When David and Rosalva Canedo were looking to buy their first home, they spent $300 to hire a home inspector to check out the nearly 30-year-old house that was their first choice.
It saved them thousands of dollars later, David Canedo said.
Thats because the inspector found that some electrical sockets were reversed in the house and most were not grounded, which would have resulted in expensive rewiring to bring the house up to current electrical safety requirements. The Canedos were able to back out of the purchase with little investment.
Its better than buying the home and having major repairs later, David Canedo said.
Many agents and lenders encourage buyers and sellers to get a home inspected as a way to identify potential problems. The findings can be good fodder in setting or negotiating the purchase price of a home.
Buyers and sellers can get the most out of the inspection by studying up on whats included, screening inspectors beforehand and following along during the inspection.
Mark Eberwine inspects a home this month.
A home inspection is a visual review and testing of the major components of a home. Home inspectors must be licensed by the Texas Real Estate Commission. They review more than 200 components, usually during a two- to three-hour period. The basic inspection includes the exterior, roof, crawl spaces, attic, foundations, structure, plumbing, electrical outlets and breakers, heating elements, air conditioning and interior surfaces. They also can inspect swimming pools, yard sprinklers, hot tubs, private water wells and septic systems.
An inspector provides a written report of the findings for each item checked and usually notes signs of damage, safety issues and any evidence that a house is not up to current building codes. Prices range between $250 and $1,000, averaging about $400, depending on square footage, age of the house, type of foundation, location of the home, the number of air-conditioning units and any optional items.
The intent is to give the client an overview of the current status of the house.
As an inspector, I am looking for clues that indicate defects: cracks in or repairs to walls and ceilings, water stains, fresh paint in odd locations, excess use of caulk or re-mortaring in masonry that masks problems with the foundation, said Mark Eberwine, a licensed home inspector with Five Star Home Inspections Inc. Then I give an opinion. You can have similar cracks and other damage in a 1-year-old home and, when compared to a 30-year-old home, it can mean something entirely different.
For real estate agent Sandra Guerra, a home inspection is a must even for new homes, because experienced inspectors often know a lot about proper construction techniques and so can identify potential construction errors for her clients.
For instance, on one new home under contract for a client, a home inspector noticed that the brick above the garage door on the two-story house extended well out beyond the steel support lintel, which meant that the second story was not getting proper structural support.
Guerra used the inspectors report to get the builder to make repairs and then had the home inspector return to verify the new work was sufficient. Re-inspections usually cost between 25 percent and 50 percent of the original inspection price, agents say.
If I were a consumer buying a house, Id always get an inspection whether its a brand-new home or existing home, because homes are manmade and we all have our off days, said Guerra of Copernicus Realty. It gives you leverage for repairs before the closing. Its a preventive measure to avoid having to take time out and wait for repairs either under the warranty or after closing. The last thing (the buyer) needs is to have to deal with repairs after they have moved in.
But home inspections do have their limits.
On Feb. 1, all home inspectors began using a new inspection form, which includes a preamble that explains what will occur during an inspection.
However, sometimes the inspector cant cover all items listed on the form. Thats because inspectors only review what they can see safely and without removing household items.
So if carpets are covering the wood floors, they can give a report only on the floor patches not covered. If the roof slope is too steep, they may not walk the roof in search of weak spots, missing shingles or damaged flashing. If the water has been disconnected in a vacant home, they wont be able to test the faucets and sprinkler system, inspectors and agents warn.
While inspectors can be hired to look for evidence of termites, they also do not report mold or test for air quality, according to Fred Buck, a licensed inspector and owner of King Inspections Inc. They also dont verify the house meets every building code.
With older homes, buyers often want an assessment of how long a roof, electrical wiring or air conditioner will continue functioning. Thats also outside the inspectors purview.
We do not predict the future, Buck said. The inspection is to educate the buyer on the systems and not what it will cost to maintain it. How long something will last depends on the maintenance previously, which we dont know.
Clients can get the most out of the home inspection by taking extra care in picking an inspector, taking part in the inspection and asking questions on how best to maintain the house given its current condition, inspectors and agents say.
In picking an inspector like picking a surgeon its better to go with someone who has more experience rather than less, Eberwine says.
Real estate agent Jackie Galvan encourages clients to a call several inspectors beforehand to verify the inspector is insured and whether the client can accompany the inspector during the inspection.
If not, thats a red flag, said Galvan, who worked for a home inspection franchise before becoming an agent with Re/Max Preferred Realtors. The inspection is to educate the buyers on the home and talking with the inspector is a key way of getting details not provided in the inspectors written report, she said.
David Canedo said he and his wife were persuaded to buy a different three-bedroom two-bathroom house from the estate of a deceased person after an inspector explained during a walk-through of the house how easily the Canedos could fix the minor problems identified during an inspection.
The person who lived there is deceased, and the seller did not have to disclose anything because they did not live there, he said. But it was better maintained. But this type of inspection is looking out for you.
When helping clients buy new homes, Guerra also asks the inspector to present their findings to the construction superintendent overseeing work on the house. That way the superintendent hears the inspectors report and recommendations firsthand to avoid miscommunication in what repairs must be made.
Sometimes an inspector misses an evident deficiency. But, Guerra said, they are also very likely to catch home issues the buyer, seller or agent was unaware of particularly since inspectors tend to monitor changes in building codes.