Top Ten Things you should inspect in a home before you close.

Dated: May 7 2019

Views: 185

In Florida’s rising prices, multiple offers, and urgent buy signals, some home buyers today are being hasty and too superficial when making inspections. If indeed they make them at all. There are three times you can make an inspection, and only two of them make any sense at all:  1) before you make and offer,  and 2) after you make the offer and during due diligence, and  3)after you close. If you wait until after you close you obviously are taking a high risk.

Let’s talk about mitigating this risk and start with the inspection before your make your offer.  I once bought a house in Ohio that I knew was getting multiple offers.  I went through the house for a  few hours myself and I made my budget assuming that EVERYTHING needed replacing – from the roof down to the furnace. There was literally nothing that I did not include in my budget. My offer was low but had only a five day inspection period.  I remember the attorney for the seller calling me and telling me he wanted to save some time and was asking for my highest and best.  I told him he already had it, but that he could count on my offer going through because there was nothing that I could find during my due diligence that would deter me from going to closing.  My offer was accepted and I closed on the home.  To my pleasure the roof did not need to be replaced, but unfortunately everything on my list from my pre-offer inspection was on the mark.

The pre-offer inspection should help you structure your offer and perhaps indicated things you need to further inspect during your due diligence period.  When it was a buyer’s market (just a half a year ago down here) many times a potential buyer would offer a very attractive high price contingent on the inspection, and then beat down the price during inspection.  This is annoying to sellers and a waste of everyone’s time today.  A buyer, for example, would reduce his offer based on an inspection of a defect that should have been obvious during the pre offer inspection – like the air conditioner was missing, or the house needs to be painted.

If you know you are in an urgent buy situation (an REO for example) it is wiser to assume that all repairs are needed.  I always suggest a professional inspection when there is time. If there is not time assume the worst or don’t buy.

Check the county for building permits on your prospective purchase. This will tell you if there has been any recent work that you need to be aware of – or if you see there has been work and there was no permit pulled – you will know to be suspect.

I will give you my top ten list of items to inspect, and many of these things will depend on the age of the home. Of course all may not apply. Before you spend money on inspections, get the property under contract.

1.       Defective (Chinese) drywall.   (applies to hoes build between 1980-1990. There is no definitive test for defective drywall, only for indicators that there may be defective drywall present. I am confident that experts can determine if there IS defective drywall, but not as confident with negative test results. Blackened copper wires and air-conditioner coils and a sulfur odor are both positive indicators for defective drywall; as is a test for Strontium (by someone trained in testing for it).  But lack of blackened copper, for example, does not mean there is non-defective drywall.  If the house was built in the suspect years of 2005 and 2006, have an expert test it.

2.       Roof.  If the house is more than 15 years old or a very low pitch, FOR SURE have it inspected. Many insurers will require a roof certification in order for you to obtain insurance. The multiplier effect on cost of a roof leak can be huge. I would inspect all roofs during duediligence.

3.       Plumbing.  Pinhole leaks, roots in the soil line, and corroded copper from bad water are problems that can be grow once you buy. Check the age of the water heater and for corrosion on the valves. Look for pitting on the chrome of fixtures. Look for leaks under the sinks.

4.       Structural. Have the foundation and the “bones” of the house inspected. Windows, vents gutters all should be examined. Dry rot and wood destroying organisms  are ubiquitous in Florida.

5.       Electric. Look in particular at the panel and look for any non licensed work or additions that were done to the system.

6.       Elevation and Grade. Here in Florida we get a lot of water, is the lot graded properly to handle massive rains? Water should run away from the house and walkways and drives.

7.       Heating and Air-conditioning.  To me anything over ten years in age is on borrowed time. You can check the model and serial number and go to the manufacturer’s website to determine age.

8.       Insulation. Not only in the attic, but in walls as well.

9.       Appliances.  Get model numbers and serial numbers to check age.

10.   Deferred maintenance.  I like to see a house that is well cared for, well caulked, filters new in the registers, and a clean and presentable home. It implies to me that the house has been maintained.

Have I ever bought a house without a professional inspection?  You bet. But I do not suggest it unless you are planning on replacing all the major items above.

Let me say this. I like to find things that are wrong during my inspection on a house that I am buying, especially things I can quantify and fix. I used to tell people that I like a house that smells bad.  It scares off other buyers and a smelly house  I know how to fix.   I once bought a house with a rotten outer wall underneath a bathroom window that the shower sprayed on. The stucco was crumbling and a prospective buyer had kicked in the wall from the outside.  It scared the heck out of him.

 Well, the window was improperly installed when the house was new and over the years the shower leaked on the sill and the wall rotted. The repairs cost me $1500 to fix but heat kicked in wall sacred away other buyers. I got a deal.

Don’t be afraid of what you find during an inspection.  Get a bid for the repairs, add 15 or 20% to it and then use it in your buy decision. Once you quantify the problem, you can deal with it. 

And hire a professional to inspect.

Blog author image

Gregg Fous

Real estate has been my passion since I took my first Al Lowery class on real estate investing in the 1970’s. I vowed during that class that I would buy one property a year. Over the next five ....

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