Q. We've finally decided to buy a home but need to know what to look for in a home inspector. We've heard horror stories from friends who've picked the wrong inspector, so what should we look out for? -- Christine Conscientious
Dear Ms. Conscientious: You're a smart cookie to ask around since, unfortunately, a number of home inspectors need inspecting themselves. I've looked around, and msn.com offers some great tips when searching out the best home inspector. (Good news for the newly blossoming home buying market.)
• A state-issued certification isn't necessarily the be-all to end-all. Training can be minimal at best. Check for those who belong to a professional inspection society, which will have weeded out some of the less-trained and less-savory. Look for membership in the National Institute of Building Inspectors, the American Society of Home Inspectors or the National Association of Home Inspectors.
• Don't take at face value the inspector your listing agent recommends. Ask pertinent questions, such as "Who would you want (or did you employ) to inspect your own home?" Who's the inspector who finds the most flaws in houses? (That's the one you want, according to the msn article.)
• Once you've decided on a couple of inspectors, grill them to discover which one (if either) is best.
For example, ask to see their resume; ask for a list of referrals; ask to see the person's Omission and Errors insurance policy. And always request a guarantee in writing. If the gas fireplace is deemed in good condition in June but won't light in December, this guarantee can save you some bucks, as the guarantee pays for the repairs.
Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears every Saturday. Email her at consumerwatch@timesfree press.com.