Do your homework: Ask savvy people for recommendations and settle on an inspector before getting caught up in the stress of buying or selling. Inspectors should have serious experience in the building trades, errors and omissions insurance, and, at the very least, Registered Home Inspector, National Certificate Holder or Certified Home Inspector credentials.


It’s no warranty: Some have sued successfully when inspectors have been wildly inaccurate about a home’s structure and mechanicals, and the costs of necessary repairs. But inspectors can’t break holes in walls or peel shingles and siding from a house. A report is an analysis based on a largely visual examination. Read the contract carefully.


Who works for whom? Buyers should be wary of reports done for vendors and vice-versa. Inspectors should be impartial third parties, but it’s an unregulated business. Some may be willing to sacrifice objectivity to help a sale. Some may have inappropriately close relationships with real-estate agents.


The big stuff: Demand a clear statement on the foundation and structural integrity and estimates of repair costs. Attic mould, signs of basement leakage, substandard wiring or insulation materials such as vermiculite, asbestos and urea formaldehyde can disqualify you from a mortgage or insurance. How long till the house needs a new roof, furnace or windows? Find out what costs to deduct from an offer.


Seller beware: Having your home inspected before listing it can head off untimely surprises. It can let you be up front with buyers or enable you to seek good contractors to get the work done at a fair price. Pre-listing inspections can also help vendors rebut dubious claims from buyers’ inspectors.



The bottom line: A typical home should take two to three hours to inspect, covering 400 checks, and cost in the $400 to $600 range. Be leery of an inspector who offers discounts or to fix problems he finds.



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