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Crucial things to know before you hire a home inspector

Home inspector is known for being so thorough, some agents consider him a "deal killer".{ } KOMO photo{p}{/p}
Home inspector is known for being so thorough, some agents consider him a "deal killer". KOMO photo

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Hiring a home inspector before you make a purchase can save you thousands of dollars in unexpected repairs. But don't assume every home inspector is the same.

Washington State law dictates the minimum standards for a residential home inspection. The state also requires home inspectors to complete 120 hours of special classes and 40 hours of field training and they must pass exams in order to obtain a home inspection license.

The best inspectors are also insured, and certified by a recognized home inspection certification organization.

While there are many excellent inspectors working in our state, unfortunately there are many who leave a lot to be desired.

When you're making one of the biggest investments you'll ever make, you want someone who puts your best interest before keeping the deal alive.

Certified inspector Paul Rogers prides himself as being extremely thorough. So much so, that he says many real estate agents consider him a deal killer.

"I don't kill the deal," said Rogers. "I only report what the facts are. I have no vested interest in that property. My interest is in my client. Period."

Rogers, who has inspected residential properties for more than 23 years in the Puget Sound area, says as many as 60 to 70 percent of his clients walk away from the home they were considering, after seeing his inspection results.

"Most people have scrimped and saved and saved and saved, they don't have a lot of money after closing to do those repairs," Rogers explained.

Ron Greene, a former electrical engineer, says he started doing residential inspections four years ago.

"I laugh when an agent tells me he hopes I don't kill the deal," said Greene. "I tell him, if the deal falls flat, it will be the home that killed it, not me."

Greene says prospective home buyers need to understand that different home inspectors see things differently.

For example, one inspector might make note of swollen floor moldings. Another might investigate further to determine the actual cause of the swelling.

Green also points out that some problems may not be easily detected by even the best inspectors.

Before you hire a home inspector, get referrals from other homeowners who give their inspector high marks.

Ideally, talk to more than one inspector and don't limit your search to the few your agent suggests.

Find out everything the inspection will cover (review the state law linked above) and make note of anything that's left out.

Ask about their certification, and ask whether they have errors and omissions insurance, in case they miss something important.

Greene recommends home buyers also ask how long the inspection will take. He says even with a small home, a reasonably thorough inspection cannot be done in less than three hours and he typically takes 5 to 8 hours.

Local real estate agent Junior Torres says he gives his clients a list of questions including: How many inspections do you do in an average year?

According to Torres, more than around 30 inspections per month could mean the inspector is putting quantity over quality.

Rogers warns you should also be wary if the quoted price for the inspection is much lower than everyone else's price.

"You need to find somebody who is thorough, who isn't discounting their inspection fee just to get the business," Rogers said.

And even in this hot local housing market, where multiple bids are prompting many buyers to waive home inspections - the best home inspectors agree that waiving an inspection is never advised, especially with homes that have been flipped for fast profit.

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