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Quality of home inspector important before buying home

When you're about to buy a home, having that home inspected is a critical step in the purchase process. Only a thorough, professional inspection of the home's physical structure and mechanical condition, from roof to foundation, can uncover the issues you'll need to watch for as a homeowner and potentially discuss with the seller.

Home inspectors may be architects, structural engineers or building contractors. While structural engineers must be licensed by the state in which they operate, home inspectors themselves are not federally regulated, and state regulations vary; in Missouri, home inspectors do not require a license or training. Home inspectors may receive training and certification from a professional association, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors or the National Society of Professional Engineers.

The lack of consistent licensing and certification requirements among home inspectors means the onus is on home buyers to choose their inspector wisely. Consumers should research inspectors' knowledge and experience carefully before making a decision about this crucial part of the home buying process.

BBB received 465 complaints on home inspection services in 2018. Common complaints included inaccurate or incomplete inspections and billing issues.

A Mountain Grove, Missouri, man told BBB in May 2019 his home inspector failed to note numerous issues with the house he was buying, including hail and water damage, roof leaks, black mold and inadequate electrical systems. He said the inspector told him it was strictly a visual inspection that did not obligate him to note the mold. The man told BBB the house needed an estimated $200,000 in repairs that were not found in the inspection.

BBB advises the following when choosing a home inspector:

Check out any business at bbb.org before agreeing to pay it money. BBB has thousands of BBB Business Profiles on home inspection services. These profiles include the business' history of complaints and how they were handled, customer reviews and a letter rating from A+ to F.

Ask friends and acquaintances for recommendations.

Look for someone who is familiar with the type of home to be inspected. Does the inspector specialize in residential or commercial property?

Ask prospective inspectors questions about their professional training, relevant experience and/or length of time in business. Find out if the inspector belongs to a professional association. Look up structural engineers' licensing through the Missouri Division of Professional Registration.

Look for home inspectors who are committed to avoiding conflicts of interest, who refuse to be involved in any real estate transaction or to deliberately obtain work in another field that could benefit them financially as a result of their inspection work, and who hold the safety, health and welfare of the public paramount in the performance of their professional inspection duties.

Be present during the inspection. The majority of inspectors will allow you to tour the home with them and ask questions during or after the inspection. The inspection can last anywhere from two to five hours, depending on the size of the house.

Ask how soon after the inspection you will receive a copy of the home inspection final, written report. Carefully read your home inspection report and make a list of items that need correction; this will help you to determine your future expenditures for repairs and maintenance. The report will contain useful information that serves as a reference for you in the future. A home cannot fail an inspection; understand the home inspection report records the condition of the home, positives and negatives.

Michelle Gleba is the Mid-Missouri regional director for Better Business Bureau.

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