The House Doctor

Most of us meet our first home inspector when we buy our first house. Basically, their job is to determine the areas of a home that are not performing properly and to find items that might have exceeded their useful life or are unsafe. Inspections will include areas of the home's interior and exterior, from the roof to the foundation, and the exterior drainage and retaining walls.

However, some homeowners hire inspectors periodically as a form of maintenance. Catching serious problems early — such as water leaks — can help identify potentially costly repair bills.

Typically, a home inspector's report will review the condition of the home's heating system, plumbing, electrical system, and central air conditioning, as well as the roof, attic, visible insulation, walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors, foundation, basement, landscaping, and visible structure. Homeowners are encouraged to be present during the inspection. This is a good idea so that you can see for yourself the extent of the problems. Many inspectors will also indicate good maintenance tips to help keep your home in good condition.

Here are some tips on what to look for when hiring a home inspector.

Experience: Find out how long they have been in the business. However, not performing inspections for very long does not mean that they are unqualified; it just means that you will need to ask more questions.

Home Inspection Training: Check to see what training they had to become a home inspector. Also, you might ask what other related experience the inspector has. Many inspectors have been in the building trades for several years and have considerable knowledge of home construction.

Association Membership: Inquire as to whether the inspector is a member of a professional Home Inspection organization. Inspectors that are affiliated with professional organizations are serious about what they do, and they know about new developments in their fields. They are continually informed about changes in the building codes and city requirements.

Liability Insurance: Ask if the inspector carries Professional Liability Insurance (Errors & Omissions insurance). Make sure you ask for a copy of their Liability insurance policy. An inspector without insurance might not be able to pay a claim.