Housing and mortgage trends in early 2011
Handing over house keys
real estate
4 ways to turbocharge your home inspection

Accompany the home inspector

Inspectors recommend that buyers take notes during the inspection, even when receiving a written report.

Barnett suggests that buyers ask about the insulation values the inspector finds and also suggests that buyers ask how to maintain the systems and appliances.

"The most important things the buyers need to know are where the water shut-off valve is and how to change the filter on their furnace and air conditioner," Barnett says. "An inspector can also point out some minor maintenance issues like a cracked outlet cover or a broken latch on a window."

Kolesari says most inspectors cannot estimate prices for repairs, because inspectors are generalists. Steward says that inspectors can tell buyers the life expectancy of individual appliances and a national average estimate for their repair and replacement costs.

"A good inspector will offer to talk directly to a contractor if they find a problem, to make sure that the contractor understands exactly what is needed," Barnett says.

Be careful about vacant homes

Inspectors and buyers face a problem in the increased number of vacant homes due to foreclosure or a slow real estate market.

"The seller's disclosure form on a foreclosure is often signed by someone who knows nothing about the property," Steward says. "If the seller is the occupant, they are legally bound to tell potential buyers what they know."

Sometimes buyers need to make deposits to have utilities connected for the inspection. Without utilities, the inspection must either be limited or be postponed.

"There's a 50-50 chance with foreclosures that there will be water damage," Kolesari says. "Foreclosures have typically been neglected, so buyers are definitely taking more of a risk when they buy one and the inspections are usually a little more challenging."

In addition to water damage, Steward says mold can be a problem in vacant homes that lack ventilation, especially in humid areas. He says buyers can request a mold inspection for an additional fee if they suspect it is a problem.

Regardless of whether they are buying a foreclosure, a new home or an older home, home inspectors recommend that buyers attend the inspection and maintain a "buyer beware" perspective from the moment they begin previewing homes.

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