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Would you call a retail store and ask “How much do you charge for a TV?” Probably not. You’d have to do research and decide what you want to buy before asking for prices.

One of the toughest calls that I get as a home inspector is “What do you charge for a home inspection?”

Home buyers often ask me this because they’re trying to find the inspector that offers the best deal. When buyers are only concerned with the price of a home inspection, they have already made an assumption that all home inspectors offer the same thing, and they assume they’re comparing apples to apples. This just isn’t true.

Here are a few key things to research before deciding on a home inspector, and to help make sure you’re making a fair comparison when it comes down to price. This is all information that home inspectors typically list on their web site (yes, I’m assuming they have a web site).

  • Find out how long they’ve been in business.
  • Read client testimonials. Are they from clients or real estate agents? Do they have testimonials from three delighted clients, or thirty?
  • Read about their qualifications and experience. Look out for clever wording like “10 years of industry experience.” This doesn’t equate to 10 years of “Home Inspection” experience.
  • Most importantly, view a sample inspection report. If there isn’t one available or you need to send the inspector an email to request one, it’s probably for good reason. Home Inspectors that are proud of their reports practically want to push the report in to your lap. Here’s an example of a home inspection report.

When reviewing a sample report, there is much more to look for than just photos and illustrations. Watch out for useless report writing that is designed to cover the home inspector’s butt, not yours. A bad report would contain a lot of phrases like “This was observed, recommend further evaluation and correction by a licensed blah blah blah”.  With this type of writing, you could easily have an inspection report that recommends a dozen additional inspections.   If further inspections are needed, that’s fine, but these recommendations should never be made lightly, because additional inspections require more time and money.

When I first started inspecting, I was told by a home inspection instructor that this was the best way to write a report. As I’ve written more and more reports over the years, I’ve come to realize that home inspection schools teach this style only to protect the inspector. This doesn’t provide a service for the client.  A good home inspection report will clearly state the problem, explain the significance of the problem if it’s not obvious, and will give a recommended course of action.

When picking out a home inspector, spend some time researching inspectors, even if you receive three different names of inspectors from your real estate agent. Many agents give out three names because they don’t want to assume liability if their client isn’t happy with the inspection, not because they have three companies that do great work. For more tips on finding an inspector online, read this post by one of my favorite bloggers: How Hard Can It Be to Find a Good Home Inspector?

After you’ve decided on an inspector, book the inspection. If you’ve narrowed it down to two inspectors and you need a tiebreaker, go with price.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections, Minneapolis, Minn., is a second-generation ASHI Certified Inspector whose experience with home remodeling and construction began at age four when he helped his father steam wallpaper. He has worked for Structure Tech since 1997 and joined ASHI in 2004. Visit his blog at www.structuretech1.com/blog/.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

About the Author

Reuben’s experience with home remodeling and construction began at age four when he helped his father Neil steam wallpaper, and continued from there. Reuben has worked for as a home inspector Structure Tech in St. Louis Park, MN, since it was purchased by Neil in 1997. Reuben has an A.A. degree in liberal arts and has attended several Building Inspection Technology classes at North Hennepin Community College.

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