Reuben Saltzman

Questions to ask (or not ask) your home inspector before hiring

We frequently get emailed the same series of questions from potential clients of ours. The exact. Same. Questions. I started wondering where people were getting this information, so I did a Google search for questions to ask your home inspector. I found a ton of them, and they were all pretty similar.


I applaud anyone who interviews home inspectors and does their homework, rather than going with the cheapest company. When you hire a cheap inspector, you’ll get a cheap inspection. I’m not shy about saying we charge more than most other home inspectors, yet we still don’t charge enough for our inspections.

Okay, I’m getting sidetracked. Rather than taking the time to answer all of these questions every time one of our more motivated shoppers sends us an email, I’m being proactive about it. I’ve compiled a bunch of questions that various websites recommend you ask your home inspector, and I’ve included some commentary on why this is or isn’t a good question in italics. Then, I gave my own answer to the question.

Can I see a sample home inspection report?

My two cents: Reviewing a home inspection report is the single-greatest way to compare home inspectors. This is the best thing to ask for. Take the time to actually read the sample report; don’t just gloss over it. Nowadays, almost all home inspection reports are filled with photos; this doesn’t equate to a good report. A good report typically has three components to every issue; what it is, why it matters, and what to do about it. Recommendations for further evaluation should be kept to a bare minimum. 

Our answer: Fo sho. We’re proud of our reports; see our sample home inspection report.

How do you define major problems?

My two cents: This is a useless question to ask. How does this help a buyer choose a home inspector? Maybe people are afraid we’ll ignore stuff that isn’t a major problem?

Our answer: If I had to give a short and sweet answer, I’d say anything over $500. This isn’t a great question, however, because what’s major to us might not be major to the client, and vice-versa. At the beginning of our home inspection reports, we have a list of the priority items. These vary from report to report. And we report on a TON of maintenance and information in our reports; we don’t just gloss over that stuff.

Negotiations After The Inspection

I’ve told my inspectors to decide on priority items like this: your sister is buying the house, and you have 30 seconds to tell her what you found. What will you say? Smoke alarms are important life safety devices, but will this affect her decision to purchase the home? No way. This information isn’t a priority item, as important as it may be. The priority items are the big things.

For some examples of priority items we might include, please check out this document, “Negotiations After the Inspection.”

What training and experience do you have?

My two cents: With all other things equal, the more, the better. However, more training and experience don’t guarantee a better home inspection. I participate in many online discussion forums, attend national conferences, and attend monthly home inspector meetings. There are countless experienced inspectors who have been doing things wrong for a long time.

Our answer: We have an internal training program for our inspectors, which typically lasts four to six months. The average inspector on our team has been with us for six and a half years! And no, I’m not including myself or my dad in this calculation; if I did, the average would go up to nine and a half years.

Can I come to the inspection?

My two cents: This is an excellent question. You can learn a ton about your new house by being there.

Our answer: Yes, we encourage our clients to attend the inspection, usually for the last hour.

Do you carry professional liability insurance?

My two cents: I know many home inspectors who will simply say “good day, please find someone else” when asked this question. Asking your home inspector for proof of insurance is not a great way to start off a relationship, but I understand that many of my clients simply ask this question because someone told them to ask. 

Our answer: Yes, we’re professionals. We carry professional liability insurance.

Do you stand behind the report, or is there a clause limiting your liability to the amount of the inspection fee?

My two cents: See my note about the previous question. When someone starts out with a question like this, I think, “Why? Are you looking for someone to sue?”

This is not a good question because you’ll get the same answer from everyone. This is also a poorly worded question because it implies that if an inspector limits their liability, they’re not standing behind their report. For the relatively small fee that a home inspector charges in relation to the price of the house, it doesn’t make sense to offer unlimited liability. I don’t know any inspector who does. While our vision is a perfect inspection every time, we’re all human. We will never catch everything. 

Our answer: Yes, for the love of love, we limit our liability to the amount of the inspection fee. This is standard for home inspection contracts. We omitted this for a short period of time several years ago, and the attorney for our insurance company just about came unglued.

Have you ever written a report that caused a buyer to walk away from a sale?

My two cents: I can’t imagine any home inspector ever saying “no” to this question. This isn’t a great question to ask.

Our answer: Yes, we’ve written many reports that have caused buyers to walk away from sales. In fact, my company has unfairly been called “deal killers” by some real estate agents who don’t appreciate the level of detail we provide in our reports.

Do you have any training/experience/certifications specifically related to being an inspector?

My two cents: A much better question is whether or not your home inspector has passed the National Home Inspector Exam. This exam is used for licensing in nearly every licensed home inspection state.

Our answer: At a minimum, all of our inspectors are members of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and have passed the National Home Inspector Exam.

Do you have references?

My two cents: Don’t ask this question. Anyone can provide references, but do you really want them? They’ll be hand-picked. This question might have made sense ten years ago when Angie’s List was the only game in town. Today, we have things like Google and Yelp, and Angi is now free. Look for reviews there instead. The inspector has no control over those online reviews.

Our answer:  Of course. We’ll provide whatever you need.

More Questions

For more home inspection Q&A related to our company, please check out our FAQ page.

No responses to “Questions to ask (or not ask) your home inspector before hiring”

  1. Doug Barker
    March 13, 2018, 9:39 am

    Hi Reuben, good article! Thank you for your insights!

    I’m not sure why asking about an inspector’s liability insurance is out of bounds. I ask this question to all professionals working on my home, because here in Atlanta where I live 1) some people are not insured, and 2) I’m potentially liable if they injure themselves while working on my property.
    Isn’t asking about that coverage part of doing your “due diligence?”

  2. Reuben Saltzman
    March 13, 2018, 12:36 pm

    Hi Doug,

    I personally don’t have a problem with that question. A lot of home inspectors just seem to assume that this question means you have a sue-happy client.

  3. Steve Pedersen
    March 16, 2018, 9:44 am


    I always enjoy and learn from your articles. Keep’em coming.

    Mr. Barker is correct in that anyone who enters on someone else’s property to perform any type of work, should, if requested, have their general liability insurance company provide a certificate of insurance to the home owner to insure they have liability insurance, in the event of an accident of some sort. Sounds like you do. The term you use, professional liability, means something a little different to me, as a licensed MN real estate broker. Most reputable real estate brokerages carry general liability insurance and errors and omissions insurance (malpractice) Btw, neither are required by real estate license law in MN). I wasn’t sure if you were saying that you carry general liability insurance and E and O insurance, or just general liability insurance. I understand most inspectors, in their contracts, do limit their liability, to the cost of the inspection, but I have encountered inspectors in the Twin Cities who do carry E and O insurance. One inspector mentioned to me that he pays about $30.00 per inspection to his E and O insurance company and if the client has an issue with the inspection (inspector missed something), he informs them to contact his insurance company and they take care of the rest. Should a buyer or buyer’s agent be asking about these types of insurance that the inspector carries? I would be interested in your thoughts on this.


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