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Avoid the Home Inspection Blues

Move-in day is the payoff every homebuyer waits for. After all the hassles, it's hard to believe you're really there. It's like dreaming with your eyes open. But sooner or later, everyone comes back to earth. It's inevitable. Perhaps the kitchen circuit breaker trips every time you run the microwave, or a balky door won't close. It may or may not be the home inspector's fault, but the real answer lies in picking a qualified inspector and really understanding the inspection report, before you move in.

Home inspections are such a routine part of the closing process these days it's easy to assume that anyone will do. Don't take your home inspector for granted. Pay attention to their qualifications. The home inspector is your last line of defense between you and problems that could bust your budget to repair. Dig a little deeper rather than accept a referral with no questions asked from your real estate agent. How long have they been in business? Ask for customer references and call them. Call the Better Business Bureau just to make sure there are no complaints.

While hiring a qualified inspector is the first step to catching problems or defects before you move in, the next critical step is making sure you know what's covered by the home inspection. Before you hire someone, ask to see a sample copy of the inspection report. Look for a narrative description that fully explains each problem-- a check-off box with Good, Fair and Poor isn't good enough! Every inspection should cover all the major systems, including plumbing, electrical, heating, and cooling; the structural condition, including the roof; and the electrical system.

When you receive the report, make sure you actually read it. If you don't understand something, get your inspector to explain it. Don't let unanswered questions come back to haunt you on move-in day.

What if you took time to hire the right person, and to carefully read the report, and a problem still rears its ugly head? Your response really depends on the nature and severity of the problem. Keep minor problems in perspective, every home has them. For example, do you want to engender bad feelings with your seller by complaining about a torn screen in a window? Minor maintenance issues are not important enough to raise at the closing table.

What if you discover something after moving in that the seller failed to disclose and your inspector missed? Again, your chances are better if you hire a reputable professional and understand the inspection report. Good inspectors make mistakes. And good inspectors encourage customers to call them when undetected problems surface. For example, if an undisclosed building defect is discernable to the naked eye, it's the inspector's responsibility to correct it. That's why every inspector should have insurance. But if the problem was not visually apparent or outside the scope of the inspection report, you're on your own, generally speaking.

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