As a home inspector, I have encountered numerous instances in which buyers were spared thousands of dollars and heartaches because they learned--through a home inspection--that their dream house had a deteriorating foundation or collapsing roof.
However, home buyers should make certain that the inspector they hire has the necessary credentials and experience. Home buyers may want to consider the following tips:
--Make sure that the inspector is licensed by the state. A general contractor, to be licensed, must have four years of experience and pass a rigorous written examination. Even more advantageous are general contractors with multiple licenses, especially those that pertain to plumbing and electrical systems. Make sure that the licensee and the inspector are one and the same.
One way to check is to compare the six-digit license number that appears on the inspector's business card with that which you can obtain from the State Contractor's Board (the agency that governs all licensed contractors).
--Make sure that the home inspector guarantees that he or she will make no referrals or repairs on the defects discovered during the inspection. Referrals to companies or self-recommendations indicate a conflict of interest.
--Before hiring a home inspector, check his credentials with the Better Business Bureau or State Contractor's Board. These organizations will give you honest insight into whether the inspector is truly licensed, or whether he or she had had any complaints filed against them.
--Ask your realtor for at least three recommendations. Realtors can be a good source. Have the inspector spend at least an hour walking through the home and explain its individual systems. A good inspector will take the time to answer all your questions to your satisfaction.
--Ask how many entries a home inspector includes on his or her report. The report's content is much more important than its length. Make sure that the report's entries cover the structure's major components, such as the foundation and air-handling equipment, fencing, grading and drainage. Aesthetic elements, such as paint, are not as important as the big ticket items, such as roofing, plumbing and electrical systems.
--Normally a thorough home inspection on a structure under 3,000 square feet takes about an hour and a half. If the inspection takes longer, it may indicate that the inspector is not as knowledgeable as he or she needs to be, because it is taking too long to determine the problems.
RAYMOND A. GARCIA