Word of mouth is one of the best ways to get a home inspector.
If you are considering buying a house for yourself, or as an investment, then you should always get a home inspection done. You can put this in your offer to purchase, that you want to do a home inspection.
Sometimes this can be the first clue that a homeowner may be hiding something, as they may refuse (which should be your first clue to either turn and run or tread lightly!) or they could be totally willing.
Many homeowners don't mind getting a home inspection, they may find it annoying, but in the end this will at least give you a list of things you may need to address right now, and what can wait for down the road. Sellers are always scared that a home inspection report will be used against them to lower the selling price. But many times, this is so that the home buyer has a good idea of what he will need to spend in the next little while after they purchase your home, not necessarily to beat you down for price.
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Even if you are totally experienced in the world of renovations and building houses, it doesn't hurt to have a third party home inspection, because a good one, will put on his coveralls and head for those dark corners of the crawl space, or basement, or fumble around in the attic, and poke at plumbing and sniff out leaks and mold. Do you really want to be doing that?
When we were selling our house, we agreed to a home inspection by a potential buyer. We had built our house 14 years earlier and had kept up on maintenance, so we thought what could go wrong? We were handy and nothing seemed to be broken at all.
Yet when that home inspector showed up, he did not leave one area unturned.. He poked in the furthest reaches of our crawl space, and because the appliances were going to be included in the sale, he even checked the burners, oven and outlets on the stove and checked the working order of the other appliances. He made sure EVERY outlet in the house worked. I kept hearing that beep from his equipment for over an hour!
At the end of the day, he smiled and left, and he managed to come up with a pretty healthy list of "problem areas". We were taken by surprise. But to be fair, these were things that we had not really looked at. One was the sump pump in the crawl space. It was not working at its best, and was overheating.. as it had debris stuck in it, we had no idea, we just heard it come on every so often, and assumed it was OK.
He found a small leak in our water heater, it was draining to the drain behind other equipment. Like I said he went crawling all over the floor. He found an uneven area of insulation in the attic, which was causing heat loss, and he climbed on the roof, and found a couple of shingles missing.
Luckily nothing on the list was nasty, and between the buyers and us, we made an agreement as to which items we would fix before they moved in, and they went ahead and bought the house.
The home inspection was an eye opener for us, and we built this place. They find things that may just be on their way out, that you may not notice in your busy day, but it is their job to notice. A good one will work like this one did in our house. He gets all his referrals by word of mouth. Anyone can advertise in the yellow pages, so ask an agent, or ask around and get some referrals, even before you go looking for a house, that way you have their name handy and ready.
On the flip side of the coin, if you are a seller and are considering selling your house, maybe you should invest in a home inspection before you list your house, to see if there are any potential repairs, large or small that are going to take you by surprise and trigger a lower offer for your home. Best to take care of these things now, and get the most out of your investment, whether you are the buyer or the seller.