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  • Frank Tadych

What to know about home inspections

Home inspections are one of the most critical steps in the home buying process, and for many reasons. Investing in a home inspection can protect you from unexpected costs before you buy, as well as save you money in the long run on your investment.

The idea is to eliminate surprises and know, as much as possible, what you are really getting.

Not only is it important to know what will happen during a home inspection, but just as important to know what will not happen and how to interpret the results. You will very likely have other inspections -- mold, termite, chimney and sewer line -- as well, but your general home inspection is the most comprehensive.

The Inspector -- Not all home inspectors are created equal, so check certifications. Even the best inspectors can make mistakes, so chose one who carries “Errors and Omissions” coverage that goes beyond the basic liability insurance. Don’t choose an inspector for the wrong reasons. Your agent should have reputable and trustworthy inspectors they have worked with in the past.

Be informed -- Attend the inspection and don’t leave the inspectors side, as you will likely pick up additional insight along the way and better understand the final report. While most inspectors in California follow the National Association of Certified Home Inspections guidelines, there is no uniform checklist. So be sure to negotiate ahead of time what is included on your checklist and understand what is potentially not included, such as items not on the house (fences, surrounding buildings, pipes and septic tanks). Know that Asbestos, lead, mold and other dangers are typically not covered. Understand how thorough the inspection was, like if the inspector climbed on the roof or entered the basement, and how they evaluated the roof and foundation.

Inspectors are not psychics -- A home inspection can only go so far. Inspectors can’t see the future and don’t know when housing systems will fail – they can only evaluate present conditions. Most home inspections are also non-invasive – meaning they only inspect beyond finished surfaces – so protect yourself as much as possible. Many of the most expensive repairs, such as water leaks and damage, rotted wood and faulty wiring or plumbing, are behind the walls and under floor coverings. A trusted inspector can notice defects and if homeowners are trying to cover up problems.

The review and final report -- When the inspector is finished, ask for a verbal report on what they found - you might glean some information that isn't obvious in their written report. Ask if there are any notable items that won't be in the report, or red flags that you need to be aware of to potentially schedule other more specialized inspections. Your home inspector should produce a comprehensive written report, including photographs, within a couple of days after the inspection.

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