How to Inspect an Inspector

Many calls I receive are from people “shopping” for a home inspection. Often their first, and sometimes their only, question is, “How much will the inspection cost?” As with all purchases, price is a consideration, but whether you are buying shoes or a home inspection, there are other factors that should be given equal – or even greater – consideration when making this decision. To assist those shopping for a home inspection, I’ve compiled a list of important questions that any reputable home inspector should be ready, willing and able to answer without hesitation. I hope you find it helpful.
Mike Stephans, Owner, 3-D Home Inspection

1.  What is covered, and what isn’t, in your home inspection?
An inspector should be able to clearly and quickly explain the areas covered in an inspection, and ensure that the inspection and resulting report will meet all applicable state requirements as well as comply with a well-recognized Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics from the state or other reputable association.  If there are any areas you want to make sure are inspected, be sure to identify them upfront.  Keep in mind that the following areas are generally not covered in a standard inspection:  mold, asbestos, indoor air or water quality, well & septic, kitchen / laundry appliances, home performance inspections/testing.  Ask if these extra inspection services are available, and at what additional cost.

2.   How long have you been a licensed home inspector/been in business, how many inspections have you performed, and is this a full- or part-time job?
In addition to this statistical information, an inspector should be able to provide references from either past clients and/or Realtor® colleagues. Such information can often be found on the inspector’s web site as well.  Keep in mind that newer or part-time inspectors can be very qualified, and many work with a partner or have access to more experienced inspectors to assist them in the inspection.

3.  Do you have specific training and experience in residential inspection?
While experience in construction or engineering is helpful, it is not a substitute for training and experience in the unique discipline of home inspection. Be sure to ask the same question when seeking an inspection of a commercial property, as many inspectors possess this expertise as well.

4.   How long will the inspection take?
The average on-site inspection time for a single inspector is two-to-three hours for a typical single-family house.  Anything significantly less may not be enough time to perform a thorough inspection. Of course, larger properties or multiple buildings will require more time, and possibly more than one inspector to complete the job.

5.  Will I be able to attend the inspection?
The inspector should always encourage you to attend the inspection. This is a valuable educational opportunity, and an inspector's refusal to allow this should raise a red flag. Never pass up this opportunity to see your prospective home through the eyes of an expert.

6.  What type of report do you provide and when will I get it?
Ask to see samples reports to determine whether you can understand the inspector's reporting style. Make sure the inspection and report can be completed within the time parameters of your contract. Most inspectors provide their full report electronically within one business day of the inspection.

7.  Do you maintain membership in a professional home inspector association?
There are many state and national associations for home inspectors. If an inspector references such membership, ask for the organization’s web site to learn more about it and verify the inspector’s membership.

8.  Do you participate in continuing education programs to keep your expertise up to date?
State licensing requires a minimum number of continuing education hours per year, and the inspector’s commitment to meeting or exceeding that requirement is a good measure of his or her professionalism and service to the consumer. Ask the inspector about such training, as well as any additional certifications or other specialized credentials.

9.  Will I be able to contact you after the inspection with any questions? Should a problem or claim arise, how will you handle that?
A reputable independent inspector will be available to answer your post-inspection questions, and will deal with you directly should any concerns or claims arise. Ask whether the inspector will return to the house at no charge to reevaluate the condition if there is a problem. If the inspector is part of a larger company or franchise, be sure to ascertain in advance whether you will deal directly with the inspector or a customer service representative or salesperson from the company.

10.  Are you licensed in the State of Illinois?
Licensing is required to perform home inspections in the State of Illinois. Relicensing occurs every two years, following completion of required continuing education. To verify an inspector’s status, go to, and click on “License Look-up” on the left menu. Then in the “Choose a Profession” field click on either “Home Inspector” or “Home Inspector Entity.

11.  Can I hire you to do the repairs or improvements your report recommends?
Some inspector associations and state regulations allow the inspector to perform repair work on problems uncovered in the inspection, while others strictly forbid this as a conflict of interest.

12.  Do you pay to have your name on an inspection referral list?
Likewise, this is allowed per some associations and state regulations, while others forbid this practice, looking upon it as a way to “buy” inspections rather than earning them through training and experience.

13. How much will it cost?
Finally – the big question! Costs vary dramatically, depending on the region, size and age of the house, scope of services and other factors. Be aware, also, that HUD does not regulate home inspection fees.
A typical range might be $300-$600, but no matter the cost, consider the value of the home inspection in terms of the investment you are making. Likewise, cost does not necessarily reflect quality, which is why you should ask about more than just the price.

Remember, these and any other of your questions should be answered without hesitation by a licensed, reputable home inspector. Use those answers to make an informed decision about the person who will help you as you make one of your largest and most important purchases.

For my answers to these questions, please call me at 630-392-4278. I look forward to hearing from you!

Mike Stephans
3-D Home Inspection, Inc.