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ZIPLEVEL Foundation Elevations – Helpful or Hype?

We are frequently asked if we utilize ZIPLEVELs for providing foundation elevations as part of the inspection. We have spent a good deal of time researching their use, and this is what we learned about the usefulness of this tool and why we choose not to offer this service:
 

What is Required When Reporting Foundation Performance

 
It’s important to start by discussing what is required of a home inspector regarding the reporting on the performance of the foundation.

All home inspectors in Texas are licensed and regulated by the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) and are required to follow the TREC Standards of Practice (Standards). In accordance with the Standards, the inspector is required to “render an opinion as to the performance of the foundation” and “generally report present and visible indications used to render the opinion of adverse performance such as: binding, out-of-square, non-latching doors; framing or frieze board separations; sloping floors; window, wall, floor, or ceiling cracks or separations; and rotating, buckling, cracking, or deflecting masonry cladding.”

The following is specifically NOT REQUIRED in the Standards:

  • “Use of specialized equipment including elevation determining devices”, i.e., ZIPLEVEL.

The TREC requires inspectors to base their opinion of performance on the visible condition of the structure, specifically regarding the indicators of adverse performance noted above using their knowledge and experience in understanding the movement of foundations.

While inspectors are not prohibited from going beyond the Standards and using “specialized equipment”, and there are times when it is prudent to exceed them, the problem arises when the inspection process is exposed to legal issues when the home inspectors’ actions may be infringing on the practice of engineering for which they may not be licensed.

The Texas Board of Professional Engineers (TBPE) issued a Policy Advisory stating that so long as the TREC inspector stayed within the TREC Standards, they would not be in violation of the Texas Engineering Practice Act. Here is the Analysis and Conclusion of the Policy Advisory:

“Analyzing the cause of a condition, recommendations for repair, or providing any other expert engineering
opinion associated with a foundation, including the foundations systems and components, would be considered the practice of engineering per the Act §1001.003(c)(1) and could warrant disciplinary action from the Texas Board of Professional Engineers if conducted by an individual unlicensed as a Professional Engineer (PE). We conclude that a TREC licensed inspector who conducts a visual real estate inspection in conformance with the TREC Standards of Practice does not engage in the practice of engineering.”

For this reason alone, the foundation inspection may not be a time where it is prudent to exceed the Standards of a visual inspection.
 

ZIPLEVEL Claims Made by Home Inspectors

 
Home inspectors that offer foundation elevations often advertise that this type of inspection will provide more information than other inspectors are able to. Here a few samples of the claims made:

  • “Don’t mess around with a visual inspection of your home’s foundation; get your foundation measured. We utilize the latest technology, the Zip Level Pro-2000…. We want you to move in with “peace of mind” knowing for a fact that your foundation is in great condition.”
  • “Foundation worries? If you live in Texas, the answer is probably yes. Before you call in an expensive structural engineer or foundation repair company, we can perform a Foundation Elevation, an inexpensive, thorough way to get the information you need.”
  • “These measurements will show you if, where, and/or to what degree it is out of level. If you are buying or selling a home, it’s a good idea to get this level of detail, particularly in North Texas where movement is almost a given. Knowing whether (and how much) work is needed will affect your decision making about the price of the home and/or whether or not to purchase it.”

The problem with these claims is that:

  • The home inspector is required to perform a visual inspection as they can’t form the required opinion regarding the performance of the foundation without it.
  • The most inexpensive, thorough way to get the information you need is the visual review looking for the indications of adverse performance.
  • No foundation is completely “level” when it is constructed and foundations in expansive clay soil areas of Texas will move. These foundations are designed for movement, and some movement is expected. Certainly, some houses suffer from too much movement. However, many – if not most – are undergoing normal foundation movement created by expansive clay soils.
  • Knowing whether a foundation is “out of level” cannot tell you if the foundation has experienced differential movement without having a second set of measurements taken in the past for comparison. Determining if a foundation has ever moved or deflected (adverse performance) is best evaluated by looking at the criteria required by the TREC. Additionally, it would be problematic if a home inspector gives an opinion as to “whether (and how much) work is needed” as this would violate the Texas Engineering Practice Act unless they are also licensed as a Professional Engineer.

Besides the fact that there are no required certifications or training needed to use a ZIPLEVEL, our greatest concern is that rather than providing peace of mind, foundation elevations might create unrealistic or uninformed expectations from the inspection while not providing any additional risk reduction.​
 

ZIPLEVEL Disclaimers

 
We also found that when home inspectors offer ZIPLEVEL foundation elevations they often include disclaimers that state something like the following:

  • “Elevation measurements can be useful but should not be relied on as a definitive statement of foundation condition.
  • “It should be noted that foundations may reveal some unevenness due to workmanship (as built). Therefore, measurements do not necessarily represent the actual degree of deflection from differential movement of the foundation…. these deviations/slopes are not, by themselves, a measurement of foundation movement.”

These disclaimers are in stark contrast to the claims made and it could be argued that if the elevation measurements should not be relied upon, what’s the point of using the ZIPLEVEL?
 

Are Foundation Elevations Useful for Home Inspections

 
A one-time reading of the elevations of a foundation cannot determine if the foundation has moved differentially. “Movement” is a function of time. Taking the elevations of the foundation during a home inspection can only define the configuration of the foundation at the time of the inspection. Documenting foundation “movement” is not possible without the “as built” elevations to compare with because errors in original construction may indicate movement where movement did not occur.

Without comparable measurements taken at the same locations at different points in time to determine movement, the performance of a foundation can only be determined during a home inspection by observing the performance of the structure. A foundation that is performing adversely will negatively affect the structural integrity of the home thus allowing the inspector to see the indicators. If a foundation is performing as expected, there will be no indications of adverse performance regardless of what the elevation readings are.

Unless you’re willing to pay the price, built into the inspection fee or otherwise, to have a benchmark for future elevation comparisons then real estate transactions are not the time to perform foundation elevations.

If you have repairs being negotiated and performed after a home inspection, it’s important to request the proper paperwork and verify that repairs were completed and in a satisfactory manner. In this blog post, we cover why it’s important to request receipts and warranties after repairs and if a re-inspection is needed after the repairs.

Request Receipts

Requesting receipts gives you validation that the job was completed and helps provide protection for you in the long run. At minimum, it is a good idea to obtain any receipts for repairs should the need arise to speak to any of the repair persons in the future. These receipts will also be proof that any deficiencies noted in the inspection report were addressed.

Understand Your Home’s Warranty

Any items that would be covered under a home warranty need to be repaired in that repair amendment. Receipts of repairs will also be crucial should a claim ever be filed with a home warranty provider. Without receipts they may view the claim as a “known” pre-existing condition, which is not typically covered within a home warranty, and could deny the claim. A home warranty is a service contract that provides financial protection from unforeseen or unexpected repair or replacement costs of essential home components or appliances due to normal wear and tear but does not cover “known” pre-existing conditions. Having a home warranty in place can significantly reduce your risk of facing unexpected repair costs and will help provide added peace of mind.

Re-inspections Never Hurt

It is not uncommon for a re-inspection but almost never necessary if the proper paperwork and procedures were in place. If the repairs completed are judged by both the Buyer and Seller as satisfactory, then there may be no need for a re-inspection. However, if you do not receive the proper receipts and warranties after a repair, then it may be in your best interest to request a second look. While there is no requirement for inspectors to provide services to verify that any negotiated repairs were completed, most inspectors do offer re-inspection services to make these verifications for a fee.

We hope this blog post has provided insight on what to do once repairs have been made. For more information contact an expert today at The Home Inspectors!

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DECODING THE INSPECTION REPORT!

When do you need to have a home inspected? Most people only think of hiring an inspector when they are buying a home. While a home inspection is an important part of the home buying process, home inspections aren’t just for home buyers. Home inspections are also recommended when selling a home, building a home and as a part of your routine home maintenance plan. Below we cover the different types of home inspection services and why and when they are needed.

Home Buyer Inspection

If you are buying a home, a high quality home inspection can help you identify potential risks, make an informed decision, and will provide you with the education you need in order to move forward in the buying process and negotiate any repairs or price reductions. What many home buyers don’t realize is that getting their potential new home inspected is the buyer’s responsibility — not the seller’s. By allowing the buyer to hire a home inspector, you eliminate any bias or seller’s impact on an inspector. Though paying for a home inspection may seem like a lot for a house that doesn’t belong to you just yet, if you’re thinking of purchasing a home, a home inspection will always be worth the investment.

Home Seller Inspection

If you are preparing to sell your home, it may be wise to order a pre-sale home inspection. The last minute discovery of problems by a prospective buyer’s inspector can lead to delays, added expenses and can even derail a deal altogether. Your best solution as a home seller is to have a thorough inspection done prior to putting the house on the market. This allows you to resolve any issues or adjust the price of your home accordingly before they become a problem in negotiating a deal. Our Home Seller Inspections provide you with a comprehensive analysis of your home’s major systems and components. You’ll walk away knowing the current condition of your home, which will ultimately allow you to be in control of the sale!

New Construction Inspection

Many people assume that just because a house is new that it does not need to be inspected, however, this is far from the truth. The building of a home is complex and involves many different professionals and skilled trades that have the potential to overlook critical items. A New Construction Inspection is performed when a newly built home is ready to move in but before your final walk-thru with the builder. Compared to the cost of the home, the cost of a professional inspection buys significant peace of mind. Have an inspection report in hand for that final walk-thru and have any deficiencies corrected before you head to the closing table!

Builder Warranty Inspection

Newly constructed homes typically carry a one year builder’s warranty. Once this warranty expires and the home begins to age, there’s an increased risk of repairs which will no longer be covered. Our Builder Warranty Inspection is a comprehensive visual evaluation of your home which details any deficiencies that may have arisen during its critical first year. We recommend having this inspection about 30 days prior to the expiration of your builder’s one-year warranty in order to address any problems or defects that the builder may be responsible for.

Home Maintenance Inspection

As all homeowners know, routine maintenance is essential to preserving a properly functioning home much like having annual medical and dental exams or regularly changing the oil in your car. Problems that go unchecked for too long can become costly to repair. Schedule a Home Maintenance Inspection to learn the current condition of your home and what investments you need to make now in order to prevent small issues from becoming major problems. We suggest scheduling a routine maintenance inspection annually or every couple of years. We also recommend having a home inspection done after home renovations or major improvements to make sure everything was done correctly and didn’t cause other issues. Your Home Maintenance Inspection will provide you a comprehensive look at your home’s structural systems, electrical systems, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, plumbing systems, appliances and optional systems (i.e. pools/spas, sprinkler systems, septic systems). Like with all of our other inspections, we include a FREE Wood Destroying Insect Report (Termite Inspection).

Whether you’re looking to buy a home, getting ready for a sale or building a home, The Home Inspectors is here for you every step of the way. We want to help you make confident, informed decisions about your home. Download a few of our FREE resources, schedule your home inspection online or get in touch with one of our experts.

If one of our licensed inspectors performs an inspection on your home, you receive a lifetime subscription to HomeBinder ($300+ value). Below we’ll cover what’s included with your online home binder and the many benefits of having a HomeBinder.com account.

What is HomeBinder?

Your Homebinder.com account gives you access to copies of all your reports, inspection photos, educational videos which are site-specific to each home, and more! Homebinder.com also helps you manage and stay on top of all things related to your home!

Already Personalized with Your Information

You will get a personalized link via email from HomeBinder within 1 business day after your home inspection. Information, such as inspection reports, inspection photos & videos as well as additional resources and maintenance reminders, will already have been uploaded to your binder. All of your information is safe, private, and only accessible to you.

How HomeBinder Helps You

  • Schedule Maintenance Reminders

    We already set up 10 maintenance reminders for you, but you have the ability to add additional reminders as well. Stay on top of your home’s recurring maintenance needs like replacing air filters and servicing HVAC equipment.

  • Store Contractor Information

    Always remember the handymen who work on your home so you know who to call for repairs.

  • Organize Home Projects

    Store photos, paint colors, and project costs for easy repairs and tax deductions at the time of sale.

  • Start a Home Inventory

    Be prepared for a fire or theft with an easy to update repository that makes insurance and tax claims and breeze.

  • Utilize Your Electronic File Cabinet

    Upload important paperwork, reports and receipts to the cloud for safekeeping and easy access.

Enjoy Your Home More, With Less Work

  • Gain peace of mind

    Let HomeBinder reduce the stress and headaches of remembering every home related issue and time frame.

  • Enjoy tailored support

    After we inspect your house, we’re able to populate your binder with recommended home pros and other specific resources to help you best manage it.

  • Prevent costly repairs

    Easily keep up with regular home maintenance, to avoid unexpected issues; spend a little time and money today to save $1000s later.

  • Available on any device

    Have immediate, 24-7, access to all the information on your new home. Rest easy knowing your info is safely stored.

_________________________________________

Additional Resources

In addition to Your HomeBinder Account, we provide you with companies for utilities, security systems, locksmith services, and moving services that we’ve put our stamp of approval on and that offer our inspection customers special offers.

Here are a few other resources The Home Inspectors provide with our home inspections!

Connect ALL your utilities – in one place with Utility Concierge!

Utility Concierge will find the best local services, latest technologies, special promotions and pricing on all services to fit your needs. Your Concierge will present all your options and after you make the services selections, they will send you an itinerary with all of your scheduled installation dates and times. Use their no-cost services to save you time, money, and stress!

FREE Security System with ADT Control (Includes $850 in Equipment)

Your System Includes: 7” touch screen control panel with battery backup, 1 pet-friendly motion detector, 3 door or window sensors, panic buttons, and wireless key-fob remote.

The REKEY Special from MR REKEY LOCKSMITH, America’s Largest Residential Locksmith

For 1 Low, Flat Price You Receive: Service Call, Free Smoke Alarm Check (w/ Real Smoke), Rekey of 6 Locks, 4 Key Copies, Strengthening of Deadbolts and Documentation.

AB Moving & Storage – Texas Moving and Relocation Professionals

AB Moving is a Texas proud and family owned company providing quality moving services for over 20 years with offices in four key metro areas: Dallas, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. Low Cost, Flat Rate or Hourly Pricing and Same Day Moves! Offering $25 Off Any Move!

DOWNLOAD OUR GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING YOUR HOME INSPECTION!

During your home inspection, one of our licensed home inspectors will walk through six key areas in the inspection that encompass multiple aspects of the home including: Structural Systems, Electrical systems, Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Systems, Plumbing Systems, Appliances, and Optional Systems. Included with all of our inspections is a FREE Wood Destroying Insect Report which reveals the visible presence or absence of active or previous infestation of wood destroying insects.

Your home inspection report will cover the following components of these systems:

Structural Systems

  • Foundations
  • Grading & Drainage
  • Roof Covering Materials
  • Roof Structures & Attics
  • Walls (Interior & Exterior)
  • Ceilings & Floors
  • Doors (Interior & Exterior)
  • Windows
  • Stairways (Interior & Exterior
  • Fireplaces & Chimneys
  • Porches, Balconies, Decks, and Carports

Electrical Systems

  • Service Entrance and Panels
  • Branch Circuits, Connected Devices, and Fixtures

Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning Systems

  • Heating Equipment
  • Cooling Equipment
  • Duct Systems, Chases, and Vents

Plumbing Systems

  • Plumbing Supply, Distribution Systems and Fixtures
  • Drains, Wastes, and Vents
  • Water Heating Equipment
  • Hydro-Massage Therapy Equipment

Appliances

  • Dishwashers
  • Food Waste Disposers
  • Range Hood and Exhaust Systems
  • Ranges, Cooktops, and Ovens
  • Microwave Ovens
  • Mechanical Exhaust Vents and Bathroom Heaters
  • Garage Door Operators
  • Dryer Exhaust Systems

Optional Systems

  • Landscape Irrigation (Sprinkler) Systems
  • Swimming Pools, Spas, Hot Tubs, and Equipment
  • Outbuildings
  • Private Water Wells
  • Private Sewage Disposal (Septic) Systems

FREE Wood Destroying Insect Report (Termite Inspection)



After your completed home inspection, your inspector will answer all of your questions during an informative walk-thru. Your inspection report will address all of the systems above that are present in the home. Reports are presented and e-mailed on-site with color photos and easy to understand findings.

Every home inspection customer of ours receives a lifetime subscription to HomeBinder ($300+ value). Your personal HomeBinder.com account will have your inspection reports and photos, educational videos which are site-specific to the home as well as additional resources and maintenance reminders already uploaded to your online binder.

Whether you’re looking to buy a home, getting ready for a sale or building a home, The Home Inspectors is here for you every step of the way. We want to help you make confident, informed decisions about your home. Download a few of our FREE resources, schedule your home inspection online or get in touch with one of our experts.

In this blog post, we are going to cover the section of the Preamble of the inspection report that speaks about the buyer’s right to have a home inspected as well as a termination option. Even though there is a right to conduct an inspection, it doesn’t require the seller to make any repairs.

Here is the verbiage used in the report form:

Contract forms developed by TREC for use by its real estate license holders also inform the buyer of the right to have the home inspected and can provide an option clause permitting the buyer to terminate the contract within a specified time. Neither the Standards of Practice nor the TREC contract forms require a seller to remedy conditions revealed by an inspection. The decision to correct a hazard or any deficiency identified in an inspection report is left to the parties to the contract for the sale or purchase of the home.

Paragraph 7 in both the ONE TO FOUR FAMILY RESIDENTIAL CONTRACT (RESALE) Form 20-13 and the RESIDENTIAL CONDOMINIUM CONTRACT (RESALE) Form 30-12 outline the access, inspections, utilities, and the completion of repairs and treatments.

Section A specifically allows that the buyer and their agent are permitted access to the property at reasonable times and that the buyer may have the property inspected by an inspector of their choosing so long as they are licensed by the TREC or are otherwise permitted by law to make inspections. Additionally, the seller at their own expense must have utilities turned on and kept on during the contract period.

Section F deals with the completion of any negotiated repairs or treatments and requires that, unless agreed to in writing, the seller must complete all repairs or treatments prior to the closing date. Additionally, permits must be obtained when required and the work must be performed by licensed persons, when required by law, or if no license is required by law then they must be commercially engaged in that specific trade. If there are any transferable warranties received by the seller, the buyer can, at their own expense, have them transferred. If the seller fails to complete any of the negotiated repairs prior to the closing date, the buyer may exercise remedies under paragraph 15 or extend the closing date up to five days.

In paragraph 23 of each of the contracts is the Termination Option. For a nominal consideration (option fee) which the buyer pays to the seller within 3 days after the effective date of the contract, the seller grants the buyer the unrestricted right to terminate the contract by providing notice of termination to the seller by 5:00PM on the date specified. Time is of the essence for this paragraph and strict compliance with the time for performance is required.

Finally, when a buyer opts to have an inspection performed and the inspection identifies deficiencies, it doesn’t mean a potential buyer should or shouldn’t purchase the home, only that they will know in advance what to expect. However, when a deficiency is reported, it is the client’s responsibility to obtain further evaluations and/or cost estimates from qualified service professionals prior to the expiration of the option period. And while there is no requirement for the seller to make repairs, an effort to negotiate the completion of repairs can always be made between the parties of the contract.

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DECODING THE INSPECTION REPORT!

When setting the expectations for the home inspection process, it is important to convey some of the many realities that may be encountered after the inspection takes place.

Inspection reports cannot predict the future

The findings noted in the inspection report provide a snap-shot in time of the general condition of the home on the day and time that the inspection takes place. However, it does not and cannot anticipate conditions that may occur in the future.
The inspector is not required to anticipate any future events or conditions such as:

  • decay, deterioration, or damage that may occur after the inspection
  • deficiencies from abuse, misuse or lack of use
  • changes in performance of any component or system due to changes in use or occupancy
  • the consequences of the inspection or its effects on current or future buyers and sellers
  • common household accidents, personal injury, or death
  • the presence of water penetrations
  • future performance of any item

Property conditions change with time and use

For example, mechanical devices can fail at any time, plumbing gaskets and seals may crack if the appliance or plumbing fixture is not used often, roof leaks can occur at any time regardless of the apparent condition of the roof, and the performance of the structure and the systems may change due to changes in use or occupancy, effects of weather, etc. These changes or repairs made to the structure after the inspection may render information contained herein obsolete or invalid.

Inspection findings are only a snap-shot in time

The inspection report is provided for the specific benefit of the client named and is based on observations at the time of the inspection. If you did not hire the inspector yourself, reliance on this report may provide incomplete or outdated information. Repairs, professional opinions or additional inspection reports may affect the meaning of the information in this report. It is recommended that you hire a licensed inspector to perform an inspection to meet your specific needs and to provide you with current information concerning this property.

The importance of home warranties

Knowing that property conditions can change in a moment’s notice for a variety of different reasons can also bring to light the importance of home warranties and their somewhat symbiotic relationship with home inspections. A home warranty is a service contract that provides financial protection from unforeseen or unexpected repair or replacement costs of essential home components or appliances due to normal wear and tear but does not cover “known” pre-existing conditions. Should one of these unanticipated issues arise, there’s a good chance that it might be covered under the warranty and the inspection report can provide the documentation that it was not a “known” pre-existing condition.

Older reports may contain information that is obsolete

It is also important to note that because the inspection findings only relate to a specific date and time, and there is the reality that conditions can change, the client should choose to obtain their own current inspection as older previous reports may contain information that is obsolete and no longer representative of the home’s current condition. With the due diligence of having a home inspection performed and a home warranty in place, it can significantly reduce the risk of having to face the costs associated with the realities that may be encountered and will help provide added peace of mind.

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DECODING THE INSPECTION REPORT!

In this blog post, we will be discussing the section of the inspection report which relates to the responsibilities of the client as determined by the TREC.

This section states the following:

ITEMS IDENTIFIED IN THE REPORT DO NOT OBLIGATE ANY PARTY TO MAKE REPAIRS OR TAKE OTHER ACTIONS, NOR IS THE PURCHASER REQUIRED TO REQUEST THAT THE SELLER TAKE ANY ACTION. When a deficiency is reported, it is the client’s responsibility to obtain further evaluations and/or cost estimates from qualified service professionals. Any such follow-up should take place prior to the expiration of any time limitations such as option periods.

Evaluations by qualified tradesmen may lead to the discovery of additional deficiencies which may involve additional repair costs. Failure to address deficiencies or comments noted in this report may lead to further damage of the structure or systems and add to the original repair costs. The inspector is not required to provide follow-up services to verify that proper repairs have been made.

I must admit, it seems somewhat confusing that there is an emphasis on saying that there is no obligation to make repairs or take other action and then follow that up with saying the client has a responsibility to act and the failure to do so can have consequences. However, while the former is relaying that while there is no requirement to take any type of action, the latter spells out that it is the client’s responsibility to do so if they desire, and it should be done while still in the Option Period.

The important thing here is that evaluations by specialists can turn up additional deficiencies with the systems or components of the home which may involve even more costs. If these items are addressed during the Option Period, there is at least the opportunity that the cost of repairs can be negotiated between the parties. However, if items in the report are ignored, it may result in additional damage and costs that will not have been negotiated and will need to be addressed in the future.

And finally, while there is no requirement for inspectors to provide services to verify that any negotiated repairs were completed, most inspectors do offer re-inspection services to make these verifications for a fee. At minimum, it is a good idea to obtain any receipts for repairs should the need arise to speak to any of the repair persons in the future. These receipts will also be crucial should a claim ever be filed with a home warranty provider as they will want proof that any deficiencies noted in the inspection report were addressed, or they may view the claim as a “known” pre-existing condition and deny it.

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DECODING THE INSPECTION REPORT!

Since the inception of our business in 2010, it has become clear that the average consumer, and to a lesser degree some real estate professionals, lacks a thorough understanding of what a home inspection is and what it isn’t. This is in no way an indictment of either as the lack of understanding is quite understandable and the solution is evident. We, as an industry, must do a better job of setting the expectations for the consumer and real estate professionals alike.

The Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) has already done the work of setting these expectations through use of the Preamble (pages 1 & 2) of the Inspection Report which spells out the purpose, limitations, and inspector/client responsibilities. It is our duty to be the messenger and share this information in an easy to understand manner. In this blog post, we are going to discuss the 6th paragraph of the Preamble which defines the expectations of the inspection process and reads as follows:

THIS PROPERTY INSPECTION IS NOT A TECHNICALLY EXHAUSTIVE INSPECTION OF THE STRUCTURE, SYSTEMS OR COMPONENTS. This inspection may not reveal all deficiencies. A real estate inspection helps to reduce some of the risk involved in purchasing a home, but it cannot eliminate these risks, nor can the inspection anticipate future events or changes in performance due to changes in use or occupancy. If it is recommended that you obtain as much information as is available about this property, including seller’s disclosures, previous inspection reports, engineering reports, building/remodeling permits, and reports performed for and by relocation companies, municipal inspection departments, lenders, insurers, and appraisers. You should also attempt to determine whether repairs, renovation, remodeling, additions, or other such activities have taken place at this property. It is not the inspector’s responsibility to confirm that information obtained from these sources is complete or accurate or that this inspection is consistent with the opinions expressed in previous or future reports.

Let’s dive further into the opening sentence

The opening sentence of this paragraph states: This Property Inspection is not a technically exhaustive inspection of the structure, systems or components. First, what does this not mean? It doesn’t mean that you are getting an inferior inspection because it is cursory in scope or not technically exhaustive. The cursory element is the truest part of what a home inspection is. I think developing what the cursory element “is” will be helpful in seeing and understanding this.

So what does ‘not technically exhaustive’ really mean?

So, what is it? What does it mean? Really, it means this: when a home inspector is performing an inspection on the subject property they are offering the client a broad and sweeping stroke as to the condition of the major systems and components of the property: the structural systems, the electrical systems, the HVAC systems, the plumbing systems, the appliances, and in some instances, the optional systems. This “broad overview” may come with some unforeseen detail, but even with this detail, the home inspection has not been redefined: it is still not technically exhaustive and it is still cursory.

Here are a few reasons why the inspection is not technically exhaustive and may not reveal all deficiencies:

  • Home Inspectors are generalists as opposed to subject matter experts and are not required to use specialized equipment or procedures
  • Care must be taken not to use invasive procedures or damage the seller’s property
  • Consideration for Inspector safety
  • The inspection only covers those items that are visible and accessible at the time of inspection

An inspection is meant to provide a broad overview of the home’s condition

Thus, the home inspector, providing a “home inspection” which is not intended to be “technically exhaustive” and is intended to be “cursory” isn’t providing an inferior home inspection: they are simply doing their job, which is to provide a broad overview of the home’s condition. Remember, “a home inspection is a risk reduction tool designed to reflect, as accurately as possible, the visible condition of the home and represents a broad and sweeping stroke as to the condition of the major systems and components of the property at the time of the inspection.” The client hires a home inspector for this purpose. If they are wanting a more in depth examination of the home they would need to hire a structural engineer, a roofing contractor, a licensed electrician, a licensed HVAC contractor, a licensed plumber, a qualified appliance technician, and possibly others for the optional systems—all different professionals, all different professions, and at a substantially higher cost.

An inspection is not meant to guarantee the condition of a home in the future.

A home inspection is a risk reduction tool designed to reflect the visible condition of the property at the time of the inspection. Property conditions can change in only a day or two, so a home inspection is not meant to guarantee the condition of a home in the future. It’s not uncommon for conditions to change between the time of the inspection and the closing date.

Creating realistic expectations for your client

A large part of the real estate professional’s role as well as that of the home inspector is to help manage the expectations of the client. This is especially true when a client has never dealt with the home inspection process before. Explaining the limitations of a home inspection will help develop realistic expectations concerning the inspection report, and what lies beyond the scope of the inspection. Creating realistic expectations in a client’s mind helps prevent misunderstandings and promotes smooth real estate transactions.

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DECODING THE INSPECTION REPORT!

The topic of Life-Safety upgrades is introduced in the 5th paragraph of the Preamble of the Inspection Report. The introduction is as follows:

Some items reported may be considered life-safety upgrades to the property. For more information, refer to Texas Real Estate Consumer Notice Concerning Recognized Hazards or Deficiencies below.

In addition to the following information being included in the Preamble, it is also available as TREC Form No. OP-I which has been approved for voluntary use by its license holders as a separate document.

TEXAS REAL ESTATE CONSUMER NOTICE CONCERNING HAZARDS OR DEFICIENCIES

Each year, Texans sustain property damage and are injured by accidents in the home. While some accidents may not be avoidable, many other accidents, injuries, and deaths may be avoided through the identification and repair of certain hazardous conditions. Examples of such hazards include:

  • malfunctioning, improperly installed, or missing ground fault circuit protection (GFCI) devices for electrical receptacles in garages, bathrooms, kitchens, and exterior areas;
  • malfunctioning arc fault protection (AFCI) devices;
  • ordinary glass in locations where modern construction techniques call for safety glass;
  • malfunctioning or lack of fire safety features such as smoke alarms, fire-rated doors in certain locations, and functional emergency escape and rescue openings in bedrooms;
  • malfunctioning carbon monoxide alarms;
  • excessive spacing between balusters on stairways and porches;
  • improperly installed appliances;
  • improperly installed or defective safety devices;
  • lack of electrical bonding and grounding; and
  • lack of bonding on gas piping, including corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST).

To ensure that consumers are informed of hazards such as these, the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) has adopted Standards of Practice requiring licensed inspectors to report these conditions as “Deficient” when performing an inspection for a buyer or seller, if they can be reasonably determined.

These conditions may not have violated building codes or common practices at the time of the construction of the home, or they may have been “grandfathered” because they were present prior to the adoption of codes prohibiting such conditions. While the TREC Standards of Practice do not require inspectors to perform a code compliance inspection, TREC considers the potential for injury or property loss from the hazards addressed in the Standards of Practice to be significant enough to warrant this notice.
 

Items Marked as Deficient: Should I be Alarmed?

 
While many inspectors market their approach of conveying their findings as “non-alarming” it is hard to get past the language in this section…. “accidents, injuries, and deaths” – hardly non-alarming but justifiably notable.
 
“Non-alarming” shouldn’t mean withholding or downplaying genuine health & safety concerns. As you can see from the examples, there can be an increased risk of electrocution, fire, CO poisoning, traumatic injury, property damage, etc. relating to these items. It is important that these “deficiencies” are conveyed to the client.
 
While it is required that the items be marked as “Deficient,” it doesn’t mean there is a need to be alarming. No single deficiency is better or worse than the next and there is no requirement to prioritize or emphasize one over the other. Rather an emphasis should put on the importance of taking any corrective action that may be required to remedy these issues. Each one of these “deficiencies” is correctable. And while neither party is required to make these corrections, they often become the subject of negotiation between the parties to either repair/replace the items or make price adjustments accordingly. Ideally, any corrective action should be addressed prior to the expiration of the Option Period.

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