real estate

5 biggest home inspection mistakes

Newspaper with classifieds section
Highlights
  • Even when a new home has met code, it should have a home inspection.
  • Always ask about licensing, professional affiliations and credentials.
  • Follow up on the inspection report before closing on your house.

A home inspection is one of the most important steps you can take to make sure your new home is a sound investment and a safe place to live.

But, many people don't fully understand what happens in a home inspection or what they need to do to get the most out of it. Find out what inspectors say are the five biggest mistakes buyers make during the home inspection, and how you can avoid these potentially pricey pitfalls.

Mistake No. 1: Not having new construction inspected

Even experienced homebuyers sometimes make this rookie mistake. They assume that because a home has passed all local codes and ordinances, it must be in good shape. Don't be so sure, says Jim Troth, owner of Habitation Investigation LLC, a Mechanicsburg, Ohio, home inspection company. Troth once inspected a brand new home that had just passed the final municipal and county building inspections. But when he explored the crawl space beneath the house, he discovered someone had removed about 3 feet of the home's main support beam to accommodate duct work.

"The house was already beginning to sink in that area," he says.

The moral of the story: Don't assume your builder -- or the contractors -- did everything right just because the home passed code. An inspector is your last line of defense against major defects that could quite literally sink your financial future.

Mistake No. 2: Choosing an inspector for the wrong reasons

When you choose an inspector, you're selecting the professional who will give one of your biggest investments a full physical checkup. You want to choose someone you know who is competent, thorough and trustworthy. Unfortunately, too many buyers just go with the cheapest inspection company or the one recommended by their Realtor.

"The least expensive person is often the person with the least experience, ability and technical savvy," says Aaron Flook, owner of Pittsburgh-based A.M. Inspection Services LLC. "If you want a referral from your real estate agent, ask for two or three different names, then interview each one to determine who you feel most comfortable with."

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Always ask about licensing, professional affiliations and credentials, and whether the inspector carries errors and omissions insurance.

Mistake No. 3: Not going along on the inspection

The written report you get from the inspector doesn't give you nearly as clear a picture of the condition of the house as you might think. Flook says buyers who don't go along on the inspection can overemphasize minor problems, or worse, not realize how serious a defect is.

"I did one inspection where the buyer didn't come along, and he ended up getting worked up about first-floor plugs that weren't grounded and completely ignored that the water tank was drafting carbon monoxide," Flook says. "You really need to go along with the inspector, ask questions and listen when he gives you his professional opinion on the house."

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