April 2016

Home Inspections

Author: Kitty Bartell

It’s perfect. The charming porch leads to the grassy-green front door, which leads to the airy foyer where curving, wrought-iron railings lead to the cozy upstairs bedrooms. The foyer opens to the best-ever, kitchen-living room-fireplace-massive dining area, all overlooking the negative edge pool, overlooking the beach, overlooking the ocean… perfection.

Getting here hasn’t been easy. It took months of traipsing through one home after another looking for just the right feel, just the right floor plan, just the right fixtures and features; and you found it. An offer was made and the negotiations went back and forth and back and forth for what seemed like an eternity. The deal was done; however, before you hire the movers and measure for window coverings, the time has come to crack open the shell of this gem’s candy coating and see what’s inside.

Not always required, however, highly recommended, hiring a licensed home inspector is crucial to ensure your new home is in good working order, and if it is not, to get it there before closing day. The internal workings of the home and the condition of its parts are primarily hidden from view. A home inspector will look where you could not go, peek into areas you could not see, and utilize a great deal of education and experience to identify issues the untrained eye could not detect, providing you with a report of the home’s internal condition.

Great attention should be given to the selection of a home inspector. Often viewed as a necessary evil, many home buyers simply accept the recommendation of their real estate agent or select the cheapest bid. It is advisable to spend time interviewing more than one or two prospects and learn exactly what will be inspected and what will not and how the report will be structured.

Knowing what to expect during and after the inspection will help you prepare for the next round of negotiations with the seller. It’s fair to say that there will almost always be items on the report that will surprise everyone. The seller is likely frustrated at this point, because they are emotionally and financially invested in making this sale happen. They have settled on the price they are willing and/or able to accept; however, a laundry list of potentially costly repairs will derail their plans. And of course, as the buyer, you expect the home to be in tip-top shape when you take possession, and don’t want to take responsibility for the ills of the property.

Regulated and licensed by the State of South Carolina, local inspectors must abide by their Standard of Practice. “The Standard is a guideline of what is expected to be addressed in the report and what is not inspected,” said Brad Tholen, home inspector and owner of Brad Tholen Home Inspectors. In a nutshell, the focus is on the mechanical and structural components of a home. The current South Carolina Standards of Practice may be found at http://www.homeinspector.org/files/docs/standards_updated3-4-2015.pdf.

Familiarity with this list when interviewing inspectors will be valuable. Select an inspector who will discuss exactly what they will be inspecting, and one who welcomes going over their findings on-site and immediately after the inspection has been completed. Arrange to meet at the home as the inspector winds down his or her work. Physically seeing some of the items that will show up on the report will help you negotiate repairs and evaluate any items that are deal-breakers.

“The kinds of things that aren’t included in a typical residential home inspection really come down to anything that’s not accessible,” Tholen said. “A majority of your plumbing system and electrical system is concealed inside your walls. Those things are not really observable. There are also environmental issues, such as mold or mildew, or asbestos, or formaldehyde, or other sensitive issues that are not necessarily the goal of the inspection. Even though I’m not specifically looking for mold, if I see mold, obviously I’m going to report it as a mold-like substance that might need further evaluation by someone else.” Having additional inspections done in areas not covered by the standard home inspection may be advisable, particularly if the initial inspector reports questionable findings and could potentially save the buyer a lot of money down the road.

Traditionally, home inspections are ordered when an offer to purchase a home has been accepted by the seller, and it is paid for by the buyer. The winds are changing in this regard with a greater number of homeowners having an inspection done on their home prior to listing it for sale. “I am seeing a really significant uptick in the number of pre-listing inspections,” Tholen said.

In an effort to be as competitively priced and attractive to the greatest number of potential buyers, more and more homeowners are electing to find out what repairs are needed and are getting them done before their listing goes live. Providing potential buyers with the inspection report and receipts for the work completed could tip a buyer in your direction. “You’re going to start hearing a lot of conversations saying that this really makes sense,” Tholen said. “Why not be proactive? Information is power.”

In South Carolina, the cost for a home inspection is set by the individual companies. As a reference point, inspections done by Tholen’s company start at $375 for homes under 2,000 square feet and go up from there based on 1,000-square-foot increments. Many inspection companies provide additional inspections services that may be selected and are priced independently from their base Standard of
Practice inspection.

Tholen also described a standard of care that is practiced in the inspection business; areas that are inspected by the majority of local professionals, however, are not part of the Standard of Practice checklist. “Walking on a roof is the best example. We will access every roof that we can that does not pose a safety hazard to the inspector. Irrigation systems are not required by the Standard of Practice because they are entirely imbedded in the ground. However, we test every irrigation system for any visible anomalies.”

Patience, due diligence, and an expert home inspector are requisite when you are in the market to buy or sell a home. Not always required, but highly recommended, the right inspector will help take the deal to the finish line. It’s nearly time to hire the movers. 

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