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A home buyer's new best friend

A slower real estate market has more sellers asking for home inspections, says Bill Kruszewski, owner of the Myrtle Beach franchise of HouseMaster.

They are finding ways to make their properties stand out.

"Home buyers like to look at properties that have been inspected as long as the company is reputable," Kruszewski said.

The former electrical engineer and residential building contractor in Clearwater, Fla., started the HouseMaster franchise out of his Little River home nine years ago and now completes about 400 home inspections a year. Kruszewski runs the business with his wife, Sande, and his son, Aleks, 32, also a home inspector.

Question: What should homeowners expect to get out of a good home inspection?

Answer: You will find out the condition of all the major systems like roofing, air conditioning, heating, water heater, electric and appliances. We check for functionality and condition. We do not do cosmetic checks. Reports are 20 to 30 pages long and outlines the condition in each area with photos. We also do new homes. In one brand-new home, we found a burner that was too close to a side cabinet. That's something the code enforcer doesn't look at. We told the potential buyer that this could be a fire hazard.

Q: What should homeowners look for in picking a home inspector?

A: Call at least three and check their credentials. Ask how many inspections they've done. Ask if they carry professional liability insurance and general liability insurance. If the home inspector misses something, you want to know, "What is the recourse for items missed?" Ask about continuing education. Realtors are required to take continuing education classes, but home inspectors are not. Another criteria is professional memberships, like the American Society of Home Inspectors. Ask if the report can be sent over e-mail, if it contains photos and ask for a sample report.

Q: What are major problems you see in homes in this area?

A: We see a variety of problems from the condition of roofing to siding to roof leakage. We see air conditioning and heating system deficiencies. We see a lot of moisture problems in crawl spaces. A lot of homeowners don't go into their crawl spaces or attics.

Q: What's the one thing homeowners could do to help the upkeep of their home, but usually don't?

A: Maintaining the roofing, exterior and the flashings (sealants) are important. All systems have finite lives especially water heaters and appliances. We see maintenance issues on wood-exterior older homes. Vinyl and brick tend to have fewer maintenance requirements.

Q: What's the one question all homeowners ask?

A: They ask us, "Would you buy this house?" We give them an inspection report and it's up to them to decide. They ask, "Did the house pass the inspection?" There's no pass/fail. We don't decide that. They can read the report and decide if it works for them. In our experience, there's probably no perfect home. You should expect the home inspector to find something - could be major, could be minor. Then you can work with your real estate agent and go over any concerns. It's our job to provide the facts.

Q: Has a slowed real estate market affected the number of home you inspect?

A: Yes, our business has slowed down as well. Our business tracks with real estate sales. We saw about a 30 percent drop in business.

Q: What else is important for the consumer to know?

A: You should ask the home inspector if you can be there with them for the inspection. You can walk around with us and ask questions. We can give you a lot of useful information like where the circuit breaker is and the size of the hot water heater. If we find wood rot, we can show you the extent of it. Typically a home buyer sees a home for about 20 minutes. The home inspection gives them hours to get to know their potential new home.

Bill Kruszewski

Age | 64

Company | HouseMaster

Title | Owner of Myrtle Beach franchise