Does It Have To Be Real Estate Investors VS Home Inspectors?

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Home inspections have been a sore spot with real estate investors ever since I first began investing in real estate in 1998 and not a lot has changed since then. As a whole, real estate investors think of themselves as a fairly self-sufficient bunch of folks. More often than not, a rehabber will be doing major work on a property and they feel qualified to determine the repairs needed.  And I am the first to say that for the most part, they are very good at what they do.

Licensed professional home inspectors are required to have extensive training, must pass a difficult test, and they must complete annual continuing education in order to keep their license. In some states they also must serve an apprenticeship before going solo. So what you have here are two very knowledgeable professionals that occasionally butt heads.

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The downside of not having a home inspection.

Having been in the home inspection business for 17 years before becoming a full time real estate investor, I have personally witnessed some situations that turned out to be very costly problems for real estate investors. Recently an  investor who is a rehabber friend of mine did a beautiful job on a property he had purchased at a great price. You could even say this was a “smoking hot deal.” He found a buyer for this property pretty quickly and was already searching for another  house to flip.  Once the house was under contract, the buyers ordered a home inspection. During the course of the inspection, the inspector pointed out some subtle defects which indicated there was a structural problem. There was a  crack in the chimney on this house which was on a pretty normal fall away lot. The investor had noticed this during his initial inspection of the property and had done a good job of sealing the crack to prevent water penetration.

Big problems on the horizon

This is the point where the story changes. This home inspector had years of experience, and he began to look for other telltale signs of structural issues. He walked around to the opposite side of the house where he found a similar crack which is pretty typical in this situation.  Next he went into the home where he found other signs of a structural problem. The windows in these areas were difficult to open due to movement in the foundation. There was some drywall tearing on the walls above these same exterior cracks on the interior walls. The drywall was also beginning to separate in the corner in this room. Whenever you see drywall that is torn rather than just cracked, this is a sign that have a potential structural problem.

The outcome

As I said, these were pretty subtle changes to the average person. But to a seasoned home inspector, they were definite red flags. They buyer got a structural engineer to look at the house, and after installing piers in the problem areas the deal moved forward. But this happened only after the rehabber spent thousands of dollars on structural repairs. Had he not gotten this house at a killer price, he could have lost a lot of money on this deal.

So what’s the answer?

Real estate investors get better and more experienced with each house they buy. Those that are lifelong learners are always at the top of their game. Make it your priority to be the best, build a top notch team, and know when to call in a specialist or another team member for a “second opinion”.

Image: Danilo Rizzuti /

About Author

Sharon Vornholt

Sharon has been investing in real estate since 1998. She owned and operated a successful home inspection company for 17 years. In January of 2008 she took the leap of closing her business to become a full time real estate investor.


  1. I think a good home inspector is worth the money you pay when buying a place. They can find things that could cost you way more in the long run and give you more negotiating room. Most likely, the owners know about the problems and just are hoping you don’t catch them.

    • You nailed it. If they didn’t fill out a truthful disclosure form, they are hoping the problems won’t be discovered. The absolute worst time to find out you have to make repairs to a house to keep the deal together is AFTER the price has been negotiated down.

  2. An inspection can be a valuable tool for a seller. Providing potential buyers a clean and clear inspection report along with any other disclosures required in your area can help to assure a buyer the home is in good shape. Also if you offer an home warranty, it can also sooth buyer worries about a home.

  3. Had the investor been a little more knowledegable, he might have taken care of this problem BEFORE doing the rehab work. I’m sure it would have been less costly. Perhaps marginally experienced rehabbers should get an inspection before they buy.

  4. yeah, i guess im the lone person not always calling in a home inspector. Honestly, the inspectors i have had failed to find the structural damages, which are costly and I had to pay for. At this point, I just take the $300 I would pay them and put them towards inevitable repairs that just need to be made when you’re doing a solid rehab (meaning, taking care of all the damages a 90 year old property sustained even before you move in).

    If I would have had better experiences, and not find problems I really feel they should have caught, i would feel different. But, its all in what you are confident with going forward with. With the houses I repair, after years of neglect, I will be seeing to one or another structural issues no doubt about it. I guess I just charge it to the game, and keep rolling with my own experiences.

  5. Lisa –

    Like any other profession, there are good home inspectors and some that are not so good. How to choose a home inspector would be a good topic for another post.

    When you are doing a complete rehab, a home inspection is proably not needed. If the rehabber is experienced and is qualified to find the problem areas and assess the seriousness of those defects then that’s what is important. You just have to go with your own comfort level. In the end it’s always about the dollars. Thanks for stopping by.

  6. I understand what Lisa said about home inspectors. One nearly got my real estate agency into a lawsuit several years ago. He said the attic fan was in working order – and it turned out there was no attic fan.

    Some are excellent – some are incompetent.

  7. Hi Sharon,

    I can’t agree more on the importance of an inspector.

    As a new investor for wholesaling (I want to follow your path), I have no experience in estimating the rehab cost, so have someone experienced in my team is key.

    Since the home inspector mostly likely just give an opinion on the property condition, they usually estimate the cost of fixing it, should i also need to hire a good general contractor to estimate the cost?

    • Eve –

      Home inspectors are not allowed to give estimates for costs on repairs. In the beginning you will need to get estimates. We all still get estimates at times. You should also go to Home Depot or Lowes and learn what things cost. Get a general idea of how much a furnace costs, AC etc. Good luck.


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