It’s summer in Western New York, and that means it’s a busy home buying season! You might be actively looking to purchase a home for the first time here in the Buffalo, NY area, or maybe you’re at the beginning of the real estate journey and want to plan ahead.
Either way, you’ve got lots of decisions to make when it comes to selecting a real estate agent, a real estate attorney, mortgage broker and insurance company. But don’t forget about taking the time to research and choose the best home inspector for your needs.
The purpose behind writing this article was to provide helpful information for home buyers, their families and friends. Things tend to get a little crazy and overwhelming after an offer is made for a home here in Western NY. The last thing you want to do is be forced into a position where you have to call 15 home inspectors only to find one who can be on time and accommodate your schedule.
So without further ado, let’s look at some of the considerations when it comes to finding the best home inspector in Buffalo, Hamburg, Amherst, Lancaster or in any of WNY’s towns.
Make sure they are licensed home inspectors
New York state law requires that inspections of all single-family homes, up to 4-unit investment properties, are conducted by licensed home inspectors. The single exception to this is state-licensed professional engineers may conduct home inspections.
Contrary to what some real estate agents may believe, there’s no allowance in the law for a “construction guy” to walk through a house and perform a home inspection.
You can easily check the license status of any home inspector via this NY State search tool.
Look for a professional home inspector
There are hundreds of licensed home inspectors in Western NY counties, including Erie and Cattaraugus county, but it might be a surprise that many of them inspect houses on a part-time basis, or only rarely. It’s in your best interest to only consider full-fledged home inspection businesses. Full-time home inspectors tend to be more invested in their success, have inspected more homes than part-timers and are more up-to-date on best practices.
Ask to see a sample home inspection report
In the Buffalo area, there are quite a few home inspection companies that still produce home inspection reports that appear to come from the 1980s. Some of these reports are unbelievably still written with paper checklists, others hand over a binder when the inspection is over, and others don’t even include photos in the report.
Serious home inspectors should take pride in their reports, and should make them available on request so that you can decide it’s right for you. Here at Alto Home Inspection LLC we produce reports that include clear, color photos to help you understand the condition of your future home. We use complete sentences when describing problems, and have a strong focus on clear communication.
In my opinion, an inspection report that contains less than 30-ish pages of information is too short.
Make sure that you can attend the home inspection
I’ve heard from many clients that some home inspectors don’t want buyers to be present during the home inspection. I’ve tried to understand why some home inspectors have this position, and I so far can’t make any sense of it.
I’ve even read on Facebook groups that some home inspectors only “allow” their home buyer clients to join them for the final 15 minutes of the inspection! This doesn’t make sense at all.
Most home buyers want to attend their home inspections, for several reasons. I think the most important reason is so that they can have time to discuss the condition of the home with the home inspector, and view any problems in person.
Attending the home inspection isn’t always easy for home buyers, but if a home inspector doesn’t allow you to do so, then I’d be concerned.
Read reviews about home inspectors
Reviews left for Buffalo home inspectors are one of the best ways to get a good feel for a home inspector’s approach. We take the time to ask each of our clients if they would like to leave a review, and we personally respond to every one. We are very proud of these testimonials, and we’ve built our business on them. Reading reviews left on Google and Facebook is a good way to start your research into home inspection companies near Buffalo.
Ask friends and family for recommendations
A successful home inspection company should have a strong network of past clients who regularly refer new homebuyers. Talk to friends, coworkers and family members who they used for their most recent home inspection.
Don’t hire the cheapest home inspector
Occasionally we receive calls asking about pricing for our home inspection services. Most often, these callers are shopping around for the best price, which generally is a terrible idea. Why is this a bad idea? The fact is that there are lots of cheap home inspectors in Western NY.
Like with any business, it’s probably best to avoid the lowest price out there. It takes training, time and tools to conduct a quality home inspection, and in my opinion a low price should be a warning sign.
It also is often a bad idea to hire the most expensive home inspector. My advice is to base your decision on the quality of their reviews, their professionalism and the quality of the home inspection and report.
Ask about the inspector’s background and qualifications
Generally, home inspectors in Western NY are required to attend 140 hours of training, take a proctored exam and then get an insurance policy. Beyond those qualifications, there are a variety of personality types, backgrounds and qualifications to be found.
Years of experience, number of home inspected, continuing education and professional background all come into play. There isn’t one ideal background for a home inspector, although it seems that construction people tend to have a large representation in our area. My background is actually in a highly technical area of information technology. This background has equipped me with the skills to identify problems and risks with homes, clearly document them in a professional manner, and discuss the findings with my clients.
Keep in mind that home inspections are broad examinations of the visual and readily accessible areas of a house, condo, townhome or multi-family structure. Someone with a detail-oriented background in technology is probably better equipped to document these conditions and explain them in an approachable way.
One word of caution is to investigate some of the credentials presented by home inspectors. Sometimes the various badges used in marketing materials, on websites and elsewhere are fairly thin on requirements.
Find out of they are a BBB Accredited home inspection company
The Better Business Bureau is a non-profit organization that in their words has “for over 100 years, BBB has helped consumers and businesses make smarter decisions”. One way that they help consumers make smarter decisions is by validating business licenses and details.
For businesses that meet the requirements, they may be designated as s BBB Accredited Business. Alto Home Inspection, LLC happens to be a BBB Accredited home inspection company.
Make sure the inspector will be available after the inspection to answer questions
Buying a house is a major investment, which goes without saying. Make sure that the home inspector will be available to speak on the phone in the days following the inspection. Sometimes major issues are found during the inspection, and you as the buyer may need a few days to think through what that means. It’s natural that you will want the inspector to be available after the inspection.
Find out when the inspection report will be available
Modern home inspection software that’s used by the best home inspectors allows the report to be ready within hours. But many home inspectors don’t operate this way, and NY state law actually requires only that the report is delivered to the client within 5 days of the inspection!
Ask your home inspector how they produce the report, and when it will be ready. A few tips:
1. The report should be ready the same day or early the next morning
2. The report should include photos alongside descriptions of various problems.
3. The report should be sent via email. In my opinion, printed reports are slow and waste paper.
Try to hire an independent home inspector
Many home buyers find home inspectors through their real estate agents. This makes sense in some ways, but if a home inspector gains most of their business through a small number of agents, there’s opportunity for a bias to form.
An independent home inspector is one who is solely focussed on the interests of their client, the home buyer. It’s OK if a home inspector was referred to you by an agent, but keep in mind that there’s an opportunity for the inspector to be less picky when it comes to the home’s condition.
Ask what parts of the home they inspect
Home inspectors in NY state are required to inspect and report on a fairly broad set of components in the home, but there’s room for interpretation in the state regulations. By asking home inspectors what they will inspect, you’ll have the opportunity to hear directly from them how they go about the inspection. Most inspectors also will forgo reporting on the maintenance items, or on components that are still functional yet wearing out.
The general parts of a home that should be inspected are:
- Gutters and downspouts
- Decks and Patios
- Grounds and grading of land near house
- Windows and doors
- Electrical service entrance, breakers, wiring, outlets, switches, fans and lights
- Plumbing, including bathrooms, toilets, showers, bathtubs and sinks
- Walls, floors, ceilings
- Attic, including structure
- Basement or crawlspace, focussing on structural components such as the foundation and supports
Ask what they won’t inspect
Some home inspectors refuse to inspect areas that are difficult to access. We’ve heard that some inspectors refuse to enter any crawlspace, and shy away from attics. These are important areas to inspect, and unless there’s a legitimate reason for excluding them (such as very low clearances, they should alway be accessed).
Frequently asked questions about picking a home inspector
What’s the best way to vet a home inspector?
Make sure they are NY state licensed home inspectors, are fully insured, and are members of a quality home inspector association. I happen to be a member of ASHI, and my background has been checked by them. One of the best ways to find an excellent home inspector is to read their reviews.
What are some “red flags” when it comes to picking a home inspector?
If most of their business comes from real estate agent referrals, it might be concerning. Additional concerns in my opinion would be part-time inspectors and those who charge less than $300 per inspection.
Other red flags include the inability to pay via credit card, taking longer than 24 hours to publish the inspection report, and an unprofessional demeanor.
What types of backgrounds are best suited for home inspectors?
Generally, a home inspector should have an inquisitive mind, a logical way of thinking and technical aptitude. Excellent customer service and interpersonal skills are also good traits to have, since a huge part of a home inspection involves communicating clearly with home buyers.
What additional services should home inspectors offer?
Keeping in mind that not every home inspection company provides the same services, a good list to start would be mold assessments and inspections, thermal imaging, moisture investigations and radon testing.
What payment methods do most home inspectors offer?
Since it’s 2021 and not 1983, I would expect a home inspector to accept payment in the form of credit card, check and cash. It’s also best when home inspectors offer online payments (as Alto Home Inspection LLC does).
How long should a home inspection last?
The duration of a home inspection of course depends on a few factors – the square footage of a home, the age and number of rooms. The experience level of the home inspector is also a factor, and the method that the inspector uses to generate their report. I’ve heard of inspectors taking over four hours
What parts of a house are most important when it comes to a buyer’s home inspection?
Generally the “big money” items are of the most concern. For example, a big defect with a home’s foundation could become a giant money pit if not caught early enough. The electrical system is also a biggy, since issues with wiring can be dangerous for a home’s occupants. And of course the roof can be expensive to replace or repair, so that should be a focus area.
What should you expect after scheduling a home inspection?
A modern home inspection company should utilize email and text messaging to communicate with buyers and real estate agents. Ideally, a confirmation email should be sent from a scheduling system, which would provide a way to electronically sign a pre-inspection agreement. There should also be reminders as the inspection time approaches, and the home inspection report should be sent out on the same day or next as the inspection.