Barry Davies, a director of the Chas Everitt International Property has published a valuable guide to home inspections in the form of Frequently Asked Questions on the Chas Everitt website – see http://www.chaseveritt.co.za/home-inspection-faqs
What is a home inspection?
This is a thorough check of all accessible areas of a house by a trained and observant home inspector. The inspection report documents and evaluates all observed defects. The report usually contains photographs of the significant defects and also estimates of the cost of repair.
Do home inspectors also do repairs?
No. In order to remain impartial, good ethics dictate that home inspectors should not be involved with any remedial work on a house which they have inspected.
What about hidden defects? How do home inspectors find these?
They don’t. Home inspectors conduct non-invasive inspections or Home Appraisals using their experience, training and powers of observation.
They report only on what they see at the time of the inspection. A home inspector will not dig down alongside the foundations to evaluate a crack in the foundation plinth or remove roof tiles to evaluate a potential leak.
Why should I use a home inspector?
In medical parlance a home inspector is like a general practitioner. The inspector is trained to evaluate the general health of a house, but he is not a specialist. Like a GP he knows enough about all possible problems in order to raise a “red flag” and recommend the services of a specialist to investigate potentially serious problems.
Taking the medical analogy further, a home inspector may recommend that the client consult with a specialist such as a plumber, an electrician, a water-proofing expert, a roofer or a structural engineer.
Isn’t it better to use a structural engineer rather than a home inspector?
Not really. A structural engineer is trained to inspect and evaluate only the structures – the foundations, slabs, walls and roof. He will not concern himself with the installations and finishes – which usually make up more than half the value of the house.
A good home inspector is an “all rounder” who is trained to inspect and evaluate all of the components of a house.
How do I know a home inspector is properly trained?
In South Africa the home inspection industry is not regulated. This means that, unlike estate agents, anyone can currently operate as a home inspector and there are a few dodgy inspectors around.
SAHITA (the South African Home Inspection Training Academy) has developed a home inspection course especially designed for South African building conditions and regulations. The SAHITA training material is now being evaluated by government with a view to providing accredited training for home inspectors in South Africa.
Once the SAHITA course has been accredited then the government will probably also regulate the home inspection industry.
What about InterNACHI?
This is the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors which is based in Colorado, USA. Internachi offers a large number of online home inspector training courses, but this training concentrates on American building methods and regulations.
Because of the extreme temperatures, homes in the US are very different to those in South Africa. In the US house walls are mostly timber-framed; most roofs are clad with boards and wooden or bitumen shingles and major components of the house are its insulation and temperature control via oil fired heating systems and air conditioners.
Plumbing and electrical codes in the US are also different from those in South Africa.
SAHITA is the first initiative to provide comprehensive home inspector training based on South African building methods, installations and finishes. These include concrete foundations and floor slabs; plastered and painted brick and mortar walls; sheeted or tiled roofs and electric pressure geysers.
How do I select a home inspector?
Check their training and experience. Ask to see a sample Inspection report and check whether this report is comprehensive and provides all the information on the condition of the house which you will need in order to make informed buying or selling decisions.
Is a home inspection report a guarantee?
No. This is because although the home inspector bases his report on informed observation, he cannot detect hidden defects – for instance a pipe within a wall which my burst in the future or a roof which may develop a leak after a storm. The home inspector reports only on what he observes at the time of the inspection.
Doesn’t the bank send their own inspector?
Yes, but the bank inspector is mainly interested in protecting the bank’s investment. The bank needs to know whether there is sufficient value in the house to cover the mortgage in the event that the bond is not paid and the bank needs to repossess and sell the house.
What about estate agents? Why do I need a home inspector?
Estate agents are primarily property marketing professionals. A good estate agent will take a general view of the condition of the house in order to value the property for sale. However, an estate agent will not climb onto the roof or venture into the roof cavity.
Estate agents are not trained or equipped to evaluate the causes of damp or plumbing or electrical problems.
Estate agents are trained to help the seller correctly price the house in the light of prevailing market conditions and to conclude a successful sale by bringing willing buyers to the property and then assisting in the sales negotiations.
Does a home inspector “pass” a house?
No. No house is perfect. The job of the home inspector is to be impartial while documenting the defects observed.
However, a home inspector should avoid being hyper-critical and destructive. Every property has its problems and the job of the home inspector is to inform by placing defects in a context. A good home inspection report should not “kill the sale” but rather assist buyer, seller and estate agent to make informed decisions.
What should I expect to pay for a home inspection?
Home inspection fees in South Africa average around R3500 – R4000 with a low of about R2500 and a high of R7000.
Home inspectors either quote per room or per square meter of floor area. These quotes usually include an inspection of the roof covering, roof space and exteriors such as paving, drainage, boundary walls and swimming pool.
Who should pay for a home inspection?
Usually the buyer pays because the buyer has most to lose in the event of unknown defects surfacing after the sale. A prudent buyer should make his offer to purchase contingent on a satisfactory home inspection report within a few days of the acceptance of the offer.
However, there are good reasons why a seller should commission and pay for a home inspection report before putting the house on the market. A pre-listing report will enable the seller to make informed decisions regarding pricing and repairs to be done prior to listing.
A home inspection report provided to potential buyers by the seller also goes a long way in creating an atmosphere is transparency and trust between seller, estate agent and buyer.
Estate agents ask sellers to sign a declaration on the condition of the house. Doesn’t this make a home inspection superfluous?
Not really. A seller’s condition declaration is a poor substitute for a professional home inspection. Even though most sellers are honest and trustworthy, very often the seller will have no idea of the true condition of components such as the roof, the geyser and the overall structure.
What are the consequences of not getting a home inspection report?
Research shows that buyers tend to over-estimate the cost of repairing visible defects and pitch their offers according. For instance, a wall crack which may cost R1000 to repair may cause the buyer to reduce the offer by R10 000. A home inspection report allows buyers and sellers to make informed decisions and it equips estate agents to provide informed advice during negotiations.
Buyers often suffer from “buyer’s remorse”. This In the event of the buyer discovering serious problems after moving in, then the buyer’s relationships with the estate agent and the seller can become seriously soured – even to the point of expensive and stressful legal action. A home inspection report prior to the sale being concluded is a common-sense way of avoiding future conflict and hard feelings.