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Realtor View: Inspections might reveal some imperfections in 'perfect' home

Danny Fran, Houston Chronicle
Updated 1:50 pm, Friday, June 21, 2013
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A home inspection can spare you from surprises after you buy. After crunching the numbers, searching your favorite neighborhoods, and weighing the pros and cons of each property you've seen, you've chosen a house that seems like the perfect fit for you. While it may be "perfect" when it comes to location, price or features, it's now time for you to find out about the home's imperfections before you hand over your hard-earned cash.

No matter how much time you spend looking over the home, you're probably not qualified to perform an assessment of every aspect of it before you commit to its purchase. Houses are composed of many complicated components such as heating and cooling systems, electrical wiring, plumbing, a roof, siding and more. A licensed home inspector can provide a good assessment of the overall condition of the house and its parts. As a buyer, here's what you need to know about getting a home inspection. A home inspection is a visual examination of the structure and systems of a home. A typical inspection covers the electrical, heating and air-conditioning systems; plumbing; roof; interior walls and ceilings; insulation; windows; doors; fireplace and chimney; appliances; and foundation.

Keep in mind if an inspector cannot access a particular area, such as a very steep roof or an attic overflowing with heavy boxes, he likely won't be able to inspect it and is not necessarily obligated to do so.

Once you're armed with an inspection report from a qualified inspector, you can make a more informed decision about purchasing, which may mean you proceed with the transaction as planned, ask the seller to make some repairs or concessions, or terminate the sales contract.

You will want to contact a home inspector right after you sign a purchase contract. That way you can schedule the inspection before the contract's termination option period expires. This approach enables you to follow up on any problems uncovered by the inspector. And if you find something you can't live with, you're within your rights to terminate the contract without penalty. Your Realtor can advise you about the timing of your home inspection and answer any questions you have about the termination option in your contract.

The time to find an inspector, though, is before you sign a contract on a house. Make sure you identify at least two inspectors in case one is unavailable.

A home inspector's job is to find problems, not fix them. If your inspector finds a problem with a house's wiring, call an electrician. You can get an estimate of the cost and severity of the repair, and decide how to proceed with your purchase. Watch out for any inspector who finds a plumbing problem and immediately tells you he's a licensed plumber.

You also may want a specialist to further inspect a questionable item. For instance, if your inspector notes problems with the foundation, you'd be wise to get an opinion from a structural engineer.

It's unlikely you'll find a home without any problems - even newly constructed properties typically have flaws. Even so, a home inspection can make you a better-informed home buyer. Once you know the condition of your dream house, you and your Realtor can discuss how to proceed.

For more information about home inspections and the home-buying process, visit TexasRealEstate.com and HAR.com.

Danny Frank of Prudential Anderson Properties is the 2013 chairman of the Houston Association of Realtors.

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