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I’m a home inspector – the red flags we always look for and four things buyers need to do before purchasing a house

BUYING a home can be stressful and take time, but it's important to not rush through the process or you risk missing potential red flags.

A home inspection is your chance to learn more about the property you want to buy, and especially whether there are any hidden faults.

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It's important to inspect a property before you buy it so you're not hit with unexpected costsCredit: Getty
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Mike Powell is a structural engineer and the founder of Florida-based Red Flag Home Inspection

Skip the process altogether and you may find yourself sinking large amounts of cash into unforeseen expenses.

Mike Powell, a structural engineer and the founder of Tampa-based Red Flag Home Inspection, shared what buyers need to know about the process with The U.S. Sun.

From exactly what home inspectors look for to the red flags of renovated properties, there's plenty to be aware of.

Mike said: "It's [important] to be well-informed of the purchase being made.

"It's in the same sense as why you try on clothes, test-drive a car or kick the tires."

What inspectors look out for

Mike noted there's a standardized curriculum that most inspectors in states with license requirements follow.

This includes making sure there's robust documentation and memorialization, but certain home inspectors go one step further.

For example, Mike said pressure testing is important because pressurized water leaks may not be noticed for years otherwise.

He added: "All of a sudden you know your kitchen cabinets are rotting away and it's because it's not required by standards of practice.

"We routinely check into a pressure test system to make sure that there's not anything to indicate that we could have an unknown leak."

Other things include checking the performance of the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system to ensure comfort and quality of air inside the home.

Mike said: "We're in Florida in a very humid and hot environment, which is a big deal for the health of our indoor environment."

Red flags in recently renovated homes

If you're buying a home that's recently been renovated, it's arguably even more important that the inspection is done properly.

This especially applies if the home wasn't off the market for a long time, meaning the previous owner may have done a "quick fix".

Mike said: "Anytime I see a highly renovated I definitely know to scrutinize beyond the surface.

"We have some tools like thermal imaging. The walls may look pristine but they could be soaking wet with moisture.

"You got to be on the look for water damage, and whether it's just been painted over."

However, he added you likely won't see "too many corners cut" in electrical and plumbing due to the importance of public health and safety.

What to do before buying a home

It can be tempting to buy a home quickly, but Mike recommended doing four things before you sign on the dotted line.

This includes trying the morning commute from the apartment or house one day to learn more about the traffic patterns.

He also recommended taking the kids to dinner at the local restaurants and driving through the neighborhood after a rainstorm to know whether your area is susceptible to flooding.

It's also worth checking how people park their cars, and whether they're on the grass.

Mike added: "Water drainage is always a pressing issue, at least in my service."

What to avoid and how to speed things up

If you plan to skip the inspection, it's important to consider the risks of waiving it before you decide to do so.

Mike said: "I understand how enticing that would be, but it's so many things that could go wrong."

If you do, make sure to be able to shoulder whatever cost, which could be significant, may come your way in the future.

As an alternative, Mike recommended lining up an inspector ahead of time who can quickly get out to your potential future home.

Most inspectors will typically send you the report 24-48 hours after the actual inspection took place.

Before you hire an inspector, Mike urged households to interview any potential one about their background to know they can return the report.

You'll want to make sure they have all the tools and know the techniques to get the job done.

It's also worth checking reviews or going by word-of-mouth recommendations.

The cost of home inspections will vary across the US, but the average is sitting at $339, according to contractor-search service Angi.

It's a relatively low price to pay to avoid potentially thousands in future renovation costs.

A first-time homebuyer made three big mistakes when buying her first $328,000 home and it's costing her a fortune.

Plus, check out the cities where home sellers are dropping prices by up to 33% to attract buyers.

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