Buying a House

Should I get a home inspection?

Absolutely. You’re not just buying that beautiful master suite or stone-lined fireplace, “you’re also buying any problems lurking in the walls or the crawl space or the attic,” says Alabama home inspector Bill Loden, president of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). The home inspection is your chance to avoid those problems—or, at least, use the results to negotiate with the seller to pay for repairs.

A typical inspection starts at the roof and ends at the foundation, with stops in between at every major house system (plumbing, electrical, heating, septic, etc.). Most also include tests for radon gas and water safety. A good inspection, by a professional inspector to the standards set by the American Society of Home Inspectors, costs about $500 and takes 2 to 3 hours, depending on the size and age of the house. Oh, and don’t skip inspections on new construction. Just because something’s new doesn’t mean it’s flawless.

After you receive the detailed findings, you’ll need to evaluate whether there are any deal-breakers, such as serious structural defects. You may want to handle minor fixes yourself to avoid nitpicking with the seller. For cases in between—water-damaged carpet, for example—consult with your agent. You can ask the seller to pay for repairs or give you a credit at closing so that you can choose the contractors and materials you prefer.

One more tip from Loden: Ask the seller or property insurer for a copy of the home’s CLUE report. Short for Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, the report lists all the insurance claims filed for the home during the previous five to seven years.

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