With home sales through the roof during the COVID-19 pandemic, home inspectors are in high demand, since their work is a critical step in the purchase process. Only a thorough, professional inspection of the home’s physical structure and mechanical condition, from roof to foundation, can uncover the issues you’ll need to watch for as a homeowner and potentially discuss with the seller.

Home inspectors may be architects, structural engineers or building contractors. They may receive training or certification from a professional association. While structural engineers must be licensed by the state in which they operate, home inspectors themselves are not federally regulated, and state regulations vary.

In Missouri, home inspectors do not require a license or training, though structural engineers and other professional engineers are licensed through the Missouri Division of Professional Regulation. In Illinois, home inspectors and structural engineers are licensed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDPFR); home inspectors must take a 60-hour pre-license course, while structural engineers must meet education and experience requirements and take licensing exams.

“The lack of consistent licensing and certification requirements among home inspectors means the onus is on homebuyers to choose their inspector wisely,” said Stephanie Garland, Better Business Bureau (BBB) Springfield regional director. “Consumers should research inspectors’ knowledge and experience before making a decision about this crucial part of the process.”

BBB received 449 complaints and more than 383,000 inquiries on home inspection services in 2020. Common complaints included inaccurate or incomplete inspections and billing issues.

Tips on how to find a home inspector:

• Check out any business at bbb.org before agreeing to pay. BBB has thousands of BBB Business Profiles on home inspection services. These profiles include the business’ history of complaints and how they were handled, customer reviews and a letter rating from A+ to F.

• Ask friends and acquaintances for recommendations.

• Look for someone who is familiar with the type of home to be inspected. Does the inspector specialize in residential or commercial property?

• Ask prospective inspectors questions about their professional training, relevant experience and/or length of time in business. Find out if the inspector belongs to a professional association. Look up structural engineers’ licensing through the Missouri Division of Professional Registration or Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Registration.

• Look for home inspectors who are committed to avoiding conflicts of interest, who refuse to be involved in any real estate transaction or to deliberately obtain work in another field that could benefit them financially as a result of their inspection work, and who hold the safety, health and welfare of the public paramount in the performance of their professional inspection duties.

• Be present during the inspection. The majority of inspectors will allow you to tour the home with them and ask questions during or after the inspection. The inspection can last anywhere from two to five hours.

• Ask how soon after the inspection you will receive a copy of the final, written home inspection report. Carefully read your home inspection report and make a list of items that need correction; this will help you to determine your future expenditures for repairs and maintenance. The report will contain useful information that serves as a reference for you in the future. A home cannot fail an inspection; understand that the home inspection report records the condition of the home, both positives and negatives.