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You’ve been looking for a new home for months.  You’ve spent weekends going to open houses.  You’ve worn down your real estate agent through dozens of showings, but you finally found the right place and the seller has accepted your offer.  Now you’re ready for the last step before signing the purchase and sale agreement – hiring a professional home inspector.

Regardless of whether you go with your agent’s recommendation or search the vast resources of the web, once you narrow the field there are a few things to bear in mind.

Since 2001 all home inspectors in Massachusetts have been required to be licensed.  Holding a home inspector license requires that the inspector be insured and that he receive at least 12 hours of continuing education every two years.

There are several professional organizations for home inspectors including ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) and InterNACHI.  Membership and/or certification through one of these groups typically indicates the inspector is engaged in his profession and is keeping current.  It’s a good idea to check the organization’s website to see if the inspector is active and in good standing.

Some home inspectors hold certifications in specialty areas such as radon testing, termite inspections, water testing or mold testing.  Each certification generally comes with its own requirements including additional ongoing education.  Check out my Certifications by clicking on the link.  Some inspectors offer these ancillary services but may not be certified.

In today’s internet-driven society an increasing number of people are reading and writing reviews on everything from restaurants to professional services.  While there’s still nothing quite like a personal reference from a friend, relative or real estate agent, reading reviews might help you feel confident in the choice you’ve made to hire a particular home inspector.  Click on these links to read my reviews on Yelp, Google or my Testimonials page.

If possible, try to have a brief chat with the inspector up front.  Some offices have administrative staff, spouses or call centers that answer the phone and book appointments.  That’s normal.  Jot down the important stuff and then ask if the inspector could call you back and answer a few quick questions.  Ask the inspector how long his inspections generally last, whether or not he includes pictures in the report and how the report will be delivered.  Within a couple minutes you can get a pretty good idea if this is the type of person you would want to work with on your new home.

Finally, be wary of letting price dictate your choice.  Some inspectors charge less and try to perform 2 or even 3 inspections in a day.  They will get through the inspection in 1 ½ or maybe 2 hours and then hustle to get to the next appointment.  Others charge a little more, take a bit longer and may only do one inspection each day.  Your home inspection may be the best opportunity you’ll ever get to ask questions in the presence of a professional.  Buying a new home is big decision and may be one of the largest investments you will make in your lifetime.  Spend some time, do some research and choose your home inspector carefully.  As Robert Burton, a 16th century English scholar, once opined, “Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish.”