Chapter 1: About Home Inspection

I met with a friend for diner yesterday. We chatted about buying a home. He is a first time buyer with not a whole lot of experience. When we talked about whether it’s necessary to hire a home inspector, he said that he had the disclosure form from the seller, the seller was also buying him home warranty insurance for a year. He wasn’t going to hire an inspector. This is a misconception.

First of all, the disclosure from the seller may not be accurate and thorough. The seller is not familiar with building codes, he/she can only list a few small defects, far from sufficient; Secondly, home warranty insurance only covers individual appliances such as water heater, air conditioner, dishwasher etc. It won’t compensate big loss caused by appliances. It won’t cover structure deficiencies such as uneven foundation settlement.

A building is an integrated system consisting of various subsystems. All subsystems interact with each other and are heavily dependent on each other. Any malfunction in a subsystem will affect other subsystems. Take the thermostat location as an example, its ideal location is the center of a building. If it’s too close to the air return plenum, air conditioner will operate at increased frequency, which in turn shortens the life span of the air conditioner; if it’s too close to the air intake, it’ll cause unbalanced air conditioning, failing to achieve the expected air circulation result. In general, some air condition units have 15-year life, but others can only operate for 7 to 8 years. In fact, there are many other factors affecting the life of an air condition unit, I’ll explain in upcoming series.

Home inspectors are like doctors. During inspection, they find root cause through observation of symptoms to better protect customer’s investment. The building codes in the US are updated every 3 years. A building compliant with the codes 10 years ago may not comply with the codes today in some subsystems, this is expected. However, when the previous owner upgrades a subsystem without upgrading other related subsystems, the overall results might not be obvious. For instance, installing energy efficient windows alone may result in very little benefit in saving energy cost. An experienced home inspector will point this out in his/her inspection report.

On average, the cost of home inspection amounts to 0.2% of home value. This cost is not much compared with the total investment, but its benefit is huge.

By Michael Zhang

Published in the May edition of Texas Capital News