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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Stone and Shingle Home Facade

Thanks to lessons learned by Three Little Pigs Builders, we all know it's best to stay away from homes made of straw and sticks. While it may look like a dream home to you, only a competent home inspector can make sure you're not signing up for a nightmare.

John Hendricks, director of the National Institute of Building Inspectors, says to look for an inspector with a broad knowledge of all the systems and structures of a house, not just a specialized person such as a plumber or electrician.

"A home inspector is like a general practitioner. They're familiar with all systems of a house, all the entities and structural parts. That gives them a well-rounded picture of the house."

Home inspection expert Wally Conway says it's important to do a little research and ask questions. Home inspectors are not regulated in most states, so it's important to look for credentials such as certification by the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). And if your state does regulate inspections, check with the state agency to verify the inspector's license and check their record for complaints.

Another important aspect is the experience of your inspector.

"Be sure to ask how long the inspector has been in the inspection business. Longevity gives some comfort that the company will be with you in the future as new needs and issues arise," Conway says. He also says don't be shy about asking how many house inspections the candidate has under his or her tool belt.

"An inspector may have been in business for five years, but inspected less than a dozen homes. Your home buying decision is far too important to be a practice place for a part-time inspector."

Stephen Gladstone, president of Stonehollow Inc. and a former national president of ASHI, says members are prohibited from performing repairs or contracting work on the homes they inspect. Don Norman, St. Louis HouseMaster franchisee and also a former president of ASHI, says members must also have completed 250 inspections, pass inspection and ethics exams and complete at least 20 hours a year of continuing education.

Gladstone says to make sure your inspector is objective and independent and does not have any affiliation with the real estate agency selling the home. Joe Corsetto, president of ShelterWorks Inc. in Dover, N.J., says to look for an independent, third party when searching for an inspector.

"A strong referral from someone outside the home purchase process is the best referral source to assure an independent evaluation of a building."

Norman also advises to choose an inspector who carries errors and omissions insurance. "This insurance protects homebuyers and inspectors as well."

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