Buying? Selling?

when should you hire a home inspector?

Buying a home? You want to make sure you're not falling into a money pit.

Selling your home? You want to avoid last-minute obstacles that could delay or even cancel the deal.

What will it cost?

The cost of a home inspection will vary with the size and complexity of your home, but figure on spending between $325 and $500.

Fees typically vary by the square footage of the home, like $325 for less than 1100 square feet, $350 for 1100 to 1500, $375 for 1500 to 1800 and $400-plus if it's over 1800.

If you have an outbuilding, figure on an extra $100.

Some inspectors prefer to be paid when they present you with their report. Others are willing to wait until the sale goes through escrow, but they may charge you $50 to $100 extra for that service.

The solution could be a home inspection, especially if you are the buyer. Investing a few hundred dollars now could save thousands later.

"We strongly recommend an inspection," says Bill Dwyer, broker with RE/MAX Equity Group of Medford. "It's our job to protect our buyers, and sellers too. If they decline, we fill out a form saying they declined against our advice."

Dwyer feels an inspection is especially important if you are buying a home that's for sale by owner, or new construction from a builder. "So many things can go wrong, so an inspection helps protect."

"It's common for a seller to not even be aware of issues with their home," adds Sarah Iverson, broker with Windermere Investor's Marketplace of Medford. "It's well worth the money to go into the transaction with your eyes wide open."

Should you get an inspection if you're the seller? Depends. If the home is fairly new and was inspected when you bought it, maybe not. But if it's older and you suspect there could be problems, perhaps you should. As Iverson says, "The last thing you want is to have a large issue unexpectedly come up and spook the buyer when you could have already taken care of it and disclosed it."

A good way to find the right inspector is to get a referral from someone in the real estate industry, says Rob Hegeman, loan officer with Mortgage Marketplace, Inc. of Medford. "This usually means that they have used the home inspector in the past and are now putting their reputation and credibility on the line by the referral."

Some questions Hegeman suggests you ask include: How long have you been a home inspector? What's your experience? What is your turn-around time?

He also recommends that you ask what type of report the inspector will provide. Will it just be an e-mail or phone call, or will he or she meet with you and go over the report in detail?

If you want to be really sure about the home inspector you're considering, Iverson says, "Ask for the business license number (CCB) and home inspector certification number (OCHI). Call 503-378-4621 or go online at www.oregon.gov/CCB (Construction Contractors' Board) to determine if the license and certification are active and if there are any open complaints filed against the inspector."

Inspector Darren Richards of Greater Oregon Home Inspections of Phoenix adds one more qualification: An inspector should have a home construction background so that he or she knows what to look for.

Richards says an inspection should include an examination of the foundation, siding, roof, floors, windows, attic and crawl space. The inspector should also be on the watch for cracks, dry rot and moisture, check the electrical systems, heating and plumbing, and make sure the appliances, toilets and smoke alarms work.

An inspection takes anywhere from two to four hours, depending on the size of the home and related factors. A vacant home is easier to inspect, for example; no furniture in the way. Then he typically spends another four hours compiling a report the size of a small book, complete with color photos of any potential problems he's found.

The basic question a home inspection should address, says Richards, is "Does it work and will it last?"


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