Buying & Selling Houses

How to Choose the Best Home Inspector

Expertise: Mortgages & Creative Financing, Real Estate Investing Basics
37 Articles Written
researching-ADU

Buying your first property (or any property) can be nerve-wracking, not to mention downright expensive. While it may seem tempting to cut your purchase expenses, resist the urge to skip the home inspection.

Want more articles like this?

Create an account today to get BiggerPocket's best blog articles delivered to your inbox

Sign up for free

Why?

A home inspection helps you identify health, safety, and repair issues that you may need to ask the seller to remedy prior to closing. It can also uncover items you may have to remedy in the future (such as an aging roof, furnace, or water heater). Some items may be incredibly small; however, the inspector’s job is to find out as much information as they can about the property—for you.

Think of the home inspection as an insurance policy. It is a necessary business expense. In some cases, the inspection may just save you from making a costly mistake when purchasing (like when my inspector found that the heating and air duct vents were routed directly into a master shower).

Full transparency, the inspector may not be able to find all issues with a home—leaky pipe in the wall, for instance. However, they normally will find evidence of issues and note them for further investigation.

The inspector follows a checklist. They may suggest additional inspections by other qualified professionals in areas such as:

  • Roof
  • Foundation
  • HVAC
  • Sewer scope (I highly suggest you do this in any home that has clay piping)
  • Plumbing
  • Pest control

Point blank, the inspector is an invaluable part of your purchasing team. So, let’s go over how to find a great inspector and what to do with the inspection report.

How to Find a Great Inspector

A great inspector is worth their weight in gold. You want to find a reputable inspector that is familiar with issues in the homes in your area. Bonus if they are an investor themselves and can give you additional insight on the market as a whole.

Here is how to generate a list of inspectors to reach out to:

  1. Do a web search “home inspectors in [submarket].” Create a shortlist of inspectors and look at their BBB reviews and Yelp reviews.
  2. Look at online forums like BiggerPockets to find inspectors who are active in your area.
  3. Ask your real estate agent and/or property manager for referrals. Get a shortlist of three or four people that they have regularly used.
  4. Ask other investors in your farm area. For most investors, this is an easy team member’s name for them to share (unlike their Realtor or deal finder).

woman looking through rolled up paper suggesting focusing on one thing

How to Vet a Home Inspector

There isn’t a national certification to be a home inspector, and requirements vary state by state. In some states, the requirement to be a home inspector is just 60 hours of education, while in other states it’s 400. Remember, we don’t just want an inspector, we want a “rockstar” inspector. Look for someone who has done more than just a three-day course.

Additionally, you want to find someone you can build a long-term relationship with. I also encourage you to do some homework before calling anyone. In order to save yourself some time, try to find the answers to these questions:

Experience & Qualifications

  1. What kind of certification and training do they have?
  2. What kind of experience do they have in the asset class you are purchasing?
  3. What type of inspections do they do? Single-family, multifamily, etc.
  4. If this is an investment property inspection, are they an investor themselves? I love working with inspectors who are also investors as I can “pick their brain” on the neighborhood and home as an investment.

Location & Service Area

Where do they do the main part of their business? Again we want to find someone who is very familiar with the asset type you are purchasing.

Specialty

  1. What inspections do they do?
  2. More importantly, what will they not inspect?
  3. For a fee, what additional inspections will they arrange for you? Again, here’s a short list of things you might want to add on:
    • Roof
    • Foundation
    • HVAC
    • Sewer scope (I highly suggest you do this in any home that has clay piping)
    • Plumbing
    • Pest control

Timeline

  1. How long does the inspection take?
  2. Can you, your Realtor, your property manager, and your general contractor be present? If this is a rental that you are doing any work on, make sure your contractor overlaps with the inspector at the end of the inspection. The inspector can go over the main issues that need to be corrected and the contractor can make sure to add those to the bid. Additionally, if the contractor sees anything that they would like a second opinion on, the inspector is there.
  3. Are you entering the home only one time, limiting the disruption to any tenants?
  4. How long will it take to produce a report? This is important in case you have to meet an inspection objection deadline for your purchase agreement.

Cost

  1. What do they charge for the main inspection?
  2. What do they charge for add-on inspections?

Scope

Will they send an example of the type of report they do? This is a case where you want more information, not less.

Related: What Investors Should Know About the Home Inspection Process

When to Call a Home Inspector

It’s worthwhile to start the search for an inspector once you are about 90% sure you are going to purchase in a market.

Why? You can actually use the inspection objection clause as a negotiation tool to beat out other buyers. Personally, I’ve won many deals because I know my team can complete the inspection and present a resolution in five days or fewer, so the seller can rest assured I won’t drag out the purchase process.

financials, metrics, real estate, investing

You’ve Obtained the Inspection Report, Now What?

Once you get your report, you should review the findings and act quickly to decide if you are going to proceed with the deal. The last thing a seller wants is to know that the inspection happened and then have to wait days or weeks to figure out if the deal will hold together.

Here are some high-level steps to take once you have your report in your hand.

1. Post-Inspection Review

Have a post-inspection review with the inspector and ask:

  • Do you suggest any additional inspections?
  • What fire, water, health, and safety hazards exist?
  • What should I repair first?
  • What do you think the seller should repair now?
  • What would you do if you were the one buying this property?
  • What else do you see that could go wrong?
  • How much do you think repairs will cost?
  • Will the trees on the property be a hazard down the road?

2. Pass Along Report Findings

Review the report findings with your Realtor, property manager, and contractor to determine whether you want to continue pursuing the deal.

Inspection reports can look really scary sometimes (especially on older homes), so be sure you are engaging with your team to help you sift through the details and determine what is worth taking on and what is a dealbreaker. Unless there is a complete dealbreaker I refuse to handle, I’ll proceed onto the next step of the negotiation process.

3. Determine Who Should Be Responsible for What

Break out the report into what you want to ask the seller to fix and what you want to fix.

Your contractor can help you understand the cost of repairs. Your Realtor can help you come up with the best negotiation strategy with the seller.

4. Present Objection Report to Seller

Provide your inspection objection report to the seller with your Realtor as quickly as possible.

Clearing this due diligence hurdle quickly with the seller will build up an immense amount of goodwill and respect as you move through the purchase phase. Again, I aim to resolve my inspections quickly in five days or less. If I'm asking for no repairs but a large discount, think about providing the inspection report and contractor bid to the seller for substantiation.

5. Expect Negotiations

Be responsive to the seller as they will most likely counteroffer. Before accepting or rejecting their counter, pause and ask the seller this question (if you haven’t already): “What do you need to seal the deal?”

It’s kind of like a Jedi mind trick—the seller should tell you exactly what they need to be comfortable moving forward.

6. Sign Inspection Objection Agreement

Don't forget to sign the inspection objection and/or the inspection resolution agreement. The last thing you want is your hard-earned earnest money disappearing because of a missed deadline or signature.

Related: Rental Property Inspections: 4 Types That Can Save Your Property (and Sanity)

Pulling It All Together

The inspection process can seem incredibly daunting, especially when you get a large report with a lot of “red ink” all over it.

Remember, this report is not only part of your purchase insurance policy (along with the appraisal), but the inspector report can also be a negotiation tool for a far better deal.

Do you have an inspector you love? What sets them apart? 

Share your inspector stories and tips in the comments.

Whitney is a real estate investor and personal finance trainer whose vision is to launch 10,000 families on the path toward financial independence. After purchasing her first rental in 2002, and hi...
Read more
    George Joy from Farmington, New Mexico
    Replied about 1 month ago
    A big thing for me is the inspector's insurance coverage; do they have general liability insurance to protect from incidents occurring during the inspection process and most importantly, do they have insurance to cover errors and omissions? If I'm paying a professional to do a job of work, I would like to think I have some recourse if they fail to do a thorough inspection and miss something they certainly should have noticed.
    Reinaldo Lopez Rental Property Investor
    Replied about 1 month ago
    Joy, Yes, Inspector should or must (depending on the state license) carry General liability and E&O error and omission insurance, there are 2 mayor organisations that covers Home inspectors ASHI and https://www.nachi.org/ check them out they have lots of free information.
    Whitney Hutten Rental Property Investor from Boulder, CO
    Replied about 1 month ago
    Great point, George!
    Ron Steiner from San Francisco Bay Area
    Replied about 1 month ago
    Great article Whitney. I'm into my 13th year as a home inspector. Just a couple things to comment on. See if your inspector is licensed but some states like mine do not license inspectors. In that case make sure that they are certified by one of the several large inspector groups. These groups mandate a standard of practice. Also make sure the inspector is insured both with E&O insurance and on site liability. Lastly, do everything you can to show up at least at the end of the inspection. It's much better to ask questions in person and get a walk through than to rely on reading the report or making a phone call or email.
    Matt McKinney Specialist from Salt Lake City, UT
    Replied about 1 month ago
    My only input would be to include additional sources for reviews. Be wary of the reviews/ranking that you see with both Yelp and BBB. They are both "pay to play" sites, where businesses can pay to get bumped up to the front page. This will be the case with all trades, not just when researching home inspectors. Google, for instance, does not require me to run an ad campaign to show my customer reviews. A good referral is worth its weight in gold. Also, don't try to save $50 and use the cheapest guy in town, it could easily prove to be a $5,000 mistake.
    Whitney Hutten Rental Property Investor from Boulder, CO
    Replied about 1 month ago
    I 100% agree, Matt. Referrals are the best source.
    Reinaldo Lopez Rental Property Investor
    Replied about 1 month ago
    Hi Miss Hutten, like your article a lot very good and informative. I am a property inspector in south Florida and you point all of the mayor point about us. One area I need to correct is there is 2 national accredited organizations that train and govern home/property inspectors they are ASHI and InterNACHI. They are education accredited and have very good training and free education for non members as well. https://www.homeinspector.org/ https://www.nachi.org/
    Mark F. Rental Property Investor from Bergen County, NJ
    Replied about 1 month ago
    Wasnt overly thrilled with my last home inspector my realtor recommended. He missed a couple things and didnt use a drone but did give me a military discount. Next rental I'm trying a company I've seen that has amazing reviews.
    R. Mark Shreffler
    Replied about 1 month ago
    Help us out a little Mark F. I don't really see the point of a drone in a building inspection. Unless you see roof damage, what value does it bring? Thanks buddy.