Tom Polk, ABR, CRS
Austin area real estate,
 over 30 years done properly

"What are those cracks?"

Benefits of a Professional Inspection

        Congratulations! You have the property you want under contract now, and no one else can buy it out from under you.

        Now you should make sure this property is indeed what you think you are buying. State law requires sellers to disclose to you facts about the condition of their house to the best of their knowledge. This information can be unreliable when sellers are too close to their house to be objective or when they lack the expertise to evaluate the seriousness of a defect.

        After the contract is signed, your sellers will experience what seems like hoards of people descending on their property. These people’s jobs are directed by your side of the transaction. Some of these are trained to pick out the flaws in the sellers’ pride and joy. Along with you and me, the sellers can expect to see your inspector, perhaps your engineer, your lender’s appraiser, your surveyor, your repairman, and even your insurance agent. This can be overwhelming.

        The appraiser’s job is simply to determine the property’s value for the lender’s purposes (not yours); his inspection consists of a brief walk through. To evaluate property condition, you should consult a professional building inspector.

        Professional inspectors are licensed by the State of Texas. They must be trained and they must adhere to state requirements for minimum inspection. A typical home inspection will cost $350- $400; that fee usually includes a wood destroying pest inspection (leading to a “termite report”), which separately would be about $75.

        Your inspector is analogous to a family doctor in that he is a general practitioner. If he finds an issue that requires a more specialized opinion, such as foundation integrity or roof leaks, he will recommend that you call in a specialist, e.g., a structural engineer or roofer. An engineer’s consultation and report are generally about $500; a roofer may or may not charge you for an opinion, depending on whether you offer him the repair job. If you doubt your inspector’s opinion, you can bring in a repair specialist for an opinion with or without the inspector’s recommendation. Inspectors generally will yield to the specialist’s opinion.

        You should obtain your inspections immediately. If you wait until after you have spent $400 for an appraisal to learn that the house has serious problems, you stand to lose that money and maybe some bargaining power.

        Should you inspect the property before making an offer? You can, if the seller gives you permission. (I recommend you seek legal advice in getting that permission.) However, you will be spending money on a property someone else might buy while you are busy inspecting it. I recommend that you first place the property under contract and preserve your rights to inspect it according to the contract terms.

        You want an inspector who is thorough and who understands proper perspective. Repair items vary in severity, and the inspector should be able to communicate to you which items are of real concern.

>        Some real estate authors suggest getting the “meanest inspector on the block,” the one that real estate agents hate. In my experience, the “meanest” does no more thorough an inspection than other qualified inspectors, they just make you feel bad about what you are getting. Find an inspector by word of mouth or by checking the yellow pages. If that doesn’t work for you, here are some with whom my clients have been happy:

  • B-IV Inspections          512-312-0601
  • Home Critic                 512-440-8282
  • Precision Inspections    512-282-0455
        In your phone interview you can ask:
  • What is your fee and how do I pay it?
  • How do you conduct the termite inspection?
  • How long will the inspection take?
  • What type of report do you do?
  • Do you want me to follow you around?
  • When are you available?
        Be prepared to answer questions such as whether the house is pier & beam foundation or slab, the approximate square footage and the age of the house. I will have given you the range of times I am available. I usually will unlock the house for your inspection and attend the last portion where the inspector reviews his findings.

        The Texas Real Estate Commission has promulgated contracts to be used all across Texas.

        The buyer has two choices in the TREC promulgated contracts. As all the contract terms are being negotiated, the buyer must elect to:

        1. Purchase the property AS-IS, with seller and lender repairs stipulated when the offer is made;


        2. Pay the seller for an option, purchasing the unrestricted right terminate the contract.  This allows the buyer time to inspect and evaluate the property for an agreed period of time, usually 7-10 days. I have seen option fees of $100, $200,and $500; the fee is negotiable. During the option period, the buyer can decide not to buy the property for any reason and get the earnest money back, but not the option fee.

        In the second case, you may have some leverage over the sellers if unexpected repair items are found. You can communicate to the sellers, “If we don’t settle these repair issues, then I won’t buy the house.” The sellers are faced with the choice to work with you (a ready, willing, and able buyer) or with someone else who may not have shown up yet.

        It is imperative that you communicate in writing to the sellers that you are terminating the contract within the agreed time. If you don’t, you will have to buy the house whether or not the repairs are made. Watch your time limits closely, and don’t assume anything. Verbal assurances will not protect you.

Call Tom: 512-327-9310 x 234

C l i c k  h e r e  to  e m a i l  T o m

Stanberry & Associates has operated as a real estate brokerage firm licensed in the State of Texas since 1985.

Tom Polk is a real estate broker licensed in the State of Texas.

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