How to Hire Contractors, Inspectors, and Others – Part I

I’ve talked about how to hire a realtor and a lender, but they probably won’t be the only professionals you need during your real estate transaction. You may need an insurance agent, home inspector, pest and fungus inspector, several contractors, landscapers, appraisers, and others. I’ll cover some of these in this column and some next week.

It’s never a bad idea to ask your friends and neighbors who they recommend, but if you want someone who deals with these professionals every day, be sure to ask your realtor for an opinion.

As with most things, you often get what you pay for. So, just like you wouldn’t select a heart surgeon based on price alone, I don’t recommend you select any of these other professionals solely on cost, either. Now, that doesn’t mean you should choose the most expensive bidder; that’s no guarantee of quality. The best idea is to match your objectives with the service professional’s experience and expertise.

Insurance Agent

Let’s start with an insurance agent. What should you base your decision on? Well, in a town the size of Ukiah, reputation is usually a good place to start. The reputation of the agent and the insurance company are both important. You’ll want to be sure that the agent is licensed, responsive, and can offers the types of insurance you need (e.g., liability, flood, earthquake, etc.). Depending on the type of property, finding a company that offers all the insurance you need may be more difficult than you think. You’ll also want someone with the knowledge and inclination to recommend ways to lower your premiums, like getting rid of that trampoline or pit bull in the backyard. Either one could get your policy cancelled or increase your rates.

Home Inspector

Many home inspectors are members of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), so that’s a good place to start. Many inspectors are also contractors. They are not required to be, but it certainly provides additional depth to their knowledge. To judge a home inspector’s work, ask to see one of their reports. Is the report easy to read and understand? If so, the next step would be to make sure the home inspector has appropriate insurance: liability, errors and omissions (think of it as malpractice insurance), and worker’s compensation–if they have employees. And, ask about availability during and after the inspection. Is the inspector willing to take time to review the report with you?

Pest and Fungus Inspector

Many of the criteria for home inspectors also go for pest and fungus inspectors. Are their reports clear, thorough, and easy to understand? Do they have appropriate insurance? Are they licensed? Like insurance agents, pest and fungus inspectors must be licensed.


Most folks in town don’t need a surveyor, unless there’s a boundary line dispute. Surveyors usually work with commercial or rural agricultural properties. If you do need one, make sure the surveyor is licensed and check his or her reputation, reports, and insurance. You can check licenses here:


As the name implies, architecture is often an intersection of art and science. If you need an architect (building, renovating, adding on), it’s good to find a local one who is familiar with local ordinances and building codes. You’ll want someone who understands structural engineering and can explain it to a person without an engineering degree. And, while this may seem obvious, it’s really important that your architect listen to you. Communication has to go both ways, and you’ll want an architect who can translate your wishes into a safe, functional, beautiful structure.

Be sure to mark your calendars for Ukiah’s annual Country Pumpkinfest: October 19 & 20. It’s the largest street fair in Mendocino County, and has a little something for everyone, including food, crafts and fine art, a kids’ carnival, Brew & Wine Fest, Scout ‘o’ Rama, Scarecrow City, a 3-on-3 basketball tourney, and more.

Next time I’ll write about hiring appraisers, well-drillers, contractors, landscapers, and handymen. If there’s something you would like me to write about or if you have questions about real estate or property management, feel free to contact me at or visit our website at If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 35 years.

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