The Lowdown On Property Inspections

Property Inspection
Do’s & Don’ts

DO Get an inspection on any property you are considering buying. DON’T over-react to the inspection report.

Your Realtor® can help you get your dream home or office inspected, and walk you through the process of using the property inspection report findings to help protect yourself from getting stuck with a dud.

This comprehensive discussion of the inspection process is a must-read if this is your first real estate purchase. It is a great refresher for those who have been around this rodeo before.

Property Inspection
Basics

So you think you found the perfect house or office; but is it really as great as it looks? The building was likely repainted, polished up, and staged so it would look its best when you came in.

What if the air conditioner in this beautiful home is on its last legs? Or what if there is a slow leak in the water heater? How about if the new coat of paint on the basement walls is covering up dangerous mold? You need an independent third-party expert to tell the real story about the building so you go into the deal with eyes wide open.

This inspector will spend time climbing around in the attic, poking around in the basement, wandering around on the roof, and moving from room to room with a state-required checklist of the most common deal-breakers to look for. Then they will provide you with a full report, so you can decide your next move.

Why You Should
Get an Inspection

You might have a seller that has gone to great lengths to hide major problems, but most of the time there are simply defects that the seller is not aware of. That’s why your real estate agent should encourage you to have the property inspected by an independent, third-party building inspector – before you are locked into a contract to hand over the money and close the deal.

Inspectors will tell you that not all homeowners are great about repairing things, especially preventive maintenance service before a problem occurs. This goes double for a property that is in danger of foreclosure or that has already been taken over by the bank and is standing vacant.

If the seller gives you a copy of a recent inspection, show all due appreciation – and get your own inspection anyway. You need to know that the inspector represents your interests only, and not the seller’s.

Definition of a
Real Estate Inspection

The General Inspection

An inspection of property you are thinking about buying is an official activity that results in an official report. The form provided by the state of Texas is a standard checklist that all inspectors must use, although some inspectors add their own bonus items to give you a more thorough report.

Inspectors check everything as well as they can without tearing walls open or pulling up carpet. They are not allowed to disturb any part of the building – they can only inspect and report on what they can see at the time of the inspection.

What an Inspection Does – And Doesn’t – Do

An inspection is not an exhaustive study of every conceivable thing that can go wrong with a house or office building. You may have an inspector check the box that the A/C is functioning properly at the time of the inspection, only to have the compressor short out the day after you move in.

There are no guarantees about the findings based on the inspector’s non-invasive observation, and – let’s face it – if you are buying and not renting, there will be repairs that need to be made from time to time. The inspection report is a snapshot of the overall condition of the home on the day it is inspected to give you a sense of how well it has been cared for. Then you can back out of the deal or move forward with the purchase with the confidence that you are probably not buying a lemon.

Additional Inspections

There are some areas that are not covered in a general inspection, or your inspector may suggest that you get a specialist to do an assessment of something they can’t get access to or that warrants a closer look. There are also special inspections you should order due to the age of the building or its location.

For example, some homes should be inspected for termites, rodents, lead, asbestos, mold, and radon gas. If you are considering a house built on the edge of a lake, you might consider hiring a structural engineer to determine if the foundation is sound.

Some of these additional assessments – like termite inspections – can be done by your general inspector, but are considered separate inspections for separate fees. Likewise, your inspector may perform water quality testing and an energy audit, for an additional fee.

Your realtor should be very knowledgeable about the characteristics and unique challenges of the various communities in the San Antonio area. They can help you decide which inspections you should order and which can probably be skipped, based on the history of the area where the building is located.

Ordering a
Home Inspection

Timing

Do the inspection while you still have time to back out if a deal-breaker pops up. You have the right to request an inspection at any time; if you do so before the contract is final, any problems that turn up are the seller’s problems. If you do an inspection after you are locked into a contract, you are the one who has to arrange and pay for repairs.

When you make a written offer on a property, your realtor® should make sure it includes the right for you to walk away from the deal if the inspection turns up a major problem – especially if the seller refuses to correct the problem – without you having to suffer the penalties of breaking the contract. [4]

Pricing

The cost of an inspection may take your breath away. However, it is much cheaper than getting stuck with a house that needs several thousand dollars in surprise repairs. In Central Texas, the fees average between $250 and $500, depending on the age and size of the home. Most inspectors collect the fee before the inspection begins, in cash, by check, or electronically.

The Inspection
Process

If at all possible, you should walk through the building with the inspector during the inspection. You don’t need to climb ladders with them, but it is very useful to be there to say, “What about this?” or to look over their shoulder when they find something they want to show you. You might also find out about small flaws that aren’t serious enough to be included in the report.

Inspectors have personal preferences in the organization of the physical assessment of the building. Some like to start with the roof, while others like to start in the basement and work their way up to the exterior. Weather may play a part – if there is to be a great downpour, the inspector may choose to climb on the roof before it rains and then look around in the attic for leaks while it is raining. There is no standard way of conducting an inspection, just a standard list of items that must be checked.

The Real Estate
Inspection Report

Things to Keep In Mind

When you hire an inspector, they are your employee. They are there to help you learn as much about the structure as possible. The details are for your eyes only. The seller doesn’t get a copy of the report unless you want them to have all or part of it as a part of the negotiation to have them make repairs.

What do you do with the report when you get it? You fly into action with your realtor®, of course! Remember that no property will be absolutely perfect. With that in mind, go over the report with your agent, and determine if there is anything on the list that sends you screaming into the night. Account for things like a crumbling foundation or evidence that the building was used as a meth lab.

When you open the report, DON’T OVERREACT! If you see a long list of issues you may be tempted to panic and move on to another house, especially if you are a first-time buyer. Most of the time, a long list of issues just means that your inspector is so thorough that they listed every little thing.  From a broken drawer pull to a dirty peephole. Use the report as a tool for getting a fair deal for the property. However, it there is something terribly wrong you still should make a carefully thought-out decision to withdraw your offer.

Your Realtor® can help you get your dream home or office inspected, and walk you through the process of using the property inspection report findings to help protect yourself from getting stuck with a dud.

How to Use the Inspector’s Findings

Now is the time that the negotiations with the seller are wrapping up, and soon you will have to commit to the final terms of the agreement. At this point, the seller is holding their breath because they know this is your last chance to back out. That usually gives you the power to request some additional, reasonable concessions from the seller.

The first step is to mark each problem in the report as a cosmetic issue or a safety issue. The seller is required to make repairs on items that could lead to injury or harm. You need to identify those things and make sure the contract includes a specific list of safety issues the seller will take care of before you hand over the money.

That leaves the cosmetic issues, which is a more complicated challenge. If it is a buyer’s market and the seller is darn lucky to have you so close to sealing the deal, you can probably get the seller to give you a cash allowance at closing so you can replace worn-out carpeting or have the faded exterior re-painted. If it is a seller’s market, you are darn lucky to have a seller so close to sealing the deal – and the seller is likely to take advantage by refusing to correct anything other than safety issues.

Most of the time they will agree to some items in your request but not others. Your realtor® can help you draw up the list of items to request and will handle the back-and-forth of the negotiations – keeping you in the loop on every detail.

What Goes Into the
Inspection Report

The written inspection report is straightforward and should include everything the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) requires. Click here to download a PDF version of TREC’s standard form.

 


I. Structural Systems

  • Attic & Roof
  • Basement, Foundation, & Drainage
  • Walls, Ceiling, & Flooring
  • Windows & Doors
  • Garage


II. Electrical Systems

  • Circuit Breaker Box
  • Outlets & Light Switches
  • Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) Outlets
  • Built-in Lighting & Ceiling Fans


III. Heating, Ventilation, & AC Systems

  • Furnaces, Compressors, & Swamp Coolers
  • Central Fans
  • Ducts
  • Thermostats
  • Intake Filters
  • Window Air Conditioners & Radiators


IV. Plumbing Systems

  • Fawcetts & Spigots
  • Drains & Water Supply Pipes
  • Sinks, Tubs, Showers, Bidets, & Toilets


V. Appliances

  • Kitchen Appliances
  • Laundry Appliances (if they are part of the sale)
  • Water Heaters & Water Softeners


VI. Optional Systems

  • Swimming Pools & Spas
  • Outbuildings (e.g. pool house, shed, barn, shop, etc.)

Hiring the Right
Property Inspector

Integrity of the Process

Your real estate inspector must be an uninvolved third party, and they must be licensed by the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC). Don’t try to cut corners by having your brother-in-law look over the property because he’s a handyman – the seller won’t accept defects he lists, and you will not have an independent assessment of the house.

Inspectors rely on word-of-mouth for referrals for their business and are very careful to maintain a strong reputation for being honest, thorough, and knowledgeable. If they don’t do their best to represent your interests, referrals from your real estate agent could dry up – and they will do everything to avoid that situation.

Qualifications of an Inspector

Don’t confuse a real estate inspector with a real estate appraiser. An appraiser is trained to assess the value of a building based on things like the square footage of conference rooms, upgraded bathrooms, and size/type of the garage or parking lot. The bank that will loan you the money to buy the property will order the appraisal, pay the appraiser, and receive the appraisal report.

On the other hand, an inspector is someone who is trained to assess the condition of a building to determine if it is ready for immediate occupancy or if there are problems requiring repairs before the structure is put to use. You will order the inspection, pay the inspector, and receive the inspection report.

Inspectors are licensed by the State of Texas, after completing training and passing certification exams.[3] Many inspectors have worked as general contractors in the past. They will have a good understanding of building new construction and repairing existing structures.

How to Find a Good Home Inspector

You want an enthusiastic, motivated inspector to give you your money’s worth; the last thing you need is a lazy inspector. Your realtor® can give you the names of some trusted inspectors, and you can compare that list with recommendations from friends, family, or other acquaintances.

Ultimately it is your decision to hire the one that you feel is right for you. Once you have your list of 3-4 inspectors, look each one up online. There will undoubtedly be reviews on Yelp.com, YP.com, and other sites – shoot for the 4 to 5-star rated inspectors. Don’t forget to check their license status by going to the TREC website and entering their name. Look for a current, valid license in good standing. If there are issues, keep looking!

The
Upshot

Armed with in-depth knowledge of the home before you buy gives you the confidence that it is a good investment. It also gives you a snapshot the maintenance status of the various systems in the house so you can stay on top of periodic assessments and repairs.

Your realtor® should have experience with the inspection process and the leadership to get you through the negotiating process and on to the closing. That’s what I call…

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Started!

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Andrew Barlowe Realtor Vortex Realty

Andrew Barlowe

2241 NW Military Hwy STE 302
San Antonio, TX 78213
210.420.8420

Sources

[1] FindLaw https://realestate.findlaw.com/buying-a-home/home-inspections-before-you-buy.html

[2] Nolo https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/whats-the-difference-between-home-inspection-property-inspection.html

[3] Texas Real Estate Commission https://www.trec.texas.gov/forms/property-inspection-report-0

[4] Texas Realtors® https://www.texasrealestate.com/members/posts/5-questions-to-ask-about-your-first-home-inspection/

[5] Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Home_inspection

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