A few tips for selecting a licensed inspector:

  1. Seek a third-party recommendation – It is best not to hire an inspector who has been recommended to you by anyone with a vested interest in making the sale, a real estate broker, for example.  Ask your attorney, friends, or check professional association sites.
  2. Check references – A recommendation is necessary but not sufficient.  Ask any inspector you are considering using for recent references so you can check on customer satisfaction:  Was the inspector reliable and responsive to requests for information?  Did anything come to light later on that should have been noticed during the inspection?
  3. Attend the inspection and ask questions – You can and should educate yourself on the condition of the property you are considering buying by accompanying the inspector on the inspection tour, asking him or her to point out any issues for you to see, and asking questions to ensure that you understand what is being evaluated.
  4. Get a written report of the inspection – Any legitimate, licensed inspector will be prepared to issue a report for you of all the findings.  This will prove invaluable should you need to discuss any issues that require remediation with the seller.

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Don't Buy Without an Engineer's Inspection: Here's Why

09-15-2011 by

The neighborhood is perfect, the building attractive, and the unit seems to be in good shape.  Both the buyer and broker are eager to to push ahead quickly.  Just be sure to get a licensed building inspector in before you sign a contract. 

Most likely you wouldn’t consider buying a used car without having it carefully gone over by a knowledgeable, trusted mechanic.  And no one should buy a home – probably the biggest single investment one will ever make – without having a licensed inspector assess the premises.

When advising clients, I find that this recommendation often seems obvious to those buying a house, but that those buying an apartment wrongly assume that all they have to worry about is the individual unit, where any problems will be readily evident.  This is a common misconception, and any buyer will certainly want a building-wide inspection to identify any issues with the building that may require large capital expenditures.  These expenses – which may include a new boiler, new roof, or window replacement – would most likely be paid for by a special assessment in addition to the maintenance.  Anticipated costs for the purchase can quickly escalate and, depending on the work required, this may or may not turn out to be the home of your dreams. 

There are also individual unit-related issues and repair costs that must be evaluated.  You won’t be able to tell by looking; how do you know, for example, if the electrical power furnished to the unit is adequate for present-day needs?  It is very costly to have an electrical riser run to your unit, and you will want to know for certain before you move in and start tripping circuit breakers or blowing fuses.  What else is going on behind those walls that you can’t see?  What kind of condition is the plumbing in?  Is there evidence of mold or perhaps other health-threatening situations, including asbestos?  Will expensive repairs be needed?  The average prospective homeowner would not be able to evaluate any of these existing or potential issues, but a licensed inspector readily can. 

Needless to say, it is far better to be on notice of any problems with a property before you sign a contract.  This is why I always insist that my clients get an engineer’s inspection, regardless of any assurance they may receive from the seller or broker.  It is a small investment indeed when you are making what is very likely the largest purchase you will ever make.  Think of it as an insurance policy.  A licensed engineer will be able to tell you most of what you need to know about the building and unit’s physical condition, electrical, heating and cooling systems, including problems that require attention now or possibly in the future.   

Issues that are brought to light by an inspection may or may not prove to be deal-breakers, and some are clearly more serious than others.  When it is a problem that can be ameliorated, the seller may agree to do so or, alternatively, purchasers can use any outstanding repairs as leverage to negotiate a lower price or appropriate credit at closing.

Of course, the best case scenario is that all systems are in good working order and any repairs minor in nature.  But since it is very difficult to determine the condition of what you are buying without the expert assistance of licensed inspector, no one should consider taking the risk of buying without the safety net of a thorough inspection and report. 

Law Offices of Stephen P. Roland
9 East 96th Street, New York, New York 10128
(212) 486-1830

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