Like any service, you always get what you pay for. Sometimes it is not the smartest decision to shop price as it would be to shop “competence” and “quality”. Being in the home inspection industry since 1994, I have seen pricing affect one’s decision on many occasions. I do recommend that before you make your final decision, there should be some questions you may want to ask prior to locking in your appointment.
Aside from digging for important answers, I also recommend to do your research to make sure you are really getting what you think you are getting. Anyone can give you the answers you are looking for, but the true test is in the efforts you make to ensure the individual is being truthful. Here are some helpful questions as well as links to enable your research to go smoothly.
Find out how long the company/inspector has been in business. Just because they are licensed in Illinois doesn’t mean you are getting someone qualified to protect you on your biggest investment. I know this from experience since I have interviewed hundreds of Illinois licensed inspectors and found that, while many have text book knowledge, they may not have “practical experience”. This is rather important since a furnace or electrical system on the page of a book looks much different than the real thing. Usually, a former licensed plumber, carpenter, electrician, etc. will have the experience that is more geared towards inspections then, say, someone who is an engineer, architect, entrepreneur, rehabber, etc.
I recommend going to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) to confirm the active license of the inspector and company. In the home inspection industry, you are required to carry two licenses; one for the inspector and one for the entity. If your inspector has an expired license, you could possibly lose your earnest money should you decide to not purchase the home based on the inspector’s findings. Since you signed a purchase agreement and agreed to hire a “licensed” home inspector – legally you could forfeit your money should the seller be able to prove that the home inspection license is not active.
I also recommend going to Better Business Bureau to make sure there are no complaints against the company. It is very common for a poorly qualified company/inspector to have many complaints associated with their name. I wouldn’t recommend hiring a company that has many bad reviews since filing a complaint takes some effort. If a consumer is willing to spend time doing this, they really didn’t like their experience with the company and are using the BBB since they didn’t get their pound of flesh so-to-speak.
I would also suggest that any inspector you do use be a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). When I refer to “member” I am referring to their status and affiliation. ASHI has an “associate” program, but this is not the same. To be an associate, you just simply pay the fees – to be a “member”, you have to complete 250 fee paid inspections without any assistance, pass a rigorous exam, maintain proper Errors and Omissions insurance, and keep up with continuing education requirements. Many companies and inspectors will lie that they are members when they are either “associates” or nothing. To stay protected, go to www.ashi.org and do an inspector and entity look-up prior to hiring your inspector. Should they be a member, you are heading on the right track for quality.
Make sure the inspector gives you an electronic file since emailing is so important these days. Many companies still offer hand written and faxed reports, but this antiquated practice will only cause you grief. I have heard stories about clients or the attorney missing something important due to illegibility.
It is also important to make sure that the inspector/company offers the option of a re-inspect of the items fixed or replaced prior to closing. Don’t trust that the homeowner or repair person did it in a workmanlike manner. For a nominal fee, they should return to make sure things were done correctly and up to code. I also don’t recommend trusting that it was actually done just because the seller provides a receipt. You never know who someone knows or how creative someone could be with their computer.
Last but not least, assess how the process is going with the company you are considering. Did they call you back on time? Were they friendly? Did they offer assistance in helping you make an educated decision? Were they available when you called? These questions are really important because if they are not “rock star” before they get the business, how will they be when you really need them?
No matter what your decision is, I always recommend doing your homework to make a smart choice. An inspection isn’t always an inspection just because someone carries a license there is customer service as well, which is a HUGE part of service.