Not all home inspection services are created equal. Given the critical nature of this process, as a house hunter, you should be aware of what a sound inspection provides, and ask questions accordingly.

Price should not be the ultimate determinant of which inspection company or inspector you choose, whether you're a first-time buyer or a move-up shopper. The fact that you're buying a place in a recently constructed building may make it less likely an inspector will find serious defects or structural issues, but that's no reason to view condo & townhome inspections as any less important.

Some of the questions worth asking, regardless of circumstances, include the following:

  • Is the inspector bonded and insured? You may be surprised how many inspectors are not insured, meaning that if they are injured on the job they could sue the current owner or new buyer, strapping the property with an untimely lien. There are other reasons you want your inspector to be insured, but guarding against a costly holdup near closing is chief among them.
  • Are repairs offered in addition to inspection services? You may be inclined to seek both home inspection services and advice from a general contractor in an effort to streamline the process. But that approach can backfire, as each offering is approached from different perspectives and points of expertise. If your inspector can offer repair work in addition to their initial assessment, that may be a way to save time, but you'll want to explore all options and gather a feel for their experience level with the type of work that is needed. Remember that there's an important distinction between necessary repairs and cosmetic or otherwise optional upgrades - and at closing time, the latter may need to be postponed.
  • What about references? As with exploring options for any other service, it's wise to do your research in the interest of finding a reputable inspector. You may be seeking someone with a certain specialty, such as in the case of a condo purchase, and that preference will guide your search. In any event, consider customer references with the proper perspective and bear in mind what exactly you need to gain from the service.
  • Can I receive full disclosure? Red flags should fly if an inspector declines your request to either see a sample inspection report or to accompany them while they examine the home. The former is fairly standard protocol, while the latter may seem like a more high-maintenance request. Don't feel bad about either, though. This is your purchase - one of the most important you'll ever make - and you're entitled to peace of mind through whatever means you deem necessary.