Housing and mortgage trends in early 2011
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4 ways to turbocharge your home inspection

Mortgage trends » 4 ways to turbocharge your home inspection

A typical homebuyer assumes that the purpose of a home inspection is to catch any major structural problems before going through with a purchase. Avoiding a money pit is one reason to hire a home inspector, but savvy homebuyers can get more value than that from the building inspection.

Choose the right home inspector

Most buyers work with a home inspector recommended by their Realtor, but Dwight Barnett, a home inspector and owner of Barnett & Associates Inc. in Evansville, Ind., suggests homebuyers also ask for recommendations from appraisers, attorneys and lenders. He advises asking for credentials from the recommended inspectors and checking with the Better Business Bureau.

"Don't shop price, shop experience," Barnett says. "Some inspectors will show up with all the bells and whistles like infrared cameras and gas detectors, but really you can do the job just fine with a screwdriver and a flashlight."

David Kolesari, president of the National Association of Home Inspectors, or NAHI, and president and owner of Milwaukee Homesight Inc. in Hales Corners, Wis., says buyers should ask how many inspections the inspector has done.

"Buyers should ask when they can expect the written report after the inspection and ask to see an example of the report," says Kolesari.

Prepare for the inspection

"Before the inspection, buyers should write down observations they have made when visiting the house that they want the inspector to review," says Dan Steward, president and CEO of Pillar To Post Inc. in Tampa, Fla. "I recommend that people visit a house two or three times before they make an offer and that they go in the daylight and at night because you notice different things depending on the lighting. The buyers can ask the inspector about things like a dark spot in the corner of the basement."

Steward recommends buyers ask their agent and the seller's agent about any known problems with the property and to read the seller's disclosure form and take it to the inspection.

"The more preparation the buyer does, the better it is," Steward says. "Buyers should ask the neighbors if they know anything about the house or any problems, especially if they know it is an area prone to flooding. One home I know of had been a marijuana grow house, but the seller didn't disclose it. The neighbors all knew it, but the seller had covered up mold problems with paint, so the buyer had no idea until it was too late."

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To get a "non-emotional" opinion of the house's condition before making an offer, Steward suggests showing it to a friend or family member who will not live there.

In an occupied property, the owners need to be contacted to make sure the inspector has access to the electrical panel, attic and crawl space, and to have pets caged or off the property during the inspection, Barnett says.

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