A home inspector is a paid professional, often a contractor or an engineer, who checks the safety of a home. Home inspectors search for defects or other problems that could become problematic later on. Particularly, they focus on the home's structure, construction, and mechanical systems.
It is not the inspector's job to determine whether you are getting good value for your money. An inspector does not establish value, only whether the home might, for instance, collapse in a storm or if the roof might cave in.
A home inspection typically takes place after a purchase contract between the buyer and seller has been signed.
Including a Home Inspector in the Buying Process
A buyer is encouraged to hire a home inspector, since buying a home without getting expert advice is risky. Once an inspector uncovers major plumbing and electrical problems, for example, you may decide you do not want to spend several thousand dollars on repairs.
An inspection clause should always be included in your written offer. This clause gives you an out from buying if serious problems are detected. It also gives you another chance to negotiate the purchase price if repairs are needed. The clause can even specify that the sellers fix any problem that is uncovered before you settle, or close, on the home. You also may want to consider hiring experts to inspect the home for a number of health-related risks such as radon gas, asbestos, or possible problems with the water or waste disposal system.
Selecting a Home Inspector
Selection of a home inspector should begin by only hiring one who is qualified and experienced, someone who belongs to an industry trade group, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). This organization has developed formal inspection guidelines and a professional code of ethics for its members. Also, membership in ASHI is not automatic; members must have demonstrated field experience and technical knowledge about structures and their various systems.