Finding the Right Inspector

Even a brick home can have serious problems. Find out why choosing a qualified home inspector is crucial when you're in the market for a house.

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Though it may seem a bit like putting the cart before the horse, Gladstone says you might want to start shopping for an inspector before you pick up the real estate classifieds. If you're already in the process of buying a house you may feel pressured to hire the first inspector you find.

"Take the time to speak with an inspector or two and feel good about their skills, capabilities and bedside manner," Gladstone says. He suggests asking friends who have bought homes if they can refer you to a qualified inspector, or look up a list of local inspectors on the ASHI website.

But most buyers don't start looking for an inspector until after they've picked a property, according to Norman.

"Typically, a buyer will hire a home inspector immediately after signing a contract for purchase of a home. Most real estate contracts have a time limit (ranging from three to 10 days) on how quickly the buyer must have their inspections performed," Norman says. "Some buyers have hired an inspector when they have found a house they love but before signing a contract. We don't recommend that because in a hot real estate market, the buyer runs the risk of losing the house to another buyer who gets a contract in first."

David Swartz of Advantage Inspection Service in Phoenix also says to start looking for an inspector early. Once you find a home the clock is ticking and you don't want to waste time researching an inspector at that point.

"In most real estate contracts you have a limited amount of time to perform the inspection and respond to the seller with any requests. So, don't waste time by waiting until your contract is signed to conduct a search."

Swartz also cautions against having your handyman brother-in-law perform an inspection for you. He says using a non-professional is about like having an amateur perform heart surgery.

"The consequences can be immense in terms of the financial and emotional damage caused when major defects are not discovered. Home inspection is a full-time profession that requires extensive education and experience to become proficient." An inspector should also be familiar with the particular type of house you're considering. Once again, don't be afraid to ask questions.

"All homes have some systems and features in common, but homes of different ages, designs and materials each have their own special risks and offer special signs, symptoms and clues to hidden damage," Conway says. "Only someone who has walked the walk and crawled the crawl numerous times in similar homes can sleuth out those important items."

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