10 Things You Should Know about a Home Inspection

When you are buying a home, there are a lot of things I can tell you about a home by looking at "tell-tell" signs of problems, potential issues and red flag concerns. And there are a lot of things I can tell you about the home just by the building standards that were in play when the house was built--right up to the present time. But there are a lot of things that I can't tell you about that house, too. Primarily, the details. I can generally tell a client a good house from a bad house, but there are a lot of important things to know in detail about your new home before you buy it and getting your home inspected before you go to closing is one of the best ways to really figure this out.

This article will speak to 10 of the things that I believe every buyer should know about a Home Inspection of Real Estate in Austin, Texas. I will start with New Home Construction, because many buyers think that they can get away without having a new home inspected and also believe that they don't need a new home construction Realtor (that costs them nothing) to represent them when buying a new home. I have dozen's of clients who would tell you otherwise...

Ten Things You should know about a Home Inspection:
  1. New Homes Need Inspections just like Resell Homes. I have a lot of clients who I advise in buying new homes from a builder. All homes were once new homes and many of the problems found in a resell home could have been there since they were built and could have been corrected in the beginning. Systems related issues. Just because a home is new does not mean it is going to be perfect. Over the years I have seen many reputable new home builders make (big) mistakes with new homes that could have been corrected by the builder if detected before closing. 
  2. The Option Period. In Texas, our contracts have a negotiated Option Period. The Option Period is a time to have your home inspected by an a TREC licensed inspector. Your inspection should uncover a whole host of questions about that particular home. Among those questions, you will find the normal laundry list of expected smaller issues, such as the places that need to be caulked, GFCI plugs that need to be replaced, or other small and inexpensive issues to be addressed after you move into the home. And then there is the list of significant issues that may turn out to be both a surprise to you, and a costly to repair to either the seller or you. During the Option Period, the buyer may request specific repairs to be made to the home by the seller, or the buyer may request financial compensation to off-set some of these surprise issues. Of course, the seller is not required to renegotiate the contract, so smart negotiations should be reasonable and specific, and based on the report of the licensed inspector.
  3. Building Code. One of the biggest problems and misconceptions for many home buyers is that a home that was built 10 years ago, 5 years ago, or even a couple of years ago--will conform to present day builder's code or that a seller should have to bring a home up to current building standards. Neither of these ideas is necessarily true. There may be some instances where your inspector will recommend that you make certain changes to make a home "more safe"--by bringing it up to some of the current standards. But you should know that a new home built today will not conform to the building standards of the coming years. Because standards and codes constantly change, houses built just a few years ago are going to have differences in what the code authorities thought was important and "best practices" when the home was built. This does not always mean that the house is unsafe or that the house is significantly different than the other homes in the community around it. It just means the building standard has changed. At the end of the day, each generation of homes are built under different and changing building standards. If you are most interested in living in a home that conforms to the most recent building standards, let your Realtor know that you would like to start looking at new homes.
  4. Cracking on the walls. Virtually every home in Texas has some cracks at the stress points in the home and load bearing walls. Inside and outside the home alike. It takes experience and a trained eye to tell the difference between what may be a potentially "bad" crack from what may be a crack of little or no consequence. Ask your inspector and your Realtor (before you make an offer on a house) to comment about any cracks that you notice.
  5. Surprises. The real reason you hire an inspector to inspect your home is to find surprises. You already know that it has a broken window and a very old AC, but there are some things that you can't see when you walk a house. Is the HVAC system working properly? Are there plumbing issues to be addressed? Are there major structural concerns in the house? Are there any health and safety concerns that can not been understood by casual observation? What did the inspector uncover that was a surprise to you and to your Realtor?
  6. Termites and Wood Destroying Insects (WDI). Though you may consider this to be a good reason to walk away from a home purchase, you should expect to have to treat any new home for WDI's, whether you find them or not. You are in Texas now. We have bugs. Big Bugs. Treat your home for bugs and critters each year and you will be much happier about what you don't find later. 
  7. When to inspect a New Home. I normally advise my clients to have their new home inspected twice. Once before moving in, and once after the initial "break-in period". If something is going to go wrong in your new home, it may take 6-9 months of running the AC, heater, plumbing, and home systems to find a truly latent issue. Better to be safe and get an extra inspection while the house is still under the builder's one year end-to-end warranty and get the builder to fix the problem, than to wait and pay for it yourself.
  8. Lipstick and Pigs. You may be buying a home that has been remodeled. Well, remodeling can be done to a range of levels. There are remodelers who take great pride in making a home as close to a new home as you can get without actually building a new from from the foundation up. And there are those who are simply painting the pig and making it look new on the outside and inside, when in fact it has a number of issues that you just can't see until it has been poked, prodded and measured by an experienced inspector (not all inspectors are are as good as the best inspectors). I would say, if you are buying a home that has been remodeled, you really need one of the best inspectors you can find to inspector your home. One that understands home construction (Sadly, this does not seem to be a requirement of the state licensing board for Inspectors).
  9. Roofs. There are so many things to say and know about roofs. Let me boil it down to one simple statement--Pay attention to the roof. Make sure your inspector tells you everything he can about the roof.
  10. Foundations. Same advice as the roof. Pay attention when you are looking for a house and when you have the house inspected. Because we have expansive soil, clay and embedded limestone in Texas, you should pay attention to the condition of the foundation, the interior and exterior wall and the soil surrounding the house. There are little things that your Realtor can do to red flag a possible foundation concern and even more things that the inspector should look for that may signal a problem or issue with the foundation. Pay attention.
Well, these are just some of the rules of thumb that I live by in my Real Estate practice. Take them for what they are worth. Each home is unique, and each home deserves an inspection from a respectable licensed inspector. "Hire" an experienced team and let's hope you find the right house and get all the right information to make the best possible decision on your new home in the Greater Austin area.

I hope to hear from you, soon. Tim


  1. I have never thought of all these aspects about home inspection. Thanks for sharing all this useful information. When last year I had my home inspection from Rancho Palos Verdes property inspection they told all these aspects but I ignored them. I will consider these for next time.


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