Beware of These Important Red Flags in Home Inspections
July 6, 2020
Whether it's a $300,000 condo or a $4,000,000 home, stuff happens. If you're buying a piece of real estate, reserve a 10- to 20-day contingency period to do your due diligence, which includes a thorough physical inspection, termite inspection, sewer line inspection, chimney inspection and mold inspection. Even though the fees you will pay to complete all these inspections can come to $1,000 or more, it is well worth it in the long run!
If the news you receive after an inspection is really bad and you are still within your contingency period, you can abandon your purchase completely and receive your full deposit back.
If you choose to move forward with your purchase, you can negotiate repairs with the seller, although the seller is not obligated to say OK to all, or even any, of your requests.
If the deal falls apart, however, the seller is obligated by the laws of disclosure to disclose the content of your inspection to subsequent buyers and forward the inspection reports upon request.
Particularly in today's robust market, you'll usually hear the seller say, "It's an old house, and it's being sold as is." I often hear buyers say, "We're paying top dollar, and we should not have to pay for deferred maintenance and urgent repairs."
The question then becomes "What is a code violation, a health and safety hazard or an urgently needed repair versus a cosmetic need, a typical aging system still in operative condition or a complete upgrade of no urgency?"
For this you need a trained eye to read and understand your inspection reports. A good realtor will walk you through the process and help identify the most significant issues, prioritizing issues from urgent to not so significant or urgent.
If you are without the assistance of a trained realtor or adviser, look first at mold, water intrusion and drainage issues, as these are the most difficult to remedy and the most expensive to fix.
Water intrusion can affect foundations, walls and structure, leading to health issues and impacting resale and future property value.
Next, look for dry rot in the roof, roof eaves, windows, subfloor and door jams, all of which would be noted in your termite inspection.
Also, take serious note of your sewer inspection and chimney inspections. Depending on where your sewer ties into the city lines, a sewer replacement could cost $10,000 to $25,000, most often closer to $12,000.
Correcting poor drainage involves diverting water away from the foundation, which might necessitate French drains and additional rain gutters. These costs totally depend on how many drains are needed and where they would tie into the city disposal. Costs might range from $8,000 to $25,000.
A cracked chimney that is deemed a fire hazard will need to be replaced from the break, usually at costs averaging $10,000, more likely $15,000 in a two-story home.
Hillside properties are another animal completely. They require the opinion and guidance of a qualified geologist, and perhaps even a structural engineer and a civil engineer. This is serious stuff, so do not cut corners by going to someone inexperienced.
Also, be savvy about an overloaded, antiquated, old-style electrical system; the modern lifestyle puts a lot more pressure on the electrical system than a toaster oven and a few floor lamps.
The roof is an expensive item to be conscious of, and earthquake retrofitting is something to look at, too, if it has not been handled previously. After that, most items are of less of financial consequence but still worth being considered.
Don't skimp on inspections, qualified advice and repair estimates. Pick your battles based on the significance and urgency of the repairs needed and the costs associated.
Be sure your request for repairs is well written and supported with realistic cost estimates. And finally, be sure you are in the hands of a competent, qualified and caring real estate broker who will guide you through the process.
Source: "Beware of these important red flags in home inspections" Fox News (June 29, 2020) Ron Wynn