A good place to begin your search for a home inspector is the telephone Yellow Pages, under "Building Inspection Services," "Inspection Bureaus" or similar listings.
Real estate brokers, who commission the majority of inspections, are another good source. Ask a neighborhood broker for the names of three or four inspectors and check out their qualifications.
The California Real Estate Inspection Assn., (916) 443-1422, will provide names of CREIA members in your area. If you live outside California, the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), (202) 842-3096, will do the same.
Here are some pointers for choosing a home inspector, along with suggestions on how to interpret and use the inspection report:
--Ask if the inspector is a CREIA or ASHI member or a candidate--a person in the process of becoming a full member--of either organization.
--Check how long the inspector has been in business as a home inspector. Ask what special qualifications he or she has.
--Ask if the inspector is experienced in residential construction, through education and experience, and is a licensed contractor. Most experts believe that a licensed contractor makes the best inspector.
--Ask to see sample inspection reports. Some inspectors use a checklist, while others supplement the checklist with a narrative report. The latter is easier to interpret, but it is important to have the checklist, too.
--Once you have chosen the inspector, you must make arrangements with the seller or the seller's agent to conduct the inspection.
--According to Robert J. Bruss, a syndicated real estate columnist/lawyer/real estate broker, make sure that your offer to purchase includes a clause specifying a professional inspection, with the seller to pay for certain repairs. The seller will probably add a clause limiting the dollar amount of the repairs, Bruss advises.
--Depending on the location of the house--soil conditions, hillside site, etc.--you may decide to have a professional engineer or a geologist inspect the property. In many cases, your home inspector can tell you if additional inspections are required.
--When you get the completed report, don't panic if the inspector lists many minor items that need fixing: This is to be expected in just about any house--existing or new.