Home Inspections Shouldn’t Be Confusing
Buyers are often confused about what types of inspections they should do prior to closing on a new house. Regardless of the age of the house or the experience of the buyer, every home purchaser should conduct thorough inspections of the house. Yet, I sometimes find that buyers are satisfied to do a cursory inspection or to even rely on the seller’s disclosure statement. Though sellers are required to disclose known defects that are not readily observable, it is difficult to prove what a seller knew at the time the disclosure statement was signed.
When a buyer client asks me what inspector to use or what types of inspections they should get, my usual answer is that a general home inspector is ok only to determine whether appliances are functional and whether non-essential components of the house need general repairs; repairs that a handy many can accomplish. However, if you want a thorough inspection, you need specific inspectors. Hire a licensed roofing contractor to look at the roof. Ask a reputable exterminator to do a termite/wood destroying organism report. Retain a certified mold remediation company to do a mold inspection. If you suspect plumbing or electrical issues, bring in a licensed plumber or electrician. If there have been additions made to the house, check for proper permits and certificates of occupancy and, to check the wiring and plumbing use the licensed plumber and electrician. If there are cracks in the exterior walls or floors or if the floors are not even or slant, have a contractor or engineer assess the foundation and structure.
All of this is important because problems with a new home should be discovered and addressed before closing, not after. Once the deed is delivered and money has changed hands, it is too late. Nearly every month, we receive inquiries about problems with houses that were discovered some time after the closing. By this time, it is generally too late to do anything. The burden of proof is too hard to over come. The buyer must prove that the seller knew or should have known of the defect and that the defect not only existed at the time of closing, but was material and that knowledge of the defect would have been material to a reasonable buyer in deciding whether to proceed to close on the contract.
Comprehensive inspections with qualified, competent inspectors will help to assure home buyers that they won’t get stuck holding the bag.