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Understanding Inspection, Why Properties Should be Inspected, Types of Inspections, Optimizing Inspections

Understanding Inspection
A home's physical condition greatly affects its value. And unless you're a professional property inspector, you probably won't be able to estimate how much corrective work a house needs simply by looking at it.

Most states require that sellers and real estate agents make full, immediate disclosure to prospective buyers of all known mechanical, structural, and legal problems associated with owner-occupied residential property.

Patent and latent defects
Property defects come in two general categories -- patent and latent:

  1. Patent defects are right out in the open for all the world to see. You don't need a professional property inspector to point out obvious stuff (like water stains on the ceiling, cracks in the wall, or a flooded basement.) You do, however, need a trained professional to tell you whether these defects are signs of major problems or merely inconsequential blemishes. Learn more about patent-defect red flags. Learn more about Patent-defect red flags.

  2. Latent defects can be of more concern than patent defects because they're hidden and out of sight -- behind walls or concealed in inaccessible areas. Faulty wiring, termite damage, a cracked heat-exchanger in the furnace, and health and safety-code problems (such as lead in the water pipes and asbestos insulation) are some examples of latent physical flaws. Legal blemishes, such as zoning violations and fraudulent title claims, illustrate another kind of invisible latent defect that only experts can detect.

Why Properties Should be Inspected
It's important to have a qualified inspector completely inspect the home you are planning to buy. If you by-pass the inspection and later discover that your house needs repairs, you'll end up spending more money in the long run.

Here are reasons why every property should be inspected prior to purchase:

  • Used houses: The older the house, the greater the likelihood that you'll find defects in its mechanical and structural systems.

  • New houses: Even if you're buying a newly constructed, never-been-lived-in home, having it thoroughly inspected is wise. Just because the building is new doesn't guarantee everything is perfect.

  • Condominiums: You need an inspection before buying a condominium. Don't forget that when you buy a condo, you're also buying into the entire building in which your condo is located. As a co-owner of the building, you'll be assessed your proportional share of the cost for corrective work required in common areas, such as the roof, heating system, or foundation.

  • Townhouses, cooperative apartments, and all other forms of co-ownership property: See the preceding bullet point about condominiums.

What it comes down to is that all properties should be inspected. Inspect detached residences, attached residences, single-family dwellings, multifamily dwellings, condos, co-ops, townhouses, and anything else that has a foundation and a roof. Protect your investment by having it inspected.

Types of Inspections
What inspections should you get to protect your investment? That depends on what area of the country you live in, how the building in question is constructed, and what you plan to do to the property after buying it. Here are the three most common inspections -- which we recommend be done after you have an accepted offer to purchase but before removing your inspection contingencies:

Prepurchase interior and exterior components inspection
No matter whether you're buying a wood-frame cottage in the country or an urban condo in a 20-story, steel-and-concrete building, you need a complete inspection of the property's interior and exterior. The inspection should cover such areas as the roof and gutters, plumbing, electrical work, heating and cooling systems, insulation, smoke detectors, kitchen, bathroom, and foundation. This type of inspection usually takes several hours to complete and will depend upon the size of the property.

Don't be surprised if the property inspector recommends additional inspections. Good property inspectors refer their clients to specialists, such as roofers, structural engineers, and pest-control inspectors, if they discover a problem beyond their scope of expertise.

Pest-control inspection
Temperate climates, such as in the South and West, can be a mixed blessing. You're not the only one who loves warm, balmy weather. So do termites, carpenter ants, powder-post beetles, dry rot, fungus, and other wood-munching infestations or infections. If these are a problem in your area, you'll also need a pest-control inspection.

Pest-control inspections are very limited in scope -- the inspectors check for property damage caused only by wood-destroying insects (infestations) and organisms (infections, such as dry rot and fungus). Although homes made of wood or wood-and-stucco are the wood-destroyers' primary targets, even brick homes aren't safe.

Architect or general contractor's inspection
You need an architect or a general contractor on your team if you're buying a fixer-upper, intending to do corrective work, or planning a major property renovation, such as adding rooms or installing a new bathroom. The architect or general contractor can tell you whether what you want to do is structurally possible and meets local planning codes for such things as height restrictions and lot coverage. This inspector can also give you time and cost estimates for the project.

Optimizing Inspections
Here are some guidelines for when you invest in a pre-purchase property inspection:

  1. Always make your offer to purchase a house subject to your review and approval of the inspection reports. Doing so gives you the opportunity to either negotiate a credit or price reduction for corrective work that is discovered during the inspections or, if you wish, get out of the deal.

  2. Have your agent order a permit search on the property to find out whether electrical, plumbing, or other repairs have been performed.

  3. Read your property inspector's report carefully. If you don't see some defects listed in the report that your inspector specifically mentioned during the inspection, call the inspector to find out why. Don't be the least bit shy about calling your inspector to get a detailed explanation of anything you don't completely understand.

  4. To minimize the cost of corrective repairs, get bids on the job from several reputable, licensed contractors. Never try to save money by using unlicensed contractors to do the work without permits. Many states require that sellers disclose to prospective purchasers the fact that work on the house was done without permits. John L. Scott Home Services and your agent can help you find a reputable, licensed contractor in your area.

  5. Use your property inspector during the contractor bidding process. If the contractors have questions regarding items discussed in the inspection report, refer them to the report's author for clarification. For an additional fee, some property inspectors will help you evaluate bids you receive to do the corrective work.

  6. Prepurchase property inspections are intended to give you a factual basis for negotiating the correction of big-ticket defects -- not to nickel-and-dime sellers over credits for stained carpets and worn curtains. Let your offering price reflect the home's reduced value due to normal wear-and-tear cosmetic defects.
Columbia MO Real Estate Jones Company The Jones Company Real Estate, LLC
Columbia, MO 65201
Phone 573-268-6628
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