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Health Evaluations When You’re Buying a Home

By Hilary Parker
WebMD Feature

Putting an offer on a new home is exciting. There’s so much promise, and so many plans to make. But before you dream too big you need to do some basic research on the safety of your coveted cottage.

Is your prospective new home safe, inside and out? To be sure you’ll need a home inspection. But how do you find a qualified home inspector? And which dangers -- like radon, mold, improper wiring, carbon monoxide -- should you have tested? WebMD talked to the experts, from home inspectors to real estate pros, and got their tips on making sure the dwelling of your dreams is safe for you and your family -- before you buy.

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Home Inspections: Get these Before You Buy

Bill Richardson, the president of the American Society for Home Inspectors, has a clear recollection of the most disastrous home he ever inspected.

A woman pregnant with her first baby had called to say she was concerned about the electrical wiring in an addition on the home she’d just purchased, and asked him to inspect it. When Richardson arrived, he found that the wiring, which had been done by a nonelectrical contractor, was done entirely wrong. There were hidden splices and several spots that had sparked, which would have started a fire had there been any insulation in the walls. The woman then hired a contractor to deal with the problem, only to discover the entire addition was framed incorrectly and had to be torn down.

Ultimately, it cost more than $30,000.

“This points out why you need to get a home inspection before you complete a home purchase and have the conclusion contingent on the inspection,” Richardson says. “It allows you to make an informed decision.”

Walter Molony, a spokesman for the National Association of Realtors, agrees. “We recommend buyers of any home -- old or new -- get a professional home inspection from an independent source, such as a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors.” This way, if problems to turn up, they can become points of negotiation.

Home Safety Tip: Choosing a Home Inspector

To maximize your home safety, don’t put your faith in a home inspector just because you found their listing in the Yellow Pages. Surprising as it may seem, not every state regulates the home inspection industry, though more than 30 states do. For information about your state, you can visit the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) or the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI) web pages, which maintain information about licensing requirements by state.

Regardless of where you live, how should you select a home inspector?

“Most people go through their real estate agents, but they aren’t always the best source of information as far as finding a reputable home inspector,” says David Kolesari, president of the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI).

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