Ask the Home Inspectors: Why even order a home inspection?

Feb. 1, 2012 at 5:03 p.m.
Updated Jan. 31, 2012 at 8:01 p.m.

Jack and Jill Victoria had watched all the home improvement TV shows, so the newlyweds felt confident they'd know the perfect house when they saw it.

Online, they found a cozy-looking home in a nice neighborhood. The couple scheduled a walk-through at once. A day later, the Victorias put in an offer to buy the home.

Instead of hiring a home inspector, though, the couple opted to save a bit of money and rely on knowledge gained from those do-it-yourself shows. They toured each room, turned on a few faucets, fired up the air conditioner and deemed everything seemed OK.

If you ever wondered why you should hire a home inspector before you buy or sell your home, this column is for you.

A home inspection, performed by an inspector who possesses vast amounts of intricate knowledge about homes, can reveal deficiencies that cost far greater than the price of the inspection.

Finding deficiencies can give you greater negotiating power - and at the very least, a much better understanding of the home and how to care for it - before you close the deal. The joy of owning a new home can quickly sour if major problems arise.

Joe and I use the fictitious Victorias as a way to illustrate some of the unfortunate stories we hear of home buying gone wrong. After all, there is no perfect home, at least not in terms of the deficiencies for which inspectors inspect.

"A home inspection," according to the American Society of Home Inspectors, "is an objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a house, from the roof to the foundation."

Beyond a visual examination, inspectors often use specialized tools to also measure the:

Functionality of the heating and cooling system, as well as electrical system.

Water pressure and even quality, via an independent public health laboratory.

Presence of dangerous gas or carbon monoxide leaks.

The Victorias, that fictitious couple, might not know what to look for, or even where to look. An inspection, after all, should be comprehensive.

As the American Society of Home Inspectors notes, a standard report covers the condition of the home's heating system; central air conditioning system (temperature permitting); plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; the foundation and structural components.

That's a lot of ground to cover, no doubt.

So before you buy a home, consider hiring a licensed inspector. Be warned: Deficiencies are guaranteed to turn up.

With the proper context and understanding, though, you can decide whether you can live with or fix those deficiencies. You can also visit with your real estate agent to discuss asking the seller to make repairs or even drop the price of the home.

You know a home can be your greatest expense. So it makes good sense to know just what you're getting for your money.

Gabe Semenza, TREC Lic. No. 20,326, is owner of Semenza Inspections. Joe Hanselka, TREC Lic. No. 1,166, is owner of Crossroads Inspection Services, and Semenza's professional sponsor. If you have questions about inspections, contact the real estate inspectors at 361-676-1480 or 361-576-6429 respectively.



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