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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Gladstone says an inspection should cover the home's heating and cooling systems, electrical, plumbing, interiors, exteriors, garages, baths, roofing, kitchens, drainage, insects, insulation, ventilation and more. The task should take two to four hours or more, depending on the complexity of the job. Costs range from about $300 to $800 for typical homes, but can go much higher depending on the age and type of structure.

A thorough inspection can find problems related to water entry, roof leaks, insect infestation, unsafe wiring, failed septic systems, poor plumbing, wet basements, mold and mildew and safety hazards.

According to Swartz, an inspector should also check the structural soundness of all parts of a home including exterior walls, parapets, soffits, fascia, trim, chimney, foundation, slabs, basement and crawl space.

The inspector should climb into the attic and on the roof to assess the insulation, ventilation, framing, roof surface, flashing, penetrations, drainage, overhangs, gutters and downspouts. The kitchen inspection includes cabinets, counters, sinks, faucets, garbage disposal and other built-in appliances.

And don't step out for lunch while the inspector's on the job. "Make sure you plan on attending, watching, asking questions and learning," Gladstone says.

Once the inspection is done, you need a report right away. Timing can be critical if you're negotiating. Conway advises working with an inspector who can deliver a completed report in plenty of time for you to review.

"Most companies can deliver the report to you right at the home as the inspection is completed. This is best for you, giving you the extra benefit of an onsite review of the report with the inspector."

A report should contain photographs and descriptions of any damage or defects found during the inspection, as well as details on the location of damage.

"You will want pictures of these areas to make your understanding of the scope and location of the damage clear. It also makes it simpler to get repairs estimated when a photograph is available," Conway says.

Request an electronic copy of the report as well. This makes it easier to share by e-mailing it to friends and family.

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