Home & Garden

Ask Angie: What to look for when choosing a home inspector

Angie Hicks
Angie Hicks MCT

Dear Angie: My son is getting ready to buy his first home. What advice can you offer about what to look for when choosing a home inspector? — Debbie K., Glen Burnie, Md.

Answer: Your son's purchase probably will be one of the biggest investments he'll ever make, so getting a quality home inspection is really important.

A qualified inspector is going to look over the entire structure and gauge its stability and potential hazards.

Your son should pick an inspector who has the proper training and credentials, and has favorable reviews from clients on consumer review sites like Angie's List. He should ask to see proof of state certification or proof of membership in a national organization such as the National Association of Home Inspectors, or NAHI; the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors, or American Society of Home Inspectors, or ASHI.

NAHI and ASHI require a minimum of 250 inspections for certification. Industry professionals agree that the ideal inspector has at least three to five years' experience and has performed at least 1,000 inspections.

Your son also should ask to see proof of licensing if his state requires home inspectors to be licensed. Maryland, for example, has required home inspectors to be licensed since 2008.

Kentucky also requires home inspectors to be licensed.

He also should check that the inspector carries liability insurance, and errors and omission insurance, which protects the inspector and your son if a major problem with the house goes undetected and the inspector is found accountable for the oversight.

A good home inspector will charge several hundred dollars — the costs will vary depending on the size and age of the home — and typically takes three to four hours to perform the inspection. The inspector should look at the structure, roof, heating and cooling system, plumbing and the electrical system, and provide a detailed report of his or her findings.

Your son doesn't have to be present for the inspection, but I always suggest this so he and the inspector can discuss the findings and potential issues as they go along. Plus, this will help familiarize your son with how the home works and where everything is.

Few houses are perfect, so your son should expect some issues to be found. He should not hesitate to ask the inspector follow-up questions after receiving the report.

A good home inspection can be beneficial in more ways than one. With the housing market still weak, your son can use the home inspection not only to verify the condition of the house but to negotiate the price down to cover the necessary repairs or to have those repairs made as a condition of the sale.