This post is part of the series: Protecting Your Investment
Inspections are one of the most important things you can do when you are buying property. There are many different things you may want inspected, depending on the property you are buying.
Understand Your Rights and Obligations
Your Purchase Contract (and state laws) spells out whether or not you can do any inspections, what kind of inspections they can be, and what your time frame is for having access to the property. Make sure you understand your Purchase Contract so there are no misunderstandings.
Choose an Inspector
A home inspection is probably one of the most common inspections done for residential properties.
There are many different people that will do home inspections. You may want someone accredited as a home inspector, you may have decided to hire a general contractor, or you may have a family member inspect for you.
Before hiring any inspector you should make sure that they are qualified to give an opinion on the property you are buying and that they will look at any specific things you are worried about for the price they quoted you.
The owner of the property may also have restrictions – they may require the inspector to have liability insurance (in case they get hurt or break things).
The American Society of Home Inspectors, or ASHI, is a national group that sets standards for it’s members.
From their website: “ASHI, founded in 1976, is North America’s oldest and most respected professional society of home inspectors.”
Most of our customers choose to use an ASHI inspector, because they meet national standards for home inspections.
Some people choose to hire a general contractor (and some inspectors also hold a contractor’s license). Make sure they are familiar with the same type of construction the building you are buying, and that the do inspections regularly.
Talk to them about how they deliver the information the find – do they give you a report? Take photos?
I’ll strongly suggest that while your Uncle/Friend/Brother may be great to take along before you decide to buy a home you should really hire a professional to do the official inspection. They can point out problems that you may not notice before an offer, but unless they are a home inspector they don’t go through a home systematically and make sure to look at every system.
Someone who does inspections every day knows what to check for in homes, for different builders, or manufacturers.
What to Expect
In this section we are focusing mainly on ASHI Home Inspectors.
When at the property you can expect your inspector to look at “readily accessible, visually observable, installed systems and components”. They do not take appliances or walls apart to see inside. They do look, touch, measure, and listen.
You can plan on a home inspection to take anywhere from an hour to several hours. Longer inspections happen for larger homes, but also if you have a lot of questions for the inspector as they move through the house.
We always recommend that you show up and stay for the inspection. By following the inspector and watching him work you can learn a lot about the home and how its systems work. Also, if the inspector finds a problem he can show you exactly what it is, instead of having to describe it.
Inspectors sometime use some pretty nifty gadgets. I have seen: resistance meters to measure moisture; thermal images to see insulation, leaks, and structural issues; and lazer thermometers to test a/c efficiency.
Note: If the inspector breaks something you are technically responsible for repairing it because you hired them and brought them to the property. Don’t let them cause damage unless you have gotten permission for a specific test from the property owner (drilling holes, cutting into walls, etc).
Sometimes it is hard to tell if an inspector broke something or if he just ‘uncovered’ a problem, and this can become a sticky situation. For example: A pool pump is exposed to sun and chemicals for years, making the handle brittle. The inspector tries to turn the handle and it snaps off. Was it already broken or was it broken because of the inspection? I have seen buyers and sellers both up in arms about this kind of situation.
When he is done looking at everything, the inspector should give you a printed report of what was found. Usually this is an overview of the whole property, not just a list of problems. They try to state facts only and not give opinions (apparently that is a liability for them!). On the report you will see things like the apparent age of the roof, water heater, and how well the air conditioner is cooling. Depending on the inspector there may be photos of all these things too.
If you used the standard Gainesville & Alachua County Association of Realtors (GACAR) contract then the seller may be required to repair some items – but the inspector doesn’t limit his report to only those items. Talk with him to understand which things on the report are not working properly, and talk to your real estate agent or an attorney to understand which items you can take to the seller.
If there is an issue that the inspector isn’t qualified to talk about he’ll suggest that you get a professional out to take a look. For example, I’ll hear them suggest this if there are cracks in the foundation, because they don’t know if it is settling or a sinkhole.
You may have to give copies of some of the reports to the owner’s if you ask them to fix things. Read your contract ahead of time so you know what you will need and can ask the inspector for it.
You may need to use specific forms to request that repairs are done, or use specific language. Read your contract and talk to a professional – and make sure you do it all before the end of your “inspection period.”
Here is a link to ASHI Inspectors in the Gainesville, FL area.