Personal inspections can help a home shopper narrow down the selection to a point where it is practical to hire a professional inspector to check out what appears to be a best buy. Being able to recognize defects also helps in bargaining on price.

A few inspecting tools should be taken along when you go to look at a resale home. The kit should include a notebook, pen or pencil, flashlight, sharp-pointed pocket knife and, if possible, binoculars or field glasses. Notes should be taken while viewing the home so they can be reviewed and evaluated later.Here are some important points to check:

- Roof. Look for missing, loose or damaged shingles on any type of shingled roof. If the roof has asphalt shingles, also look for curled shingle edges and dark spots indicating advanced wear. If the building has a flat roof, ask if it is safely accessible and look for cracks, tears, holes and other deterioration. Keep in mind that reshingling or resurfacing a roof can cost $1,500 or more - often much more.

- Rain gutters. A rain-disposal system in good condition is important for keeping basements dry and house framing and finishes in good condition.

- Exterior paint and siding. Peeling paint can mean moisture problems inside walls and/or poor insulation. Peeling or flaking paint on trim such as windows also can mean that frequent maintenance and repainting will be needed.

- Foundation. Look for cracks, crumbling or bulging and signs of sinking. Any of these conditions can mean serious problems and expensive repairs.