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August 18, 2010

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If you are going to call references, try to get references that are 1-2 years old. If the inspector missed something big, like a slow leak, or a heater that was ready to keel over and die during a cold snap, customers who just had their homes inspected won't know.

NEW homes need inspections too!

I made a significant mistake when I hired my home inspector. I took my realtor's suggestion and went with his recommendation for an inspector without interviewing him (funny as I interviewed 4 realtors before I got with mine). Terrible choice and probably the biggest single mistake I made during my recent home purchase (my wife and I were first time buyers.) It is not that the inspector was bad, simply that the report he produced was unusable. We knew better (had seen a similar laundry list on home inspectors as the one above in another homebuying book.) Fortunately for us, our home is relatively new construction and our realtor provided us with detailed notes of the inspection. No major problems but it was a valuable lesson learned for us. The biggest thing, in my opinion, is the sample report. Look for what is written in there. Specifically, think about taking one of the "issues" raised in the sample report you get to a contractor and see if it is descriptive enough so they could identify and fix the problem from the report. This is the level of detail you need in a home inspection. Also ensure the descriptions of location of the problems are specific enough for you to find them six months later. Many problems will not be show stoppers during the purchase but issue you will want to repair yourself in the future. Your memory of the inspection may not be as sharp six months later when you get around to fixing the problem.
Also, consider video taping the inspection if the inspector allows it. This way you are not relying on your memory on these issues.

Check out the home thoroughly yourself as well. We made an offer on a house, it was accepted, and we had one week to have it inspected. The home inspector gave it a general seal of approval (lots of tiny stuff), but my mom simply peaked into the attic and found a wall of black mold. We withdrew our offer and ended up finding a very well-built and newish (3 year-old) foreclosure a couple of weeks later. I learned to look over everthing myself since no one else cares about you as much as you do (and parents of course - thanks Mom!). A young (23) and stupid asthmatic almost bought a majorly mold-ridden house...

If only I knew...Back when we bought our last house, we hired an inspector recommended by our realtor. We were already overwhelmed and this was much easier than trying to find our own. Sadly, he missed a few major issues and cost us a bunch of money. We got him to refund most of his fee due to one huge miss, so he was somewhat honest. But a good inspector never would have missed it. Live and learn.

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