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  • Writer's pictureTim Wiley

WaPo Article: How to select an inspector for a home you’re buying

An excellent article outlining what is important and what to expect.

The Washington Post article is available here:

I absolutely agree with the main points made in this article. Unfortunately, you will probably need a subscription to be able to read it. However, I will outline the article and add my perspectives.

Here is a very quick high level summary of the WaPo article:

  • Price should not be the deciding factor

  • Check your inspector’s credentials

  • Get a sample report

  • Select an inspector that encourages you to shadow them

In a future post, I will add to these points. But for now, let me expand on what the article calls out from my professional experience.

You are doing yourself a great disservice if you shop on price alone. The old adage “you get what you pay for” is especially true in the service industries. Another old adage is that “time is money”. So the price you are quoted is likely aligned with the amount of time the inspector spends on your home and on the report. The lower the price, the less detailed the inspection and report will be. Also keep in mind that newly minted home inspectors that are just starting out often have very low price points. That great low price you got may also come with a very inexperienced inspector. In general, the time spent on the home inspection aligns with the size of the home, the age of the home, and the cost of the home inspection. An older home takes more time, and thus may cost more, due to the higher number of issues uncovered that must be documented. You should expect an inspection to take about 3 to 4 hours for a 3,000 square foot home. A reasonable price for a home that size is around $600. Any less time or significantly less money and I can almost guarantee corners are being cut somewhere.

All home inspectors must be licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The license is good for two years after which it must be renewed. Additionally, the inspector must have the New Residential Structures (NRS) Virginia certification if they are inspecting new construction. The instructor must earn the minimum Continuing Education credits set by the state to meet the biannual relicensing and recertification. Home Inspector licenses are managed by the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR – pronounced “dee-pore”). I strongly encourage you to lookup any prospective home inspector’s license, verify NRS certification, and search for any disciplinary action. You may be surprised by what you find. A very popular home inspector in Northern Virginia was recently heavily fined and had his license suspended for claiming to be, and acting as, a structural engineer. He had not earned an engineering degree or passed the Professional Engineer (PE) licensure exam. This is roughly equivalent to acting as a physician without having an MD or medical license. It is beyond me how he avoided jail time and did not have his license revoked for defrauding the public and putting them in danger.

DPOR License lookup:

Disciplinary lookup:

An example report of an actual inspection the home inspector as performed is the best tool to showcase their level of detail, experience, and professionalism. Most of the reputable inspectors out there have these available on their websites, and they should have additional examples available on request. Look for an extensive use of photographs in the report to document the issues found. But look to see that the photos are relevant. I saw one report that had 6 photographs of the roof with no issues called out. I guess the inspector was just really proud he got on the roof. I recommend comparing the reports from several inspectors against each other. The report quality and detail is probably the most important criteria in selecting an inspector. But be sure to check their Google & Yelp reviews and ask for references as well. You want someone who is very customer-service oriented with good interpersonal skills.

The best inspectors will ask you to follow them or shadow them during the inspection. They want you to see how thorough they are being and to also be able to explain systems and operation you may not be aware of. They will point out issues and explain why they are an issue. This will help you understand the report that much better when you receive it. And they should encourage you to ask questions during the inspection. Unfortunately, some inspectors are trying to cram three inspections in one day. These inspectors often do not welcome questions as it increases the time spent on the home inspection and may make them late for their next appointment. I only perform one inspection per day for just this reason. My emphasis is on quality, not quantity.

The most important point is that quality, not price, should be your focus. Buying a new home is probably one of the most important purchasing decisions you will make. This is not the time to go cheap. I hope my overview on these points is of use to you and helps you to obtain a professional and dedicated inspector. Look for more tips on selecting a home inspector in the future.

© 2019 Tim Wiley All Rights Reserved

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