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Every week, join Whitney Quick as she helps you navigate life as a smart consumer. You'll cover everything in avoiding the latest scams, including phishing emails, medical equipment fraud, understanding layaway, hiring a reputable tax preparer, and even digital spring cleaning. Add to your toolbox and flip through your Consumer Handbook Thursdays during NPR’s Morning Edition at 6:42 a.m. and 8:42 a.m., only on KRCU.

Consumer Handbook: Hiring a Home Inspector

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Buying a home can be one of the most important financial investments you will ever make. But how do you know if the house is everything it appears to be? If your new home has hidden structural issues and needs major repairs, you may be buying into a money pit and sleepless nights. A home inspection is one of the smartest ways to educate yourself about the physical condition of a property before you buy.

Pick a home inspector who has experience, positive references, and is known for being very comprehensive. While this may cost more upfront, hiring a great inspector will save you money in the long run. If you don’t get a complete, accurate inspection, you may miss major problems and your chance to negotiate repairs with the seller.

Ask friends and acquaintances for recommendations. Ask for and experienced home inspector who is known for being very thorough. Find someone familiar with your type of home and the issues you need to inspect. Be sure your inspector specializes in homes, not commercial properties, and any issues you anticipate finding. For example, if you’re concerned about a home’s structure, consider hiring a professional engineer or architect who also does general home inspections. Also, be sure your agreement with the inspector covers the systems you most need to have examined.

Ask prospective inspectors questions about their professional training, relevant experience and/or length of time in business. Make sure your home inspector is working in your best interests. For example, many home inspectors rely on referrals from real estate agents for their business. This means that the inspector may be more interested in maintaining that relationship than providing you a thorough inspection. They may be less inclined to identify major repair issues that hold up the sale of your home.

Also, be cautious about hiring a home inspector who is looking to get contracting work from you.