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I say this when a prospective homeowner makes a face at me when I suggest they get a home inspection before completing the purchase process. I get it. No one wants to spend $400 on a house only to find out the house isn’t worth buying. However, losing $400 is nothing compared to the tens of thousands of dollars worth of problems that might show up right after you sign the papers on your new house.

A standard part of making an offer on a house is an inspection period. This is an agreed upon period of time, usually 10-14 days. This is the buyer’s chance to find out any and everything they want to know about the house, including school zones, flood insurance information, property taxes, zoning, and restrictions. This is also the time to have a home inspection done by a licensed home inspector.

“Having your home inspected is an extremely important part of the home buying process. Inspections uncover hidden deficiencies such as safety and fire hazards, electrical issues, foundation/structural issues, etc. Pre-purchase inspections reduce the risk of unexpected and costly repairs, and ensure that the home you are buying is safe for you and your family,” said Jason Hodges, owner of Atlas Home Inspection.

What home inspectors do is pretty impressive. They go on the roof. They go in the attic. They test every outlet. They turn on every appliance. You’d be surprised what is sometimes hiding behind perfectly innocent looking walls and ceilings. If deficiencies are found, the prospective buyer can then ask the current homeowner to remedy the situation, either through repairs or additional concessions to the buyer. If an agreement cannot be reached, the buyer is free to cancel the contract and have his deposit on the house returned to him.

A word of caution here, not every single thing in the inspection report is crucial. There will always be a screw to tighten here or a missing switch there. You can certainly ask the homeowner to fix these things, but inspections are more about uncovering the big things. In other words, don’t lose your dream house over a $3 outlet cover.

A few other tips, do your research and pick an inspector that is licensed, trustworthy, and thorough. Ask for recommendations and read online reviews. Also, if at all possible, be present for the inspection. A good home inspector will take you around and show you the main issues. They will also show you where important things like the main electrical panel and water shutoff valves are located.

Jason Hodges is a licensed home inspector and owner of Atlas Home Inspections. For more information, visit atlashi.com

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Melanie Coker is a real estate broker and owner of Property Sprocket. She can be found on Twitter, @melanie_larae; or via e-mail, melanie@propertysprocket.com

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