Like many home buyers, you may be under the impression that you don't need to worry about finding a home inspector until your in contract. This couldn't be further from the truth. If you have already decided to buy a home, you should already be researching and interviewing home inspectors. If you don't find an inspector before your in contract you may be stuck with your real estate agents three "preferred" home inspectors and deciding which one to use with a game of rock-paper-scissors. This is never a good situation! Here is some helpful information to consider when looking for the best home inspector.
Choosing between realtor-dependent and realtor-independent
Realtor-dependent inspectors have built their business on referrals from real estate agents. How they get these referrals is a topic for another day. Most inspectors understand this relationship creates a potential conflict of interest but are unwilling to stop for fear of their business failing. Many feel compelled to assist the real estate agent in closing with the hopes of gaining future referrals. The result is a "soft" inspection and report offering little value to the home buyer who depends on it for financial protection.
Realtor-Independent inspectors don't depend on real estate agent referrals for business. Without an interest in the sale of the property, pleasing the realtor, or future referrals, the independent inspector is able to inspect and report freely, without reservation, on the true condition of the home your buying.
Licensing and Certification
If your State requires home inspectors to be licensed, it would be a good idea to verify any inspector your considering. In Ohio, unfortunately, there is no licensing for home inspectors. However, all home inspectors should be certified through an association like InterNACHI or ASHI. Both association websites offer an inspector search to help you verify the inspectors certification. If you decide to use an independent inspector, you can verify their membership with the Independent Home Inspectors of North America (IHINA).
Don't be afraid to ask questions
There is nothing wrong with asking an inspector about their experience. Generally, a good home inspector will have years of experience in residential construction and building science. It's OK to get personal too. Ask an inspector their age, height, weight, and overall physical condition. An inspector who is to old, overweight, or just plain out of shape may have a difficult time climbing a tall ladder or fitting into an attic or crawlspace.
Remember, you are the one making a huge financial decision when you purchase a home. You need someone on your side who doesn't have a financial interest in the home sale. Hiring a "real" independent home inspector is one way to protect your investment.