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Don't assume all home inspectors do a thorough job and catch all important problems

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When you buy a house without getting a professional home inspection, you risk expensive repairs for problems no one disclosed.

But, even if you get an inspection, you can still end up with costly problems. A lot depends on who does the inspection.

To see how much difference there can be from one inspector to another, consumer advocates at Checkbook.org rented a house, identifed 28 problems - some minor, some potentially major - and hired 12 home inspectors to do a full inspection.

"As a group, they missed, like half the problems we thought were just too obvious to miss," said Checkbook's Executive Editor Kevin Brasler.

Checkbook says almost all the inspectors missed a rotting porch, loose stair railings, obvious signs of water damage on a wall and ceiling, signs of a basement moisture problem and inoperable electrical outlets.

"The roof was in really bad shape," said Brasler. "And a lot of them didn't bother to raise ladders to get an up close inspection of the roof."

Brasler says the results of the undercover project should be a wakeup call to homebuyers who assume all inspections are the same.

"Some of the inspectors really just didn't do that much work at all," Brasler emphasized. "They were missing problems, because they weren't even looking for the problems."

Checkbook, and other home buying experts say before you hire someone to inspect a home, make sure they're licensed and certified.

Don't just go with the inspector recommended by a real estate agent. Check them out to make sure they're thorough and will work only with your best interest in mind.

Get recommendations from friends and relatives who've worked with thorough inspectors who don't rush the job.

Before you hire an inspector, ask questions:

  • Will you inspect the crawl space?
  • Will you test all of the windows?
  • Will you test all outlets and lights?
  • Will you check the appliances, including for recalls?
  • Will you run the heating and air conditioning systems to see how well they work?

Brasler also recommends asking for a sample report so you can see what a typical inspection by that inspector entails.

"If you're going to pay 550 dollars plus, on average, for an inspection, you'd like them to at least inspect for a lot of stuff and be really diligent, and a lot of these inspectors just weren't," Brasler said.

It's important to point out that Cheeckbook's inspection test was not conducted in the Puget Sound region. But the results highlight the inconsistencies in thoroughness you can get from one inspector to the next.

The full Checkbook Home Inspector Test includes ratings of each inspection based on the number of mistakes caught, the hours spent inspecting the home, the number of photos included in the report, and the number of pages of the report.

As a courtsey to KOMO news viewers, the subscriber-based Checkbook report will be available on this website until September 3, 2018.

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