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Posted: 4/3/2006 8:17:48 AM EDT
We're in the process of buying a new house. This house is 30 years old, but has been EXTREMELY well maintained. And it's not like they just prettied it up to sell it... I've driven past this house every day for the past 9 years, and it always looks like this. The inside is similarly well-kept. The current owners are a retired couple who have nothing better to do than work on the house, and they are absolutely meticulous about it.

When we bought our current house, we had inspections done, and it was a complete waste of money. For example, an electrical outlet didn't work, a toilet was leaking, and there was some foundation settling. None of these things were found by the inspection people, but were discovered by us later. In other words, it really was a waste of money.

At the time, I knew absolutely nothing about how homes were built. Since then, I've built an office addition, and done projects like moved outlets, installed supply and drain plumbing in the wall, added track lighting, replaced aluminum wire with copper, etc., plus have done two rounds of flood repairs that involved gutting from 4ft. down. While I'm certainly no expert, I think I'm familiar enough with home construction to be capable of inspecting this new house myself.

Or am I? If this is absolutely, positively, unequivocally a BAD idea, I'm welcome to comments. Though I'm much more knowledgeable about this stuff now than I was 9 years ago, I've never "inspected" a house before.

The house is, as I mentioned, 30 years old. It's 2 stories, and is built on a slab. The roof is about 5 years old and looks good (from the ground at least). The A/C is the original, and although it works now, we expect to have to replace it in the next couple of years. A termite inspection certificate will be provided by the sellers.

If I do choose to inspect this house myself, what should I look for? Or, is the very fact that I'm asking this question a sign that I should not even consider doing it myself?

--Mike
Link Posted: 4/3/2006 8:25:51 AM EDT
Sounds like you have a pretty good idea of what's going on. Do you know how to identify asbestos, mold, and termite damage? The inspector I had in my house did an ok job but it wasn't anything I couldn't have done myself. The only reason to go with a licensed inspector is you can take his report back to the seller and use it as leverage with more credibility when it comes to getting things fixed or the price reduced.
Link Posted: 4/3/2006 8:26:12 AM EDT
At the very least have a professional pest inspection (for termites or other wood destroying insects), a water test and a septic test done. If you are getting Bank financing they will most likely require termite and water tests anyway.

In the greater scheme of things spending $500 on a professional inspection when buying a house for likely much more than $100K is a pretty insignificant expense. Make sure to use qualified licensed inspectors who carry insurance (for when they screw up).
Link Posted: 4/3/2006 8:29:51 AM EDT

The only reason to go with a licensed inspector is you can take his report back to the seller and use it as leverage with more credibility when it comes to getting things fixed or the price reduced.


+1

I found this out the hard way.
Link Posted: 4/3/2006 8:33:00 AM EDT
I just want to add, as you found out on your first house, that just because you use a "professional" that doesn't mean they are even half way competent, so make sure you find someone with a good reputation if you do get the inspection. I was watching a show on flipping house, the guy had an inspection was told the plumbing was all updated to copper, the foundation of the house was good, and bones were in decent shape. As he got into his demo he found out that most the house had cast iron pipes, a huge portion of the house had termite damage and would need to be completely rebuilt, and there was no foundation, the house was sitting on cement blocks spaced about 8 feet apart! Not to mention when the guy went to add his addition to the back of the house they found a huge cistern cavity that the inspector also failed to notice. The owner spent $150,000 just to rebuild the house to the condition he thought it was in when he bought it. Yet the "professional" said it was a solid house.
Link Posted: 4/3/2006 8:33:59 AM EDT

Originally Posted By FITTER:

The only reason to go with a licensed inspector is you can take his report back to the seller and use it as leverage with more credibility when it comes to getting things fixed or the price reduced.


+1

I found this out the hard way.



Do tell, what happend...if you don't mind.
Link Posted: 4/3/2006 8:37:03 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 4/3/2006 8:39:40 AM EDT by TacticalStrat]
If you are asking us what to look for, I'd say it means you're not qualified to do a thorough inspection. I hired an inspector that is an engineer. He found numerous safety issues on my new house. Things like safety glass not being used near a tub, over-sized breaker switches, improper venting for a gas water heater, extreme water pressure from public water system, plus dozens of other non safety issues that needed correcting.

Hire a inspector that has a construction engineering degree and you'll get your monies worth. Here's the guy that did mine. He has a list of what he checks. I paid him $415 and it was worth every penny. He even found that they installed the AC units improperly, which would have cost me money down the road on energy bills.



Link
Link Posted: 4/3/2006 8:44:21 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 4/3/2006 8:44:59 AM EDT by Engineer]
I would do a radon check as well.

The one problem I see, which has been stated above, is that if you find issues, your findings may not have as much credibility as if they were presented by a certified home inspector - so you may have a harder time negotiating a price reduction/fixes with the seller.
Link Posted: 4/3/2006 8:45:50 AM EDT
The roof LOOKED good, bit it leaked in heavy rain, especially around the chimney. There were some spots where the wood had rotted, but they weren't easily seen at first.

There was some external damage to the wood, which had been covered up. Ants had done a lot of damage.

While not major, the basement wall leaked in a few spots, but I suppose that would be "normal" in an older house.

A faulty humidifier had caused some rust inside the furnace. The repair guy showed it to me when I had the AC replaced a couple years after we got the house.


The people knew there were problems, and they covered up what they could. Of course, I wanted to save money by doing my own 'inspection', and having a pro do it may have gotten me a better deal, or the people may have decided to take the house off the market. It wasn't a bad house, but I probably would have been better-off with something different for that amount of money. You live and you learn.
Link Posted: 4/3/2006 8:53:01 AM EDT
You have the process a little backward. You are correct in saying that you, the buyer are responsible for making sure that the house is in the condition that you want to purchase.

The inspector is for the bank. He is responsible for making sure that there are no major structural defects that would make the house worth less than the bank is underwriting.

If you are paying cash, you don't need an inspector.

Accompany the inspector and ask a lot of questions. You will learn a lot.

You have only just began to scratch the surface of what you should know.
Link Posted: 4/3/2006 8:58:12 AM EDT
God forbid something comes up and you end up in a court of law post-closing. It will not look favorable to the courts if you did the inspection. If you were ASHI certified and licensed it would be different.

In some states home inspectors are not licensed.

At a minimum find a current ASHI certified inspector to do it. If you are trying to do it yourself to tray and save 300-400 beans, should you be buying a home?

Link Posted: 4/3/2006 8:59:33 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 4/3/2006 9:00:26 AM EDT by ZitiForBreakfast]

Originally Posted By BillofRights:
You have the process a little backward. You are correct in saying that you, the buyer are responsible for making sure that the house is in the condition that you want to purchase.

The inspector is for the bank. He is responsible for making sure that there are no major structural defects that would make the house worth less than the bank is underwriting.

If you are paying cash, you don't need an inspector.

Accompany the inspector and ask a lot of questions. You will learn a lot.

You have only just began to scratch the surface of what you should know.



That is not correct.

An inspector is 100% for the buyer.

An appraiser is for the bank.

I dont want anyone here to be fooled if they buy FHA/ VA that the 'inspection' is really any kind of inspection as well.
Link Posted: 4/3/2006 9:05:34 AM EDT
Sounds like you didn't get a GOOD inspector the first time around. Find someone reputable who will back up their work. If the house is as well-maintained as you say there's probably nothing wrong but these guys do this stuff for a living so sometimes they can find things that most people wouldn't think of.

I had a NEW house built and hired an inspector anyway and he had a pretty good list of things for the builder to fix before I closed the deal. They were relatively small things but things that should have been fixed nonetheless.
Link Posted: 4/3/2006 9:08:17 AM EDT

Originally Posted By FITTER:

The only reason to go with a licensed inspector is you can take his report back to the seller and use it as leverage with more credibility when it comes to getting things fixed or the price reduced.


+1

I found this out the hard way.




imho, this is a bullshit game to play, but the majority of buyers do play it.

The nice thing about this little scam is you are well into the buying process, and the house has been off the market for about a month, so it gives the buyer a lot of leverage. Buyers seem to feel that they should be buying a new condition house. I ended up replacing the roof and the heater on my last sale, though both were functional. I could have told the buyer to pound sand, but it would have cost me a few months of mortgage payments.
Link Posted: 4/3/2006 9:14:45 AM EDT

Originally Posted By BillofRights:

Originally Posted By FITTER:

The only reason to go with a licensed inspector is you can take his report back to the seller and use it as leverage with more credibility when it comes to getting things fixed or the price reduced.


+1

I found this out the hard way.




imho, this is a bullshit game to play, but the majority of buyers do play it.

The nice thing about this little scam is you are well into the buying process, and the house has been off the market for about a month, so it gives the buyer a lot of leverage. Buyers seem to feel that they should be buying a new condition house. I ended up replacing the roof and the heater on my last sale, though both were functional. I could have told the buyer to pound sand, but it would have cost me a few months of mortgage payments.




...and sellers think they should be getting top dollar.
Link Posted: 4/3/2006 10:00:46 AM EDT

Originally Posted By mcaswell:

When we bought our current house, we had inspections done, and it was a complete waste of money. For example, an electrical outlet didn't work, a toilet was leaking, and there was some foundation settling. None of these things were found by the inspection people, but were discovered by us later. In other words, it really was a waste of money.

--Mike




Did you ask for references before you used this inspection outfit?

Did they not have Errors and Ommisions insurance?

Did you not sign a contract that held them liable for any problems not found?

Did you accompany the inspector(s) when they visited the home and inspected it?

It sounds like maybe you did not do your homework. At the very least you should have done the above. If you did do the above and they had E&O insurance, why was a claim not made?

Inspecting it yourself is your right and privelge, but as they say about the guy who represents himself in court, you have a fool for a client.

Depending on your exact knowledge and expertise, you very well may not catch all (or any) problems that a *good* inspection outfit will catch. And, if you do not catch the problem, you do not have E&O insurance yourself. You may also find that when it comes to negotiating the price difference due to anything you *do* find, the sellers may not be as willing to accept *your* findings due to your lack of official training/certification.

Proceed at your own risk.
Link Posted: 4/3/2006 11:18:49 AM EDT
Thanks for all the comments. Regardless of whether I hire an inspector or not, there will be a termite guy.

I realize that a truly skilled professional would undoubtedly do a better job than I could. But how to find someone like this? If I ask the real estate agent for a recommendation, my feeling is that I'd get someone willing to "play the game", not wanting to do anything that would risk killing the deal (which would give him a bad reputation among agents, cutting off referrals).

I'm still leaning towards doing it myself, but I haven't ruled out hiring an inspector. My wife, on the other hand, is dead set against hiring someone.

--Mike
Link Posted: 4/3/2006 11:26:59 AM EDT
Always hire a professional when it comes to inspections. Of course you can do your own inspection as well, but its always better to pay a few hundred dollars to have someone go in with specialized tools which I am sure you do not have to check everything out. Plus it gives you a legal excuse if someone is not disclosed and you had a professional inspection.



Realtor by trade here.
Link Posted: 4/3/2006 11:35:28 AM EDT
If you get a good contract with an inspector, he is liable if anything was missed. If you miss something, it's on you.
Link Posted: 4/3/2006 11:35:52 AM EDT
I say hire a pro. Find a good one. They will check for things you can't even think of.

In the six months since the sale, the only problem I found that he missed was a clogged floor drain in the basement. Other than that he found everything. It was worth every penny.

Lastly the inspection is basically free. Once you have professional documentation of the problems you will negotiate the price down by more than the cost of the inspection or have them fix things that you would have had to fix yourself.
Link Posted: 4/3/2006 11:46:46 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 4/3/2006 11:48:12 AM EDT by rebel_rifle]

Originally Posted By mcaswell:
Thanks for all the comments. Regardless of whether I hire an inspector or not, there will be a termite guy.



Your mortgage lender will require it, you do not have the option of this one.


I realize that a truly skilled professional would undoubtedly do a better job than I could. But how to find someone like this? If I ask the real estate agent for a recommendation, my feeling is that I'd get someone willing to "play the game", not wanting to do anything that would risk killing the deal (which would give him a bad reputation among agents, cutting off referrals).


There is the yellow pages you know . I would call several and ask questions. There is also co-workers, friends, relatives, etc. How do you find a car dealer? Mechanic? You *ask* around. Ask someone who has been there and done that. Were they pleased? Did they find anything? If so, what happened? Again, make *DAMN* sure that they have E&O insurance. Any inspection without it is a waste of money. If they are not accountable to what they do, then who is?

Do NOT use the inspector a realtor would suggest. There is too much of an appearance of impropriety in this. They could be getting a kick back, steering you to a *friend* or at the very least, the realtor has a monetary interest in this deal as well. The higher the selling price, the higher the fee. They also have an interest in making *sure* the deal goes through. Finding "red herrings" in the inspection is not conducive to selling at a higher price or the deal even going through.



I'm still leaning towards doing it myself, but I haven't ruled out hiring an inspector. My wife, on the other hand, is dead set against hiring someone.


Again, if you do it yourself, you have a fool for a client. You will also have to eat whatever you do NOT find. This is what E&O insurance is all about.



Link Posted: 4/3/2006 11:57:18 AM EDT
I have inspected a few houses. I highly recommend taking a friend that is competent with you. Write a script/checklist and cover everything. Water heater age, heating system age and performance, leaks, roof condition, electrical, window/door sealing, etc. Be sure to inspect attic/crawlspace/basement too.
Link Posted: 4/3/2006 12:34:40 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Combat_Jack:
If you get a good contract with an inspector, he is liable if anything was missed. If you miss something, it's on you.



Most of the liability only goes up to the amount of the cost of the inspection.
Link Posted: 4/3/2006 12:38:11 PM EDT

Originally Posted By ZitiForBreakfast:

Originally Posted By Combat_Jack:
If you get a good contract with an inspector, he is liable if anything was missed. If you miss something, it's on you.



Most of the liability only goes up to the amount of the cost of the inspection.




Not necessarily.

A friend of mine had a home inspection done and the guy missed a problem. Turns out the problem led to a structural problem and a plumbing problem to the tune of several thousand dollars. The inspection outfit had E&O insurance and it was repaired correctly and the homeowner was not out one penny. Turns out the original contractor had installed a whirlpool bath but had not engineered it properly and the floor sagged and the plumbing leaked until finally it gave way enough so that the problem was fully realized.
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