Again, it’s buyer beware. Homeowners and homebuyers need to ask the right questions about the home, and especially about the home inspector they’re interviewing. For example, how long have you been inspecting homes? What were you doing before home inspections? (You want someone with a background in home construction.) Are you insured? Are you certified? By who and what precisely does that mean?

Ideally, we should be able to rely on the advice of the pros we hire. But sometimes it’s difficult to know who’s a pro and who’s not, and by the time we find out it’s too late. Then who’s stuck with the bill? You are.

So I always tell homeowners to educate themselves. Learn what separates the pros from the players. Also, learn the red flags. Here are some of the things to look for:

— Missing downspouts or downspouts that direct water to the roof or foundation; this could lead to leaks

— Cracked brick, including around windows; it could mean moisture intrusion and rot

— Poor grading; it could lead to leaks in the basement

— Vertical foundation cracks; more than one could mean structural problems, such as a cracked footing

— Trees next to the foundation; the roots could get into plumbing and interfere with proper water drainage around the home

— Lights that flicker; that could mean something’s wrong with the electrical

— Missing insulation in the attic and/or exterior walls; this leads to higher energy bills and, potentially, mould

— Blocked soffit venting; this leads to poor air circulation and possibly mold

— Mouse droppings and insect wings (it could mean termites)

— Patch jobs on the walls and ceiling; it could mean there is or was a leak

— A musty smell; it could mean there’s mold

Another thing homebuyers should ask is to see the permits from any jobs done on the house.

If you are looking at a house that’s been renovated, you can go to the municipality and find the permits on it. If there are no permits, that means either that they didn’t hire a pro or they did the work themselves. Either way, if they didn’t know what they were doing, you’re stuck with the potential risk and the repair bill.

Buying a house shouldn’t be like playing Russian roulette. You should know that you are making a smart investment.

Mike Holmes: My list of important red-flag items to check for when buying a resale home