Home Inspections Make Dollars and Sense

Contributing Writer

You have just found the perfect house, desirable in every detail, a place where you and ours look forward to spending years and years of happy domesticity.

There is one thing your real estate sales associate suggests: get inspections.

You look at the house: the roof looks fine, the paint is fresh, the façade is flawless, and you can’t find a single thing wrong with it. You look at the inspection list and your eye falls to the bottom line, which can seem pricey depending on the number of inspections you’d like. Surely this is money you can save and put into that new smoker which will fit in cozy proximity to the hot tub and will send an aroma of sizzling meat across the sub division driving your neighbors to a state of drooling envy.

Most sales associates will give you this advice: delay the smoker and get the inspections. Don’t just get the inspections; make sure you get the house checked out by people well trained for the job. Granted, the law of the state of Oklahoma allows you to choose anyone to do an inspection–a friend, a co-worker who claims expertise, your uncle Fred–but this is the greatest expenditure of your life and you would be well advised to make as sure as humanly possible it is a wise one.

Right now, as never before, the rules favor the buyer. “Years ago, when houses were simple buildings without tons of electrical equipment and fancy plumbing such as sprinkler systems, it was caveat emptor–let the buyer be ware,” says one veteran sales associate. “In those days a buyer could basically gulp hard and hope for the best.”

Back in the dim distant past a housing sales contract was one letter-size page in length and provided nothing in the way of protection for the buyer. “Things kept going wrong,” said another real estate veteran, “and the associate started getting blamed for it; the buyer would just assume the sales associate knew of a defect and would be in cahoots with the seller in hiding the flaws. That usually wasn’t the case but the suspicion persisted. Out of such case histories the current disclosure laws evolved.”
The Oklahoma disclosure law now requires sellers employing licensed real estate associates to complete a state disclosure form. The new Oklahoma state real estate contract then gives the buyer ten days after the signing of the contract to get inspectors to check out the house for mechanical, electrical and plumbing flaws. The house should be checked for structural integrity. That painted-over crack in the ceiling may be due to shrinkage in the drywall or a serious flaw in the house’s underpinning. Unless the buyer feels qualified to make his own determination, he’d do well to spend the money on experts.

“In the old days a seller just sold a thing– his house,” says one inspector. “Now the seller needs to make a full and honest disclosure of anything that might have been wrong with the house that even a trained inspector might not see. For example, did the house need additional piers a few years ago? This needs to be disclosed.”

Life has grown more complicated and there are more things to check out. Sixty years ago air-conditioning seemed the exclusive realm of banks, department stores and movie theaters, now most houses have a central air and heating unit. There are dishwashers and disposals and a host of other equipment to check.

Mold in the vents used to be a nuisance, now it’s considered a health hazard. Water in the ducts use to be an annoyance handled with a hand-help pump, now there’s not supposed to be any. It’s a complex world out there.

All inspectors in Oklahoma need to be licensed. “That’s no a guarantee of quality however,” warns one inspector. “To get a license you need only about $800 and 50 hours of classroom work.”

How is the hapless purchaser to separate the wheat from the chaff? A good place to start is your sales associate who may well be able to provide a list of experienced inspectors. Don’t ask him to make the final decision, though. Be prepared to do a little homework on your own.

Most importantly, line up your inspectors early. If you wait until you sign a contract the ten-day inspection period will start ticking and you might find the inspector of your choice is busy.

Will Uncle Fred be insulted if he doesn’t inspect the house? Let him go ahead and inspect it along with a well-trained crew.

First and foremost, however, you should consider inspections a must and not an option.

The smoker can wait.

David Lloyd Jones is an associate with Prudential-Detrick Realty.

Updated 06-27-2006

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