When most people are considering the purchase of a building, one of the last things they may consider is the underlying condition of the building. Often we start our purchase considering how we are going to use the building. Does it have enough rooms for my needs? Does it generally look good inside and out? Or is it in a good area for my purpose? While these are important questions when you are trying to select a property from the hundreds of essential, you are probably considering remember that a good coat of paint can make identifying potential issues difficult to the untrained eye. Buildings are very complex systems, and at some point, you must consider having a general building inspection. Because identifying potential problems can be difficult even for a trained professional, an inspection should not, as it will provide information you probably do not have and will define the condition of a property. Inspection information will help you as a buyer to understand the real condition of the property and help you determine value. Whether you are purchasing a commercial building or a home residence, knowledge is power in negotiating a fair deal, and inspections are an important aspect of a building purchase.
An initial building inspection is often a visual inspection only and does not evidence guarantee that you will know every defect that exists, but it should help you understand the basic condition of the building. Often inspections will uncover conditions even the seller may not be aware of and can help everyone involved in the sale to understand the current condition of the building. Systems typically covered in a general building inspection can vary by the qualifications of the inspector, but most often include:
- Foundation Performance
- Structural Performance
- Roof Condition
- General Maintenance Condition
- Mechanical Systems
- Plumbing Systems
- Electrical Systems
Other optional items of concern may also include:
- Optional Systems (Pools, Yard Irrigation)
- Wood Destroying Insect Inspection
- Indoor Air Quality
- HVAC/Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Testing
Inspections may uncover such concerns as evidence of unknown or unrecognized water entry, foundation performance issues, roof system deterioration or failure, or other problems that could require expensive testing to fully define a problem, expensive maintenance to correct a problem, or replacement of a component or system because it is at the end of life. Many buyers lack the technical skills to identify the indications of such conditions or the significance of a problem once detected and how to address them. A building inspection professional can assist with helping you understand these issues.
As part of the inspection process, a buyer should select their inspection contractor carefully. While a state-licensed inspector (TREC Inspector in Texas) may be enough for a simple building or a building in relatively good condition, hiring a more expensive engineering contractor (Search with NABIE.org) to provide an initial general inspection may reduce the number of subsequent state-licensed needed to obtain opinions and information sufficient to understand the building’s condition, problems related to building performance, or how to proceed with understanding more complex issues and may save money in the long run.
After a building inspection is performed, a report will be issued, and the findings of the general inspection should be reviewed and discussed with your real estate agent. Don’t forget that your inspector is typically available to help you understand the information and can be an important resource even after the inspection. The information in your inspection report can help your real estate agent in assisting you in making informed decisions as well as using the inspection information in effective negotiations for a property.
A building inspection is a necessary part of the purchase of a property and should be viewed as necessary information in helping you to understand best the condition of the property you are purchasing. While a general building inspection typically cannot identify every defect, they are intended to help you understand the condition of a property so that you can make a more informed purchase.
Written by Edward Robinson, P.E.
Professional Engineering Inspections, Inc.
Edward Robinsons has been performing building inspections in the greater Houston area for over 30 years.