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Copyright©  2010
by Fred Willcox
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A pre-purchase house inspection is one of the first stages of the due diligence investigation process of purchasing a house. A real estate inspection is limited by what the inspector can see and what areas the inspector can access. There is no substitute for an experienced, well educated inspector. And experience does not mean just the number of years that an inspector has been in the business of inspecting houses. Experience should be judged by the inspector’s involvement in consumer advocacy, by the inspectors commitment to continuing education, by the levels of membership the inspector has in industry associations and by the inspector’s certification as a building code inspector. Any good inspector should be happy to discuss his background and experience levels and the inspector should be willing to provide you with samples of his inspection report.

As a consumer of inspection services, you should expect the inspector you employ to be competent and thorough. No matter the level of experience, no inspector can inspect a 2500 square foot house in less than 2 hours and claim to have performed a competent inspection. Inspections take time. The more curious and detailed the inspector is, the more indications of defects the inspector is going to find.

The inspector should produce a report that provides you with the information that you need to know so that you can determine if you need to continue the due diligence investigation on a particular part, component or system or if you are satisfied with the condition of a part, component or system. If the inspector cannot find an indication of a defect, deficiency or problem, the inspector should have the self assurance to be able to say that no problem was found and that there were no indications that you should waste your time continuing the due diligence investigation process on that particular part, component or system. The inspector should not produce a report that simply refers you to other specialists or technicians. For example, a real estate inspector in Texas is required to make a written statement regarding the need for repairs to a foundation. An inspector who produces a report that just refers you to a foundation leveling contractor or an engineer so that other people can make a determination of the performance of the foundation, the inspector has not provided you with the service that you have paid him for. The inspector has not performed his responsibilities to you properly. The inspector is just seeking to reduce his liability.

No inspector is going to find every problem that exists in a house. It’s is simply not possible to perform to that level of service. Problems are missed during code compliance inspections during the construction of the house, when the inspections are performed when no wall, ceiling or floor coverings are in place and no insulation conceals defects. A real estate inspector performs his inspection on houses that have wall, floor and ceiling coverings and that are commonly occupied and furnished. Further, the owner of the house has had the opportunity to conceal, intentionally or not, indications of problems with the house.

Once you have received the report from the inspector, you should understand that the items listed in each section of the report most likely do not represent all of the defects with the part, component or system. The report is not going to list all defects or problems with each part, component and system. The inspector cannot disassemble equipment or perform destructive testing. Once an appliance or wall is opened, more problems or defects should become evident. Once the technician or professional starts to make repairs based on the items noted in the inspection report, more defects or problems should be discovered. If the repair technician or professional does not find any further problems, you should be pretty confident that the repair technician or professional is not doing a thorough job for you.

Always feel free to ask your inspector for more information about any issue that you are unclear about. It is the inspector’s job to find indications of defects, deficiencies or problems. Some problems may have been repaired but the indications of the problems may remain. In these cases, the information provided by the inspector may seem erroneous. But it is the inspector’s responsibility to note the indication of the defect whether the defect has been repaired or not.

It is the responsibility of the real estate agent and the owner of the house to try to dissuade you from further due diligence investigations. They will also try to minimize the implications of the items noted in the inspection report.

Remember that you hired the inspector as a part of your due diligence investigation process. You paid the inspector for the inspector’s opinions. The real estate agents and the seller get their money when you close on the house. Who is really working in your best interest?