Home Inspections - What Extra Precautions Do You Take?

13 Replies

First, I initially came to this forum with so many questions I wanted to ask. Man, this is probably the first forum I've visited where a lot of the answers were already here! It's absolutely wonderful. Thank you. I do still have one question, though. 

I'm about to purchase my first home (likely a multi-family property such as a duplex or triplex). Naturally, inspections are key to making sure you are investing in property that doesn't implode. My question is; what's the extra step you take to make sure you home is properly inspected? For example, I've heard of separately hiring a roofing contractor to make sure the roof is in good shape and thoroughly inspected, or a plumber to do a sewer scope. What extra steps or resources do you use or take?

This is my first purchase, and it's taken me a long time to save enough for a down payment. That said, as much as I want to be careful with my money, paying a few extra hundred dollars to make sure "it" is done right is worth every penny to me. 

@Jacob Breazile I just purchased my first multi-family in mid September. Depending on what part of the country you are in, I would hire a pest company to come through and do a thorough inspection of the property. We didn't do this during the due diligence period, but did about 2 weeks after we got the keys. Long story short, they found existing bed bugs hiding in the outlets and that's a nice $800 unexpected expense I encountered. If we would have paid the $40 for an inspection during the DD period, we could have potentially had this expense covered by the seller. Good luck on the purchase of your first property!


@Jacob Breazile hire your own inspector rather than going off just a realtors recommendation. The best inspector I have ever had is no longer recommended by my local realtors. Why? Because he found too many problems. One realtor told me he was messing up too many deals, so they stopped using him. Personally, that is what I want if I hire an inspector. I want them to check every outlet, every drain, every window, etc.

Usually the inspector will just give an overview. They should run water down all the drains, but will not do a scope - you can hire Roto Rooter to do that for like $100 if there is a specific concern about the sewer line. I have a cracked sewer line as we speak that will cost thousands to replace! They will probably just tell you the furnace works and suggest a professional looks at it. They should be able to inspect the roof, but you could get a roofer to hop up and look at it if it is older.

Most sellers are covering up problems. If the property is occupied, talk to the tenants. They will tell you where the bodies are buried.

Also keep in mind that every property has things that need attention. Don't throw out a good deal over things that can be fixed. The only thing you can't fix on a property is LOCATION. 

@Joe Splitrock Thank you very much for the swift and detailed reply. I understood why I should have various inspections, but I never really thought about the concept of the realtor's intention. I will most definitely be hiring my own inspector! Speaking of which, is there an appropriate spot to request a recommendation on Bigger Pockets? 

I spent a few years helping family flip foreclosures (grunt work) so I'm pretty familiar with most basic repairs - Won't scare me away! Still a few hundred dollars in repairs versus several thousand in unanticipated expenses is far from ideal.  

@Brandon Knudtson I never even thought about checking for pests. Excellent suggestion. I will most definitely be doing that.

When you make an offer, ask the seller to pay for a one year home owners warranty. It'll give you the first year of avoiding major expenses on things like HVAC if they go belly up. A good chance to get your capex reserve fund up there. 

@Jacob Breazile Around here, for SFH and small multi-families, it's normal to ask. And, it's all in the negotiation phase. I'd be shocked if a seller simply walked away if you asked for this $700-800 expense. It's like asking for $2k toward closing costs. Will the seller say yes? I don't know. You may get a counter offer telling you a simple "No". But, I just got under contract for another duplex, and the seller is buying me a 1 year home owners warranty. I hope the furnace and AC go belly up within 12 months. $75 deductible, and new HVAC!

Now, I should mention, I never personally buy a home owners warranty, and they are a tremendous pain to work with. Had a fridge on a rental break. Took three trips and three weeks to get them a new one. But, it cost me $100 deductible to get a new $750 fridge. Of note, without said warranty, those tenants would have probably gotten a $300 used fridge. I just like it when you're buying a new property. 

@Jacob Breazile I would write a due diligence period into the initial offer to allow you to do multiple inspections and give you more breathing room. This will also allow you to check on everything from past financials, to zoning changes, liens, etc which doesn't always get caught in multi-family properties like it does in single family. A lot of this can be done by your agent or yourself digging into public records, which doesn't cost you anything and offers a lot of extra protection by allowing you to walk away during that period if you find something.

And don'y forget the paperwork! Read every lease. Make sure the incoming rents are all accounted for. Get deposits and last months rents on closing. Make sure taxes are paid, utilities etc. Get as much financial reporting as you can. have your CPA review this with you. If the seller is resistant, or vague, walk away. Usually a licensed inspector that you hire is pretty competent. When he is scheduled to inspect go with him every step of the way. Meet as many tenants as you can and enter every unit. Sellers may not be deliberately deceitful-they just can't help themselves! LOL

As Bjorn said, go with your inspector every step of the way, so that he won't find a problem that you would not have seen if you had been there with him. Sometimes problems are found, and, lo and behold, the inspector just happens to know the right person to fix it. Twice I did not go around with an inspector, and I was then told about false "problems." Once an inspector "found" rat droppings in an attic of one of my properties, but rather than hire his buddy to exterminate the "rats," I hired an inspector to confirm that there were no rat droppings. Once an inspector "discovered" a running toilet in one of my properties and suggested a plumber who could fix it. I then took a look in the tank, and saw that "someone" had drastically shortened the chain to the flapper. And don't rely entirely on an inspector. You have to rely as much as possible on yourself. Everyone has purchased properties and later wondered why an inspector failed to notice something, but their contracts are full of escape clauses, so it's very hard to hold them responsible. Typically they are responsible only for noticing things that are "visible."

Sewer line inspection, I figured house was in good condition and the lateral would be too, I was wrong. Older homes may have clay or cast iron...might not need to be done right away but great leverage point.

Trees ...have someone come out for estimate to trim the trees. I did this (after I bought) and found out that the tree was hit multiple times by lightning and unsafe/dead in the middle....had to remove. Looked fine (and by that I mean green leaves) to me and I'd never thought about it past that till I had to pay.

@Kay March thank you for your insightful post. Posts like yours make me very thankful I asked in the first place. It wouldn't have crossed my mind to be on the lookout for inspectors that essentially "sell" their buddies services. 

It sounds like a typical inspector is fine, but it's important to be with them every step of the way and don't be afraid to get a second opinion from an expert in the field (plumber/electrician/etc). I'll remember this!

@Matt K I didn't even know some piping would be made of clay or cast iron. Holy cow. Thank you for the info! A sewer scope and qualified plumber is on my list!

@Jacob Breazile  As a follow up to this, I woke up this morning and my furnace is not working. In the home I live in, that I bought this year, and had the seller purchase a 1 year home owners warranty. I'm at home and waiting for the furnace guy to show up. No idea if it's something simple or not, but for a $75 deductible, I will find out. As the furnace is 14 years old, I opted to have a professional take a full look rather than poking around myself.