If you’re serious about buying a property for investment, pay to have it formally inspected.
You may even want to make your purchase contingent on it meeting certain requirements. After all, your investment property is supposed to help you make money, not drain your pocket book. You’ll want to uncover any potential problems before signing on the dotted line, while you are still in a position to negotiate.
Though it costs several hundred dollars to hire a home inspector, they have an important function. They see a property the way no one else does. They don’t care about the crown molding or the bathroom tiles, and they don’t see dollar signs with every potential unit that could generate income. Their judgment is not clouded by emotion or investment potential. On the contrary, they are motivated to find flaws — to identify liabilities that could cost you, as landlord, a pretty penny should something go wrong.
Here are five reasons to have your investment property inspected before buying it.
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The typical home tour doesn’t include a trip to the roof. Sometimes it’s hard to get into the attic to take a look from the inside. A professional inspector would know exactly the types of evidence they are looking for and they have the insurance to pay for the liability of crawling around on the roof. You can make your purchase contingent on repair or a reduced sale price, depending on the extent of the damage and how much work you’re willing to put into the property once you get it.
The Heating and A/C
You probably could get a gander at the fireplace, furnace and air conditioning, but unless you’re an experienced professional, you’re likely not going to be able to identify lot of the issues that can crop up with them. The furnace or air conditioning could have been improperly installed. The flu for the fireplace could be stuck or it might be clogged. The bricks on the fireplace could be loose (and could be checked while your inspector is taking a look at the roof). Unhappy tenants due to the loss of heat or air conditioning isn’t great, but they could also have grounds to withhold rent until it has been fixed.
The structure upon which your investment property is built is one of it’s the most important elements of a building. It’s also one of the hardest places to spot issues. Unless the foundation is buckling or significantly bowed, you may not notice some bulges and cracks. You may not have the tools to determine how level the floor is or how to identify if any shift is due to structural deficiencies or normal settling. Least of which, you probably don’t want to go shuffling through a crawl space while you’re on a home tour. This is better left to the professionals.
The Electrical Wiring
Unless you’re an electrician, you literally don’t want to touch this one. The current occupants may be just fine with how things are, saying “Everything works great.” But in reality, some items could be approaching the end of their life span, and older models are not equipped to accommodate the needs of the current average home buyer. Outdated electrical panels are of particular concern. Some are simply incapable of handling the juice of a modern home. A home inspector would be able to tell you how outdated the electrical wiring is and offer suggestions for how it would need to be repaired or upgraded.
A home inspection can reveal hidden leaks in the plumbing system. Leaky pipes are a source for rot, mold and insect infestations. Aged pipes in general are a potential problem for homes of any significant age. Homes built in the 1970s and 1980s are susceptible to problems with polybutylene water lines, which were once popular, but have since been found to burst after prolonged exposure to chlorinated water. They make it harder to get insurance and the cost to replace them could be an additional $10,000 and more.
Keep in mind that a municipal housing inspector is not the same as the type of housing inspector you should hire. Municipal housing inspectors tend to give a new home a quick once-over. They simply don’t have the hours of time to spend looking over every inch of the house like a professional home inspector does. When you hire a professional home inspector, their interest isn’t marking off some boxes, they know you’re paying them to use all of their experience in rooting out the flaws in homes, new and aged.
Where to Find Home Inspectors
For a good professional home inspector, a good place to start looking is the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). To be included, ASHI members must submit 250 paid inspections, which are then verified by ASHI. They also have to take 20 hours of continuing education every year and agree to abide by a code of ethics.
Hiring a home inspector could be well worth the expense. You could find out that you have a gem of an investment property on your hands. On the other hand, the inspection could save you money in the long run by telling you the property is a lemon – before you’ve made any significant investment.