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Professional Home Inspection
Have you ever thought about what’s behind the walls in your home? Or what’s happening with all that metal equipment up in the attic? You probably don’t think about these things very often—you just take for granted that everything is fine. But you might be surprised, and that surprise will not be a welcome one if it appears the day after you move into your new home!
Prospective buyers have at least four opportunities to be sure that the home they decide to purchase is structurally sound and that all of its systems are in working order:
So, let’s talk about that professional home inspection. Inspectors are well trained and experienced professionals who have completed a rigorous training process which includes an apprenticeship as well as a state-certified licensing test. Many of them have backgrounds in either engineering or home construction. Either way, they know their way around a house and can spot problems the average consumer would never recognize.
This is the very best defense against some very nasty (and expensive) surprises. A professional inspector will spend about a half day in the home you are considering. He will turn on every light switch, test every electrical outlet, run the dishwasher, test the oven temperature, flush every toilet, open every water tap and inspect every drain pipe for undetected leaks. And that’s just the first hour! Inspectors are required by law to give the home a thorough “going over” and to provide you with a detailed report which includes the good, the not-so-good, and the dangerous.
For example, the inspector will perform a thorough examination of the home’s exterior, looking for problems with shingles or other roofing components, gutters, bricks and façade, trees too close to the home (a potential hazard due to insects), and most important of all—the foundation. If the home has a pier and beam foundation, the inspector will probably crawl around under the house to ensure the structural supports are doing their job. For a concrete foundation, the inspector will watch for soil grading and drainage to avoid future foundation damage.
Back inside, the inspector will turn his attention to the attic, where he will look at the interior structural components of the roofing support system, ventilation, and insulation. He will look for evidence of existing or previously-repaired roof leaks as well as damage or infestation by insects. Finally, he will carefully inspect the heating furnace and the air conditioning evaporator coils. His report will include photographs and his professional opinion of the age, condition, and remaining useful life of the equipment. He may make suggestions for minor repairs that could extend the life of these expensive systems.
And that’s not all! The inspector will examine the water heater and the electrical box to point out potential hazards before they become serious. There’s more, but you get the idea.
Here in Houston a professional inspection usually costs about $350-400 for an average home. His report is generally delivered over night, and a good inspector will be available to answer any questions you may have. (My favorite inspector actually reviews the report with the buyer on the spot from his laptop just as soon as his inspection work is completed.) The inspection report can reveal repairs to be negotiated with the seller, or it may reveal nothing significant at all. Either way, considering the investment a buyer is making in buying a home, the time and money spent for a professional inspection is definitely a bargain!
So when your Realtor brings up the subject, take advantage of the opportunity to schedule a professional inspection and learn as much as you can about your new home. You’ll be glad you did.
Under previous market conditions purchasing a home was a more leisurely experience. That first whimsical thought of “I think it’s time to buy a house” set in motion a slow-moving process where one could take the time to view a few houses, take time to “sleep on it,” look at more houses, compare features, and eventually settle on one. For desirable homes in the current Houston market, that strategy will result in frustration and disappointment.
When I moved here in 2000, my Realtor warned me that in my price range I needed to have my checkbook handy, ready to write that option money check just as soon as I saw the home I wanted to buy. That slowed down a little, and then with the crash of 2007-2008 houses were just sitting on the market for months. Now things are back in the fast-paced, quick action mode they were when I looked at my first house in Houston.
Inventory of desirable homes is at an all-time low, and buyers need to be prepared to act decisively when they find the right house. (This is true across the entire spectrum of prices). Serious buyers need to carefully consider the features that are important to them (number of bedrooms, bathrooms, location, etc.) and tweak their lists of “must haves” and “don’t wants.” And it may be necessary to overlook that fuchsia bathroom when everything else about the house is perfect—it can be painted!
All this can put Realtors in a tough spot. If we explain the market realities, buyers may get the idea we are “pressuring” them just to make a quick buck. If we don’t, they are unhappy that we didn’t warn them that perfect house absolutely will go to another buyer if they take too long to think about it.
Buyers really can get their dream homes in a market where sellers have the advantage, but it takes planning, patience, and strategy…and a dedicated Realtor!
© 2014 Tom Allen, all rights reserved