Buying and selling a home has always been a big deal for both sides of the transaction. On one end, it's the single biggest investment most buyers will ever make. For sellers, it's a matter of making money on their investments and, usually it has to happen before they can buy another home.

When the economy is weak, the stakes are even higher. Banks and mortgage lenders are careful about who they lend money to and how much they lend. Sellers may have difficulty finding buyers willing and able to pay their asking price - or at least close to it.

How do you make sure the home you're buying is a sound investment? How do help your chances of selling quickly and at a fair price?

Home Inspection

Both buyers and sellers can benefit from pre-sale home inspections. Basically, you hire someone to go through the home, inch-by-inch, floor-to-floor, from top to bottom, inside and out. He looks for existing and potential problems with the home - things that may make it a poor investment or a hardsell.

You can do that yourself, right? Technically, yes. But will you notice a tree that's growing to close the house? Are you going to climb into the attic and check for leaks in the roof and measure insulation levels? What about walking on the roof to check for loose shingles, loose mortar in the chimney, and clogged gutters?

A trained, experienced inspector will do all of that, and much more.

What to Look For

Finding the right inspector may take some time and research, but here are some tips to help:

  • Ask friends and family who may have bought or sold a home recently for names of inspectors, or ask your real estate agent
  • Ask any inspector for references from buyers and sellers they've worked for in the past and don't hesitate to call those references for their opinions
  • Check to see if an inspector keeps up with ongoing training and education with and is certified by or belongs to an organization like the National Institute of Building Inspectors (NIBI) or American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)
  • Check to make sure an inspector meets any education and licensing requirements set by the laws in your state
  • Make sure the inspector has error and omission (E&O) insurance - if he makes a mistake in the inspection and it costs you money down the road, this insurance should cover your loss. The inspector may not be able to pay you even if you take him to court and win
  • Ask to see a copy of the inspector's workers' compensation insurance coverage. If he gets hurt while on your property inspecting your house you, as the homeowner, could be liable for his injuries if he doesn't have workers' comp

What to Expect

Inspectors and inspections can vary a lot, but there are some common things to look for and keep in mind:

  • You should get a detailed written report of the inspection, including details on exactly what was looked at and any problems discovered
  • The inspector should ask - even insist - that you be present during the inspection. You hired him, after all. And, it's a great opportunity to get know the house - or get to know it better if you're the seller
  • The inspection should be excruciatingly thorough, Depending on the size of the home, it could take hours to finish. Everything should be checked, including the foundation, roof, window/door seals, floors, electrical wiring, plumbing, the heating and cooling systems, and any appliances sold with the home, like a refrigerator, dishwasher, etc.
  • Keep in mind that most inspections don't include tests for things like lead paint, radon or other toxic gases, other environmental or health hazards, and bug problems, like termites. But, most inspectors will tell you if they suspect such a problem. Specialists or home-test kits should be used if there are concerns

What to Do with the Report

If the report comes back with no problems at all, you should feel confident about the deal. If problems are discovered, you have some choices to make.

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Tagged as: Real Estate, Residential Real Estate, home inspection, real estate lawyer