Don't buy a money pit; hire a home inspector
Whether you’re buying a new or existing house, a home inspection is one of the most important steps you can take to make sure it’s a good investment and a safe place to live.
Often my clients don’t fully understand what takes place during a home inspection or what they can to do to get the most out of it. The main goal is how to avoid from buying the “money pit.”
Often I hear, “I’m buying a new home, so why have it inspected?” The assumption is that the home is brand-new, the builder built it to code and the company had it inspected during the building process by a third party.
I have inspected new homes where they forgot to blow the insulation in the attic, attach the gas lines to the furnace and left off the water heater flue allowing carbon monoxide to spew into the attic. I’ve also found underlayments missing under the shingles, flashing installed wrong and improper attic ventilation, to name a few.
So don't assume your builder did everything right just because the home passed a code inspection. The professional home inspector you hire is your defense against major defects that could keep you from buying the money pit.
Normally the first thing I hear when I answer my phone is “What do you charge for a home inspection?” Too many times, buyers tend go with the cheapest inspection company or the one recommended by their realtor. Hopefully, the realtor provided you with a list of home inspectors. When you choose an inspector, you want to choose someone who is competent, thorough and trustworthy.
You can find this out by interviewing each one, asking for referrals and looking at a sample inspection report to see who you are most comfortable with. Be sure to ask if they are licensed and carry errors and emissions insurance, which is required in Texas.
Although the written report you receive from the inspector should give you a clear picture of the condition of the home, you should still attend the inspection. I like my clients to be there only at the end for two reasons. One is so I can do the inspection uninterrupted. I want to be able to concentrate on doing the best inspection I can for my client. Second, when the clients show up at the end of the inspection, I will be ready to spend the time to walk them through the home and point out the major items I found deficient and what I consider minor or cosmetic problems.
Another problem is when buyers don't follow up on items discovered in the inspection before they close. For example, finding a stucco crack that shows evidence of moisture behind it, but because the crack was hairline, the buyer didn’t think it was a major issue. It turned out that the moisture weakened a beam, and the cost was substantial to repair.
Always get several estimates on repairs before closing on the home. You shouldn’t hesitate in calling your inspector to discuss these types of things.
One a final note, no matter how experienced your home inspector is, he or she can't see through walls, see things that aren’t accessible or see into the future to tell you when items are going to fail. A home inspector may give you some estimated life expectancy of equipment like air conditioners and water heaters, but he or she can't tell you when it will fail.
In general, a home inspector can only inspect what is visible, what is accessible and not be destructive in the process. Remember that the inspector does not know the history of the home and is only there a short period of time, depending on how large the home is.
The next time you look at purchasing a home, look for an inspector who will not only try and protect your interest but also the seller and agent. Sometimes we find things that neither the seller nor the agent are aware of. Our job is to stay neutral and present the facts in an unbiased report so that you can make an informed decision. The last thing anyone wants to happen is to wind up in a dispute.
J&R Inspect-It, LLC, which is located in Cypress, Texas. He's been a professional home inspector in the Houston-area since 2002.
As of May 10, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.