You've finally found the property you want, negotiated a contract and struck a deal. Now it's time to have the property inspected.
Finding An Inspector
Home Inspection services can be found in the Yellow Pages of your local phone book. Look under "Building Inspection Services," "Home Inspectors", "Engineers-Inspection," or "Real Estate Inspectors."
The person you are looking for is a professional who knows old homes and new homes inside and out. One who crawls around the property looking for structural and equipment flaws, and who will give his customer a written report that will take some of the gamble out of buying the property.
Hire an independent inspector who has no vested interest in the transaction and who abides by a written code of ethics and prescribed standards of practice designed to protect prospective buyers.
Selecting An Inspector
Check the reputation and experience of the firm you want to hire. Avoid part-time inspectors, wannabes, or anyone not engaged full time in the business of inspecting properties. Ask for and verify that the inspector has adequate training.
What They Do... and What They Don't Do
An inspector can save a future home owner a lot of grief and expense by identifying potential problems. Inspectors check the condition of the structural, electrical, and mechanical elements of a house. While they won't recommend whether or not you should buy the house, they can tell you about defects they find and the estimated cost of repairing or replacing the defect. Inspectors usually look for significant defects only.
Inspectors, unless contracted to do otherwise, do not routinely check for termites, asbestos or radon. They do not report on coldness of refrigerators, accuracy of oven temperatures, carpet stains or loose door knobs. An inspection may not include anything outside the house, such as pools, garages, sheds or water flow from an outside well. Inspectors are not required to check the adequacy of the heat supply to individual rooms, examine carpet or drapes, or even make sure that the roofing materials comply with local codes. They do not have to test every single door and window or electrical outlet in the house, only a representative sample.
A basic package may include inspection of the following: central heating systems; central cooling systems; interior plumbing systems and components; the roof's structural soundness; walls, ceilings and floors; foundations and basements; the operation of built in appliances.
The Inspection Report
Your goal is to obtain a written report detailing the condition of the structural and operational functions of the house.
The report should assess the quality of the following parts of the house: Grading, drainage, landscaping, fencing, paved areas, garage, exterior walls, doors, windows, porches, decks, roofing materials, chimneys, gutters, skylights, basements, crawl spaces, attics, construction, structural stability, water penetration, ventilation, insulation, plumbing systems pipes, drainage, faucets, water heater, water pressure, laundry appliances, traps, electrical system fuses, circuit breakers, wires, outlets, switches, heating and cooling systems, kitchen and bathrooms fixtures, appliances, plumbing and flooring.
You may want to hire a specialist if you want a swimming pool, tennis court, well or septic system inspected. These can be tested at additional expense.
The report may be presented as a set of worksheets, checklists covering the structure inspected, from roof to basement. Brief remarks may be added as necessary. The inspector may write a report regarding the overall condition of the property, along with suggested repairs or improvements.
The report should include information regarding current problems and those that may be pending. Whatever form the report takes, it should give you a realistic idea of what the condition of the house is.
Never accept a verbal report. You want a written record of the inspection.
Shop around. Find out exactly what the inspector will evaluate. Find out what the fee is for the basic inspection and for additional services like radon testing, water testing, etc.
Ask how long the inspection will last. A good home inspection should take about two to three hours or more.
Be skeptical if the inspector does not want you to accompany him during the inspection. You can learn a lot by tagging along. Most likely he will go slower with you around.
Some of the larger home inspection services may offer "inspection warranties." These are usually good for ninety days up to a maximum of one year. They can add credibility to the service's report. Ask to see the warranty before you pay for it. An inspection warranty can be useful if you are selling a home. It could be a comforting sales tool.
The Purchase Agreement
Assuming that you sign a purchase agreement before an inspection, make certain that a clause is inserted that states that the sale of the property is contingent upon an inspection report indicating that no repair or replacement above $500 is needed. You can adjust this number as you see fit.
A typical contingency clause may read as follows:
"This sale is contingent upon receipt of a structural, mechanical, and electrical inspection of the house and a condition report by (NationalPropertyService.Com). The cost of the inspection will be assumed by the buyer and the inspection will be performed within ten (10) days of the signing of this agreement. If the condition report reveals any structural, mechanical or electrical defect(s) for which the cost of correcting any such defect will exceed ($500), the seller will have the following options. A) Effect the necessary correction of the defect(s). B) Negotiate the cost of correcting the defect(s) with the buyer. C) Declare the agreement null and void.
In the event that the seller does not exercise any of these options, or cannot negotiate the cost of repairing the defect(s) with the buyer, and if the buyer does not choose to ignore the defect, the buyer will have the right to declare the agreement null and void. Should either party to this agreement make such a declaration, any deposit made by the buyer shall be refunded in full. All options must be exercised within seven (10) days of the inspection date."
Some contracts state that the seller has to make repairs up to a specified dollar amount. If the seller does not comply, the buyer can go ahead anyway, or back out of the deal. If neither want to make the repairs at that price, either can nullify the agreement.
It could happen to you. Three years after the purchase of your brand new home, you find a major structural fault such as a leaking roof or settling problem. You can try to go after the builder, but that can take years and costs thousands in legal fees.
One alternative is represented by companies such as independent home owner warranty / insurance companies. These independent organizations are owned by their member-builders. They provide 10 years of protection against major construction defects. If one of its member-builders refuses to fix the defect, insurance covers the repairs.
There is a built-in dispute-settling process that determines the outcome when buyer and builder can't agree. Since 1974, some 35,000 cases have been settled out of court.
Types of Inspections
Pre-Purchase Inspections - Due Diligence
We have been performing pre-purchase structural building inspections since 1981. Our reports are complete and comprehensive, written in an easy to read combined grid / narrative format. Reports include electronic photos of any problem areas (when lighting permits) and an estimated cost of repairs / replacement based upon our experience and resources. We maintain regular contact with local builders to keep track of repair and/or replacement costs as well as asking our clients to report back to us the actual cost of repairs they have made. companies. Clients include lenders, attorneys, insurance companies, local municipalities, real estate agents, property managers, appraisers, buyers, and sellers. All of our reports can be transmitted electronically via the internet in full color.
Independent roof inspections and/or certifications on all types of roofing both residential and commercial buildings.
Independent subjective site / facility surveys for large companies and organizations. We have a number of products / services available. Completely discreet on site surveys featuring electronic photos of the sites and surrounding areas, survey information output into popular spreadsheet or database formats for the clients use. Nationwide services.