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Since buying a home is probably the single largest investment most people will ever make, the $200 to $500 expense of a professional home inspection is well worth the cost.

It's important to know as much as you can about the home you are about to purchase, and the best way to insure thorough, competent information is to hire the services of a professional home inspector before you sign a sales contract. The higher cost of homes and financing today has increased the consumers' need to know the expense of necessary major repairs prior to commitment, thus professional home inspection services are growing in popularity.

So how do you find a qualified home inspector? Begin by asking the real estate professional who is helping with the sales transaction to provide you with a list of recommended inspectors. Then, ask the following questions before making your final selection:

1. Does the inspector belong to a local inspection association, or any other professional inspection association? Most national professional inspection organizations have guidelines, which members must follow.

2. How long has the inspector been in business as a home inspector?

3. Is the inspector specifically experienced in residential construction? An inspector needs the knowledge and insight gained from actual home inspection experience to be able to spot and interpret signs of age, damage, faulty or unsafe mechanical operation.

4. Is the company free of any repair or real estate connections that might cause a conflict of interest? Avoid inspectors who use the inspection to solicit repair work for themselves or any particular contractor, as well as those who receive a portion of the real estate commission on the sale of the house.

5. How long will the inspection take? The average time is 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 hours. Anything less is not enough time to do a thorough inspection.

6. What will the inspection include? Get specifics. The inspection should include the electrical, heating and central air conditioning systems; interior plumbing; visible insulation; roof; walls; ceilings; floors; windows; doors; foundation; basement; and the visible structure of the house.

7. How much will it cost? The average cost is $250, but it can range from $200 to $500.

8. Does the inspector supply a written report? He or she should, and the report should not only detail the present condition of the house, but also what condition the house is likely to be in two or five years.

9. Does the inspector encourage the client to attend the inspection? The home inspection is an important opportunity for buyers to get an education about their new home and to have their questions answered immediately. The information will help you after you've moved in. Qualified inspectors often offer maintenance tips to extend the life of the house and its major systems.

10. Does the inspector participate in continuing education programs to keep his or her expertise up to date? A competent inspector is familiar with the latest materials, building techniques and equipment. He or she should always be learning about the ways in which a home's components and systems affect each other and how they stand the test of time.




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