Does the thought of termites, black mold or buying the home from the money pit fill you with terror?  There are ways to avoid the hidden traumas that can come with purchasing a home.  While most states require a home disclosure, if the house was a foreclosure OR there are issues that the home owner was not aware of, this does not offer any protection or warning of possible pitfalls your new home may have. 

With foreclosures, the bank is not going to be aware of any of the possible problems that a person who lived there might have been aware of.  Nor is it likely that you would be able to contact the previous owner. If the home-owner was not living in the home for more than 90 days or if the house was being leased out/rented out.  The home owner may not be aware of any difficulties that may have arisen in the home.   In these cases and for your own peace of mind, it is always advisable to have a home inspection.

So how do you go about selecting a home inspector?    One good way to start is one of the two nationally recognized professional associations for home inspectors; the American Society of Home Inspectors or The National Association of Home Inspectors.   In order to be listed with either of these organizations one has to go through a certification process. Both of these have a search engine to help you find “state certified home inspectors.”  Once you have a few names it doesn’t hurt to check with the Better Business Bureau.  Make a list of inspectors that have been recommended.  Avoiding anyone who has a negative report can help you avoid any potential problems with your inspection. 

A few things questions to ask when talking to your potential home inspector:

• What is the inspector's experience? How many years have they been in the business and how many inspections do they do a year?
• Exclusively inspections? Beware of contractors who do house inspections "on the side"--they may be looking for work and this isn’t necessarily what you want.

• What type of report? Will it be written or oral or both? Will the report contain suggestions for remedying deficiencies?   Preference should always be to get it in writing.

• How long will it take? Depending on the size of the house an inspection should take between 2 and 4 hours.

• What will be included in the inspection?

• What certifications do they have? Are they ASHI or NAHI certified?

• Does the inspector have Errors and Omissions Insurance? (This helps protect you if there were to be a problem with the inspection not finding a problem that becomes a big problem and was obviously there already.

While home inspections vary by market you can count on it costing over $100 and possibly up to $500.  If you are dealing with a very large house with lots of “extras” you might be dealing with additional fees.  Also, understand that most real estate agents cannot (because of conflict of interest) recommend an inspector.  It may seem like an unnecessary expense, it can protect you potential problems which may well be worth it in the long run.