Thursday, May 23, 2013

Home Inspections

     Home inspections are one of the most crucial elements of the purchase of any residential piece of real property. This is especially true in the current real estate market where most sales are done on an As-Is basis with the purchaser having a seven to fifteen day window to inspect the subject property and to determine whether they are going to purchase same or cancel the contract and received a return of their deposit(s).
     Traditionally, the purchaser would inspect the property and provide the inspection report to the seller who would have to then make repairs contained in the inspection report up to a certain maximum percentage for structural items, appliances and other matters, and a certain percentage for wood destroying organisms. For those who have been in the real estate business for a long time, will remember that the percentages used to be as high as three percent for structural matters and two percent for wood destroying organisms (what used to be called termites).

    Today, the percentages have been greatly reduced with the latest Realtor®/Bar approved contract limited to one and one-half percent for structural matters and -half percent for wood destroying organisms. Either way, the inspection must be completed timely and presented to the seller to determine whether the seller is obligated to make the repairs assuming same does not exceed the percentage limit contained in the contract. If the percentage limit is exceeded, the seller has the option of refusing to make excess repairs in which case the buyer may walk from the contract or the buyer may accept repairs up to the limit and take the rest of the property in its As-Is condition.

     The inspection itself should be done by a licensed home inspector or general contractor. In addition to the structural components specialized contractors are needed for certain inspection items. For example, you may need a separate pool contractor to inspect the pool and spa. You also need a licensed pest inspector to conduct the pest, fungi and mold inspection. Many home inspectors have multiple licenses which provide one-stop shopping for structural, wood destroying organisms, pools and mold inspections.

     Mold inspections are now a new area that has arisen as a result of a better understanding of the effects of mold on people, especially in homes that are heavily air-conditioned and that rarely have their windows opened. Mold can occur from a variety of leaks including plumbing leaks as well as a leak in the ice cube/water line to the refrigerator. Also a home that has too large an air-conditioning system for its size will also likely develop a mold condition. Wherever there is moisture there is the potential for mold and is important for the inspection to carefully address this issue. If a mold condition is detected a further air-quality test may be necessary to determine the type of mold, the risk to occupants and the method for post leak stoppage remediation.

      Human since inspectors are only human, and further since many limit their liability to the cost of the inspection it is important that you act as your own inspector when purchasing a home. This means turning on all faucets, flushing all toilets, examining all vents for mold and airflow, testing all appliances and the air-conditioning system and using anything else in the home to determine whether or not it functions normally. I also suggest you look up. Many a homeowner has sat on a toilet in their new home finally look up and see evidence of a water leak that was missed by the inspector and everyone who came into that bathroom. You should also challenge any recent repairs. Under Florida law the seller is obligated to provide you with a copy of any past repairs or service on within the last year.

     A home inspection is one of the most important parts of your home purchase. Using a reputable home inspector is a key to finding out the condition of any home that you are considering purchasing. If you fail to get a proper inspection the only person you have to blame is yourself.

Michael Posner, Esq., is a partner in Ward Damon a mid-sized real estate and business oriented law firm serving all of South Florida, with offices in Palm Beach County.  They specialize in real estate law, and can assist buyers and sellers in all real estate matters.  They can be reached at 561.842.3000 or at