The sale of a home can be a complex process. In the midst of offers, counteroffers, financing, and personal interactions, the home inspection can become an overlooked piece of the real estate transaction. Moreover, the choice of home inspector can be disregarded altogether. But given the stakes, it’s important for real estate agents to make sure they are working with the right partner.
If the inspector misses an issue with the house, it could cause a delay or cancellation of the sale. Even if the sale goes to completion, a missed detail could come up later, jeopardizing the agent’s relationship with the client for future work or referrals.
Conversely, an unnecessarily alarming inspector might scare a potential buyer away from a basically-sound property.
A good home inspection partner must walk the narrow line between disclosing major issues and being so detailed that the inspection report might jeopardize the sale.
Because buyers typically look to their real estate agent to recommend a home inspector, it’s important that the agent finds the right partner.
The need for home inspectors is growing steadily. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be 10 percent more home inspector jobs by 2026. While that may be good news for the home inspection industry, it will make it even more difficult for agents to choose a partner that has the right skills and experience. To complicate matters even more, while a few states and localities have licensing requirements for home inspectors, the vast majority do not.
With such loose requirements for inspectors in many parts of the country, home inspections can be very subjective which makes it difficult to determine who has the best qualifications.
Experienced home inspector Adam McCarty of Rightway Home Inspections Inc. in Des Moines, Iowa explains, “If you ask 10 different inspectors to look at the same house, each report is going to be slightly different”.
McCarty offers the following tips to real estate agents for choosing the right home inspection partner.
- Look at the inspector’s experience. The last thing you want is an inspector that has little to no knowledge beyond satisfying their certification requirements. A good inspector will come from a construction or building trade background. Many have worked as construction foremen, electricians, or plumbers before training to be a building inspector.
- Ask about professional memberships. Find out if the inspector is a member of any professional organizations like ASHI, NAHI or InterNACHI. These groups have training and certification requirements that go over and above any local and state requirements.
- Ask for a sample report. A good way to know what you’ll be getting is to look at a sample of the inspector’s work in the form of a sample inspection report. A sample report can show the depth of the inspector’s thoroughness and indicate possible red flags prior to them speaking with a home buyer directly.
- Pick a good communicator. The best inspectors must balance their duty to disclose potential issues without being alarmist and potentially jeopardizing the sale. Good listening skills, a calm demeanor, and a focus on customer satisfaction can go a long way to ease the inspection process.
- Inquire about ancillary inspections and services. Some home inspectors offer additional inspection services such as infrared (IR) thermal inspections, sewer inspections, and radon inspections. In addition, some offer value-added services to buyers after the home sale such as periodic “spot check” inspections and maintenance tracking. Offering these types of “above and beyond” services is a good indicator that the home inspector is experienced and committed to their business.
McCarty offers a final piece of advice for agents, “Go with the one that cares and looks at the house as if it were his own.”
By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll be much better prepared to find the right home inspector partner to recommend to your home buyer clients.
Philipp Lomboy is a Los Angeles-based writer covering business, leadership, and innovation. He is also a podcast host and author of the bestselling books "The 5-Star Formula" and "Bodybuilders in Tutus and 35 Other Obscure Business-Boosting Observations". His work has been seen on BusinessWeek.com, USAToday.com, and CNN.com.