The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

How to select an inspector for a home you’re buying

A home buyer should request sample reports from inspectors before hiring one to see if they provide a satisfactory level of detail. (iStock)

A professional home inspection helps home buyers learn about the condition of a property before making a purchase. But not all home inspectors are created equal.

We asked Kathleen Kuhn, president and CEO of HouseMaster, a home inspection company, to share her insights into how consumers can pick a home inspector who will do the best job.

“Consumers often only ask for information about the fees; however price should not be the deciding factor,” Kuhn wrote in an email. “Saving a few dollars on a home inspection could cost you thousands down the road. Consumers should inspect the inspector when shopping for a home inspector.”

Kuhn points out that many states require a form of licensing or registration for a person to perform home inspections.

Don’t count on home sellers disclosing all defects. Why you need to hire your own inspector.

“These requirements are a good place to start, but there is no guarantee that the inspector is competent or is staying current,” wrote Kuhn. “Consumers should make sure that a home inspector has access to ongoing technical support and is tested every year — not just during initial licensing — to ensure they stay up-to-date on inspecting conditions in a home.”

Home inspectors provide a report to buyers after the inspection. The report quality and features within it are also crucial to a good inspection, wrote Kuhn. Buyers can request sample reports from inspectors before they hire them to see the level of detail they can expect.

“Technology has played a big role in enhancing the home inspection experience, but consumers need to be sure they are working with a home inspector who has embraced these improvements,” wrote Kuhn. “Home buyers should ensure the inspector they hire includes digital images in their reports and offers a repair list generator feature, which is a feature that allows a consumer to pull needed repairs directly from the report and populate a list of repairs to submit to the home seller as part of their negotiations.”

In addition, Kuhn offers a simple but important tip:

“Choose a home inspector who encourages you to go along on the inspection,” she wrote. “Your home inspection should be an opportunity to learn about the house directly from the home inspector, which includes getting a firsthand look at any conditions or concerns identified. Asking questions on the spot can clarify parts of an inspection that may be confusing or concerning. If your home inspector insists on working alone, you should consider hiring another home inspector.”