In the long run, a cheap home inspector will usually end up costing you a lot more money
Not all home inspectors are the same. Now is not the time to go cheap.
In the state of California, Home Inspection is not supervised in any capacity. Home inspectors are not required to be bonded or insured in order to protect themselves or their customers from injury, negligence or property damage. California has no licensing program or certification requirements for home inspectors. There are no guidelines, knowledge or expertise required in order to open shop as a "home inspector" in California. This places the onus of determining the credibility and legitimacy of anyone claiming to be a home inspector into the hands of the consumer.
Fortunately, there are two not-for-profit state-recognized home inspection associations, ASHI and CREIA, both of which independently train, test, and certify home inspectors. These certifications do not come easily, or cheaply. Ask the inspectors you speak with to provide proof of ASHI and CREIA certification. Look for their names on the ASHI and CREIA websites. If they are not certified ASHI or CREIA members, continue your search. There are plenty of certified ASHI or CREIA members with the education, experience and skill who have earned the right to call themselves "Home Inspectors" and are worthy of your patronage. Inspector affiliation with ASHI and CREIA demonstrates a dedication to ethics, education and standards of service above and beyond any state requirements. The CREIA and ASHI Standards of Practice are the only standards mentioned in the State Business and Professions code as the guidelines for home inspectors in the state.
Home inspectors who voluntarily certify through CREIA and ASHI subscribe to a high set of standards, must pass a technically rigorous examination process, and must maintain their certification status with continuing education every year. Be extremely wary of those who try to convince you that certification from ASHI or CREIA is not important, or that certification from other organizations, schools, or for-profit franchises is a credible substitute. One such organization (click here) will "certify" anybody who has $49.00 in their pocket and can pass a free online exam, while also proclaiming in its online advertising campaigns that their members are "the best home inspectors" and that "anyone else is just looking around"... But don't be fooled. CREIA and ASHI are the oldest, most reputable, professional, non-profit, voluntary certification organizations for home inspectors in the State of California. CREIA and ASHI are true member-benefit, non-profit, California state recognized home inspection associations, not an out-of-state, internet-based marketing cooperative out to con the public and make a fast buck.
It is up to you to protect yourself. Don't get duped into hiring a low-cost, ineffectual inspector who lacks ASHI or CREIA certification. When somebody claims to be a "certified" home inspector from an organization other than ASHI or CREIA, it does not automatically mean he or she is adequately trained or qualified to inspect your home, or that they will adhere to the same high Standards and Codes of Ethics of ASHI and CREIA. Now is not the time to go bargain hunting. You must carefully vet and then choose your own home inspector. Track down and hire the best home inspector you can find. Make sure you hire a certified member of ASHI and/or CREIA. Request (demand?) proof that they carry an Errors and Omissions (E&O) insurance policy that will fully protect you through the whole process. Hire somebody who has been in the business for at least a decade or more. If you are wise, you won't be swayed into hiring an inexperienced and unqualified home inspector until you've fully checked their credentials for yourself. Especially if they've been "chosen" for you by your real estate agent.
Download the CREIA "How to choose a home inspector" flyer.