homes available in our price range seem to be vacant already, that should simplify things.

Does anyone have experience with a GOOD HI or buyers' agent they found without having friends or family to ask for referrals? The only people I know who would have referrals are my inlaws, and their referrals I don't want -- their house is a total lemon.



    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 5:06PM
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"Home inspectors DO NOT move anything"

Clover, you mean YOUR inspector didn't move anything. Any inspector worth the salt on his brow will move things like storage items to do a worthwhile job. Refrigerators, well that may be asking alot.

Inspectors get sued and pay for stuff they miss all the time. The largest US national INSPECTion co. paid out at least a couple hundred thousand in claims last year.

The inspection fee limit of liability may not be enforceable in your state.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 9:37PM
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Agreed. But it is an important point since they write in their contracts that they are not responsible for anything that can't see and are not required to move anything. My inspector was completely incompetent, and obviously only looking to hook my agent up with a green light so she could get the sale.

I'm bitter, yes, but it was an important lesson that I hope to pass on to other novices in home buying.

Honestly, I don't know how some of these home inspectors sleep at night. And they should get sued if the situation warrants. They have the ability to make or break a deal, and if they are turning a favor for an agent, obviously they are far from caring about the potential home owner's best interests.

I don't expect a home inspector to move a frig, but for Pete's sake, take a flashlight, bend down, and look under it.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 8:16PM
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van356: "Inspectors get sued and pay for stuff they miss all the time. The largest US national INSPECTion co. paid out at least a couple hundred thousand in claims last year."

IMO, that has more to do with not performing a thorough inspection of what IS inspected than it has to do with not moving things.

That said...last I checked, US Inspect was one of those inspection firms that advocates the same day report. All the better to cram more inspections into the day. Hardly a good example.

Minimal info to the client via quickie reports generally equals more lawsuits.

Enough said.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 12:01AM
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I just attended a home inspection last week with a firm that generated a same day report.
I have been around several home inspections in my life and this one was by far the most extensive, thorough, and useful inspection I have ever witnessed.
The entire inspection on a 1160 sq.ft. home took just under three hours.

So in my experience software is merely a tool and as with any other tool it is more the person using it that determines the quality of the inspection.
We found the photos and arrows indicating issues to be most helpful in understanding the findings.
We went over the initial findings on site and were able to discuss everything we wanted to discuss, then received our completed report later that night.

It was a million times better than the clearly computer generated wall of text I got from an inspection back in '07.
I was quite impressed with the entire thing and feel confident that it was thorough.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2012 at 6:43AM
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If you are looking for a buyer's agent, attend some open houses and talk to the agents there. As for inspectors, in my office, we give people a list to choose from for a place to start. It is up to them to call and choose, and we disclose we are not guaranteeing their work. We have had MANY inspectors kill deals for us!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2012 at 2:07PM
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As an agent, I refer home inspectors all the time. I have had people prefer to get their own but most of the time they take my recommendation. What I have noticed over the years is, its a gamble. I have seen people come with lousy home inspectors that say the most amazing things and don't inspect things that my recommended inspectors include in their inspection, I have also had people come with excellent inspectors who I then begin referring to new buyers.

When your " trusted" agent refers ANYONE to you, its because they have experience with that particular person and know they do a good job. (mortgage broker, inspector, pest inspector, stager etc).

When I have a client that I feel is untrusting, i don't recommend anyone. I tell them to talk to friends and family and use who they are comfortable with. The people I refer, are the same ones I use when I purchase my own properties.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 2:52PM
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