It might seem smart and convenient to use the home inspector your real estate agent recommends. After all, you trust your agent (hopefully), and they’ve probably seen it all when it comes to home inspections — whether it’s on homes for sale in Columbia, SC, or Santa Fe, NM.
But there are also a few reasons choosing the home inspector suggested by your real estate agent might not be a great idea — especially if you’ve noticed some less than scrupulous behavior from your agent throughout your house-hunting process. But if you do decide to hire the inspector recommended by your agent, here are a few red flags to look for.
1. Conflict of interest
A home inspector recommended by your agent may pose a conflict of interest. You have a vested interest in a detailed report on the condition of your potential new home, while the inspector may feel a vested interest in helping your agent close the sale. While it’s unlikely they would do anything less than aboveboard and risk losing their certification, the waters can get a bit muddied when the agent is involved in the inspector/buyer relationship.
2. Who’s the client?
The inspector is paid by and works solely for you, the buyer — in theory. However, if the inspector and agent have a strong work history, their relationship may feel more like a partnership, leaving you as the secondmost important party in this venture. The inspection is your big opportunity to understand the good, the bad, and the ugly about your new home. It’s critical the inspection not be rushed or come back with less detail than you need to make a decision moving forward. Watch out for red flags, such as if the home inspector references their professional relationship with your real estate agent when refusing to expand upon details on their report.
3. List of three
In many markets across the U.S., it’s typical for real estate agents to provide a list of three inspectors to their buyer clients. Undoubtedly, the chosen home inspectors are professionals who come with many references, but they may also be aware that finding large amounts of inspection issues may threaten their future inclusion on that agent’s list of recommended inspectors.
4. That nagging feeling
Even if your agent’s referral delivers a thorough inspection, you may not be able to shake the feeling that they missed something. If a foundation issue crops up two years down the road, you may wonder if the problem was present at the time of inspection. Even if it wasn’t a factor, it’s likely you’ll never know for sure.
Whether you select a home inspector independently or choose to vet your agent’s recommendation, there are a few details to keep in mind while searching for the perfect professional to fit your needs. Ideally, your inspector will be associated with a professional organization such as the National Association of Home Inspectors or the American Society of Home Inspectors. These two organizations educate home inspectors and also require them to meet specific standards while adhering to a code of ethics — a win for everyone.
Once you have identified some viable choices, carefully look over their websites not only for their background and expertise, but for their references as well. It’s also useful to take note of the kind of homes they typically inspect. If your pending contract is for a fixer-upper Victorian with knob-and-tube wiring, it’s probably best to skip an inspector who specializes in new-construction condominiums.
There’s not much cost variance within the inspection marketplace — saving $75 on your home inspection probably isn’t worth sacrificing your peace of mind. Nor is it ideal to settle on a recommendation if you don’t feel comfortable doing so. When you’re purchasing something as expensive as a home, it’s best to make the extra effort and choose a home inspector who gives you confidence.
How do you select a home inspector? Share your tips and experiences in the comments below!