The home inspector is an objective third party who essentially gives your house a complete physical. He or she examines the property with a fine-toothed comb, reporting on the condition of the structure and systems of the house, such as:
- Heating and air conditioning
- Dry rot
- Boat docks
- Sea walls
You may need to hire additional inspectors to check for termite damage and to inspect your roof. They will be licensed in these specific areas. If the inspectors you hire find problems with the property you're under contract to buy, the seller does not necessarily have to fix everything reported. Those items then become a matter of negotiation. Of course, your purchase contract must address your rights to negotiate, or you can't do anything!
Finding an inspector. Since not all states license inspectors, finding a qualified home inspector isn't always easy. The first place to start is to ask your real estate agent or Sentry Title for a referral. You can also talk to friends or colleagues who have recently bought a home. The American Society of Home Inspectors is a professional association which requires its members to pass exams and perform a minimum of 250 property inspections. For local members, check out the web address at www.ashi.com, or call 1-800-743-2744.
Tips for hiring an inspector:
- Ask the inspector to provide a sample report. Make sure it's legible, descriptive and approaching the length of War and Peace. Seriously! Good reports are mini-booklets of information about your home, not just a series of checked or unchecked boxes.
- Find out what elements of the house are and are not included in the inspection.
- Talk to previous clients of the inspector who have owned their homes for a year or so. Find out if the inspector missed anything significant.
- Don't consider your inspection a guarantee or warranty, but simply the best information possible at an affordable cost.
- By the way, you should try to be on site during the inspection. You'll learn things about your house you may never know otherwise, and it's a great opportunity to ask questions.