Question: With prices down and interest rates reasonable, my spouse and I are in the market for a new home. The thing is, we’ve already found one we like and are getting around to having it inspected by a professional. Any tips or potential problems we should know about? — M. Durkin, Chicago
Answer: Good for you — this is a great market to buy a home. That’s the good news. The bad news is that a lousy home inspector can cause you big problems as a homeowner down the road.
If you’re working with a real estate agent, and most homeowners do, see if he or she can recommend a good home inspector. Chances are your agent is well connected in the community and knows the difference between a good inspector and a lousy one — and will act accordingly. But even when an agent recommends an inspector, you should vet that inspector anyway.
If you want to go with your gut and get your own home inspector, follow these rules:
Know what a home inspector does. A good home inspector eyeballs the actual condition of the home you’re buying. Usually, they’re looking for big-ticket items, like faulty wiring or a balky home heating unit. What they won’t do is check out the quality of the home’s insulation (home inspectors won’t typically head to the attic and start digging up insulation), check under carpets for warped floors, or get under your home to look over buried pipelines. Most inspectors also won’t get on the roof and inspect any potential leaky areas.
Is your inspector certified? A good place to start is the American Society of Home Inspectors. The Web site gives you access to 5,000 home inspectors nationwide — use it to find a reputable inspector in your community.