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Get an inspection before you buy a home

Knight Ridder

NEW YORK -- If you're buying a home, it's important to know the ins and outs of home inspection.

It's an analysis of the home's structural features and systems, such as water, gas and electric. The purpose is to find any structural defects, broken or obsolete systems, damage or wear and tear -- before you assume ownership of the dwelling.

In fact, nearly every real estate agent will recommend that a home inspection be conducted as part of your purchase contract.

In the new book, "1001 Tips for Buying and Selling a Home," author Mark Nash outlines what inspectors look for:

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Hire an inspector who has a state license for home inspection and is a member of the American Association of Home Inspectors.

Understand that an inspector conducts a general survey -- he or she might be an expert in some areas, but not in all.

If possible, ask to make the tour with the inspector. You can ask him or her questions. The inspector can also point out features such as the gas- and water-cutoff valves.

Learn what the inspector will be examining. Typically, he or she will look at features including fireplaces, foundations, roofs, siding, gutters, porches, chimneys, windows, doors, hot-water heaters, and interior and exterior walls. The inspector will also look at plumbing, heating and air conditioning and electricity.

Use the tour to check for things that will fit your needs. For example, when he checks the electrical system, ask if the energy flow will be sufficient for your appliances.

If the inspector does find problems, you can submit the report to the seller with a request for repairs and replacements. Or you can use the points in the inspection to renegotiate the price.

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