Contract to Close: Physical Inspection

Within a few days of coming to contract agreement, a buyer will almost always want to have a physical inspection of the property and its appliances performed by a certified inspector. This usually costs roughly $500 depending on the size of the property. This is not mandatory, but it’s like taking a car for a test drive before buying it- if you don’t do it, there might be some major unforeseen expenses coming your way. Physical inspection should be done quickly because the next steps of proposing modifications to the agreement depends on the inspection and can only be done within a limited amount of time.

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What is inspected varies a little bit depending on the inspector and the agreement, but usually it assesses both the external features of a building as well as its interior and the appliances. Inspectors will give a rough assessment of whether the building’s siding or brick is in need of repair, perhaps look at the roof, and eyeball the foundation and any sewer features that are visible from outside.

Inside, the inspector will work though each room of the house looking for evidence of any water damage (sometimes they have really cool tools for that), structural problems, or code violations (such as a single stair not being the same height as the rest). They will also test each appliance such as dishwashers, garbage disposals, and laundry. They uncover more ordinary things you might not notice until later like a door lock not working quite right.

Similar to the way you could assess a car by its various systems (braking, drivetrain, etc), inspectors will look into a property’s various systems such as HVAC, plumbing, and electrical. They will test the furnace and, if it’s warm enough outside, the air conditioning unit. They will verify that water is pressure is adequate when both a shower and a faucet are on full blast and that the hot water is supplied without too much delay. They test each outlet to make sure it is grounded correctly. They will raise questions if vents seem to be poorly placed- I once had an inspector point out that a furnace exhaust vent leaving the building was not far away from the bathroom window. I would never think to consider such a problem, and their knowledge about building codes is often very impressive.

It is the inspector’s job to be thorough. Depending on the buyer, they might run the risk of boring the client with explanations of why certain features of the property are the way they are, but this is the buyer’s chance to get a tutorial on their new home which they are now responsible to maintain.

Inspectors usually have apps or some other system that allows them to efficiently combine oral memos they record for themselves, pictures, or written notes into a single report that the buyer can then keep. This report is then used in the next phase of inspection contingencies, which is done with the seller side to make requests and resolve issues discovered during inspection.


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