Home Inspections: It Pays to Know What You're Buying

When buying a house, it's a very good idea to get a home inspection before you close your purchase and take possession of the home. It's not uncommon for a lender to include a home inspection as a condition in your purchase agreement.

AOL Real Estate's What Works Now tagged along with Kenny Rhodes, a licensed inspector with 20 years' experience, to get some insights into the home-inspection process and to learn why this unbiased, third-party evaluation is so important to the home-buying transaction.

The inspection "isn't a pass-fail examination," explains Rhodes. The inspector's job is to evaluate a house's mechanical systems, structural integrity, and safety features, and identify any items that need attention. An inspection allows the buyer to identify any issues with the home prior to the closing.

If a buyer can attend the inspection in person, or walk through the house with the inspector shortly after the inspection is completed, the inspector can point out to him or her what they've found. An inspection of the home typically takes three to four hours and covers:

· Structural features, like the foundation.
· Plumbing systems, sinks, pipes, etc.
· Heating, cooling, and ventilation systems.
· Major appliances.
· The condition of the roof.
· The attic and exterior of the home.
· Electrical wiring and breakers.

With his flashlight on his hip and his clipboard in hand, Rhodes heads for the first stop on today's attic-to-basement tour with the buyer in tow.

Rhodes's goal, like that of all inspectors, is to assess current conditions and help set priorities for attention. "I'll tell you what you need to be thinking about," he says. Some of his comments are suggestions-that is, "get to it when you can"--while others are recommendations for more more immediate action.

Within a few days of the inspection, Rhodes delivers the results to the client--in this case the buyer--in the form of a detailed written report.

While most inspections are performed for home buyers, inspections for home sellers can also be a strategic tool to help uncover potential selling pitfalls well before a buyer is involved.

To find a qualified home inspector, Rhodes suggests, start by asking your Realtor for recommendations. You can also use the "Find a Home Inspector" locator on the ASHI website at www.ashi.org. Inspectors listed there have met rigorous testing and experience requirements, ensuring that you're put in touch with one of the nation's most qualified professionals when it comes time to schedule that critical home inspection.

Tom Kraeutler is a Home Improvement Expert for AOL Real Estate and host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find alocal radio station, download the show's podcast. To sign-up for Tom's free weeklye-newsletter, visit the program's Web site.

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