Find a Home Inspector

Finding a Qualified Home Inspector is Not Always Easy

home inspector walking through empty house
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Getting a home inspection completed by a home inspector as a routine practice has only taken hold in the real estate industry since the early 1990s. Before then, it was almost unheard of to call a home inspector when buying a home. A few smart buyers would consider hiring a home inspector, especially if there was something that aroused suspicions but, for the most part, home buyers basically believed a home inspection was a waste of money, money that could be used for something more important like an appraisal.

It is interesting how attitudes change. Much of the turnabout regarding home inspections can be attributed to the increasing number of lawsuits filed over unknown defects, which home buyers later discovered. Real estate agents quickly learned that they (and their brokers) could be named in a lawsuit for failing to advise a buyer to obtain a home inspection prior to closing. Almost overnight, home inspections became common part of the real estate transaction.

Sellers typically are required to disclose any known defects or material facts to a buyer. Proving that a seller willfully refused to disclose or held back detrimental yet pertinent information can sometimes be a challenge. Situations exist in which a buyer might believe a seller absolutely had to know about a defect and, it's quite possible the seller had no knowledge. Those situations don't arise as often anymore since the advent of expected home inspections.

In some states, a home inspection does not relieve the real estate agents from a duty to disclose and to conduct a visual inspection. California is such a state. The 1984 Easton Decision, Easton v. Strassburger, addressed whether an agent is required to disclose information that the agent should have discovered through reasonable diligence by walking the property and conducting the agent's own inspection. This is a reason that today all real state agents in California are expected to complete and submit an Agent Visual Inspection.

Real estate agents are not required to look under area rugs, poke around in attics or whip out a magnifying glass to inspect cracks. We also do not perform pest inspections. We are expected in California to point out defects and anything odd that would put us on notice a larger problem could be lurking. I will go so far as to tell a buyer that I have not looked over the fence, and the buyer should look over the fence. We agents can get into trouble for what we don't say more than for what we do.

We truly and honestly want the buyer to receive as much information as possible about the property, and that includes a thorough home inspection. Not only is it absolutely imperative for a buyer to know what the buyer is buying, but a home inspection helps to satisfy a disclosure, although it does not take the place of an agent's own inspection. If a home inspector does a bad job or does not disclose, that hurts the buyer and reflects poorly on the agents and everybody involved. You do not want to hire a bad home inspector.

Sometimes buyers are reluctant to hire a home inspector the agent recommends because maybe they don't trust their real estate agent, and they might believe an agent would mislead them by referring an incompetent home inspector, when little is further from the truth. The more thorough job a home inspector performs, the less liability to the agent.

Here are a few places you can look to find a home inspector:

1. Ask for a list of reputable home inspectors from your real estate agent. Agents see all kinds of home inspections and generally prefer to work only with reputable and well qualified home inspectors. Don't be shy, ask the inspector how many homes he or she inspects in a year.

2. Ask a friend who has recently purchased a home for a referral to his or her home inspector. If a buyer felt a home inspector was helpful and delivered a good understanding of a property's condition in simple terms, that might be a home inspector you would also like.

3. Do a search in Google or your favorite search engine for top home inspectors in your neighborhood. Then check out the home inspector's website. Don't be fooled by bells and whistles on pretty websites. Look for the home inspector's blog. Many blog about their experiences and you can pick up a home inspector's personality from a blog.

4. Find a home inspector through a trade association. There are several national trade associations for home inspectors, and some require annual continuing education. Below are two places to start:

When you find a home inspector you think is a possible candidate for you, ask to see a sample copy of a report. It should be 20 pages or more and comprehensive, not one or two pages. Also, ask if the home inspector is licensed and the type of license. Not every states requires licensing of home inspectors.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, CalBRE #00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.