Don't Skip the Home Inspection. Here's Why.

Don't Skip the Home Inspection. Here's Why.

  • Lyon Gegenheimer
  • 04/30/23

During the supercharged seller's market of the past several years, buyers tossed aside several standard home-buying practices in hopes of landing their dream property. The hyper-competitive atmosphere created by historically low mortgage rates, scarce inventory and insatiable demand saw many buyers purchase beyond their budget or make decisions for properties and locations well outside their comfort zone.

The pre-purchase home inspection was one of the most significant casualties of the runaway seller's market. Before 2020, an inspection was a critical part of nearly every home purchase—one of the few absolutes of the home-buying process. But with emotions running high, buyers set aside their own peace of mind, enticing sellers with inspection-free offers.

For those that secured a home without verifying its condition, the leap of faith was not always worth the headache and unforeseen costs

Although the Austin real estate market remains one of the hottest in the country, and the best homes in the best neighborhoods continue to sell at a premium, as a buyer, it's worth remembering that no house is perfect. Even the most immaculate, well-kept luxury homes have signs of wear and tear. And it's up to you to ensure those problems are uncovered before finalizing such a high dollar investment.

Put more plainly, don't skip the home inspection. Here are five reasons why.

1. Identify unseen maintenance concerns

More than any other reason, a home inspection's primary purpose is to identify any unseen issues or major deal-breaking concerns a home might possess. Sure, the property might look fantastic—a luxurious Hill Country home on a prime lot in West Austin, a stunning penthouse in a tony Downtown Austin high-rise, or a quaint mid-century showstopper in East Austin. But it's the things you can't see that determine if the home is truly worth the price you're paying–potential problem areas such as:

  • Faulty wiring, electrical, water or sewer lines.
  • Structural deficiencies within the foundation, walls, ceilings or roof.
  • Inefficient mechanical systems, including HVAC and plumbing fixtures.
  • Undocumented leaks or evidence of water intrusion.
  • Large-scale, deal-breaking conditions (items not easily repaired or those you're unwilling to take on without some concessions)
Any one of the above items could result in massive one-time repair costs. Even worse is the ongoing maintenance that comes with trying to mitigate a previously unknown issue. It drains your time and energy, along with your bank account. 

2. Ensure the home is a safe place to reside

Taking unseen maintenance concerns a step further, a home inspections reveal how safe your would-be acquisition is. General and specialized inspectors focus on four major areas of the home to verify its overall safety, livability and if it’s free from hazards. They include:

  • History of termite infestations or the presence or evidence of wood-destroying insects
  • Previous and current structural damage or known defects to the home
  • Evidence of toxic or hazardous substances such as asbestos, gas, lead-based paint, mildew and mold
  • Evidence of damage or history of water intrusion, or the build-up or retention of moisture and drainage
In Texas, sellers must disclose any of the above items if they are a known concern via the Seller's Disclosure. Of course, sellers don't always know if such conditions exist, resulting in the requisite sections labeled as "unknown."

(For buyers, it's worth noting that items marked "unknown" on a Seller's Disclosure don't necessarily mean the seller is withholding something nefarious. Most sellers act in good faith when listing a home, but it's up to you to protect yourself and your bottom line. Hence, the importance of an inspection, especially regarding safety.)

Safety is paramount for you, your family and any close friends or relatives who spend time within the home. It's magnified if you intend your purchase as an investment property, as you can be held liable for any safety concerns that have gone unchecked. The inspection allows you to uncover those potential hazards and rectify them long before you, or anyone else, occupies the home.

3. Verify code compliance

Often overshadowed by headlines extolling Austin as a future-first tech hub and declaring it the next Silicon Valley, the city features a rich architectural history. The city's history dates back nearly 300 years, when Spanish Missions first appeared along the Colorado River. Since then, Victorian-era Queen Anne homes, early 20th-century bungalows, and mid-century modern residences have graced the city's landscape. 

A large number of those homes still stand today. But with vintage properties come the potential for outdated wiring and plumbing, poor ventilation, dilapidated physical structures, or since-prohibited construction methods. Updates and improvements require proper City permits and approvals to deem the sites habitable.

But it's more than just the vintage dwellings that might possess code complications. Many modern-day homes find themselves out of compliance across a myriad of issues, including:

  • Illegally built additions 
  • Improperly permitted renovations or remodeling projects
  • Easement or property line or lot violations
  • Unapproved or nonexistent swimming pool enclosures 
  • Substandard building conditions
A critical task of the home inspector is to verify a property's code compliance and whether it adheres to local building standards and ordinances. If not, you can request a seller take steps to bring a home in compliance or use the information as leverage to secure a better deal (or walk away altogether). If you're purchasing a renovated or remodeled home, or one with historical status, seek an inspector specializing in those property types.

4. Plan for the future

Home inspections are helpful in ways well beyond securing your initial purchase. The inspection assesses both a property's current condition and its future health and reliability. Nothing lasts forever, and an inspection can reveal the age and viability of a home's numerous systems, including:

  • Appliances
  • Attic insulation
  • Flooring
  • Gutters and downspouts
  • HVAC systems
  • Roof
  • Windows
Assessing where each component falls within its lifespan gives you an idea of when future repairs or replacements may be necessary. That knowledge is a great starting point when crafting a budget for a property's ongoing maintenance costs. The inspection also guides you toward the right home insurance coverage or the best home warranty for your needs. 

Of course, a component might fail before its time. With an idea of what to watch for as your property ages, you'll be better prepared to cover the expenses should an unexpected failure arise. 

In addition, the report and the actual inspection itself, present an excellent opportunity to get an in-depth view of the property and learn about the home. Home buyers are strongly encouraged to be present for an inspection, ask questions, and develop a complete understanding of their future investment.

5. Leverage for a better deal

As mentioned earlier, there's no such thing as a perfect home. No matter where in Austin you focus your home search or the type of residence you focus on, the inspection report will not come back empty. Even brand-new construction can produce a laundry list of repairs. And while you'd expect those to be minor, it's not always the case.

Whatever your specific inspection reveals—a costly, deal-breaking repair or a handful of minor inconveniences—the report's findings lets you negotiate from a position of knowledge with several options to pursue. You can:

  • Request the seller address the repairs themselves, requiring proof of completion before proceeding with the transaction. The Texas Association of Realtors contract requires that sellers use licensed professionals for repairs
  • Request a credit from the seller to account for the repairs you will be making after closing.
  • Request an overall reduction in the sales price to balance the cost of the repairs.  
  • Walk away from the deal entirely.
Most negotiations end with a compromise resulting in some form of credit to the buyer. It's a popular outcome as it releases the seller from the responsibility of fixing problems in a house they're ready to leave. It gives the buyer control over how and when (and by whom) the repairs are addressed. If you need clarification on what constitutes a reasonable request, work with a trusted real estate agent to guide you in the right direction. 

Making the most of your home inspection

Appreciating the importance of not skipping the inspection on your Austin area home purchase, below are a few additional tips on how to make the most of it:

Include it as a contingency by writing in an option to terminate

An option period is equivalent to an inspection contingency and is vital to the initial purchase contract.  An option period is very common to find in the Texas 1-4 family contract.  It stipulates the buyer has a set timeframe to have the property professionally inspected. If the inspection uncovers too many issues or you and a seller can't agree to repair terms, or the clause allows you to walk away from the deal with a negligible fee.

Don't balk at the cost

An inspection in Austin costs anywhere from $350 to $750 (slightly higher for larger homes). With the potential to spend millions of dollars on a Hill Country home or downtown condo (or something in between), that inspection transforms into a high-value ROI. The potential is there to save you thousands of dollars on a home's purchase and long-term ownership costs.

Choose a qualified, well-respected home inspector

Seek recommendations or referrals for a highly regarded licensed inspector or professional engineer. Look at online reviews and don't hesitate to vet potential candidates as you would a realtor or financial planner.

Attend the inspection

We said it before, but it bears repeating–while not a requirement on the buyer's part, if you can attend the inspection, do it. It's a prime opportunity to view a home with eyes wide open, ask questions, and fully immerse yourself in what is soon to be your largest investment. 

Ready to get started?

Ready to learn more about buying a home in Austin, including the best neighborhoods for gay couples, what to ask during an open house or what to know when purchasing a second or third home in Central Texas

Contact Lyon Gegenheimer today to start your home-buying (or selling) journey. From Downtown Austin condos for sale to luxury homes in East Austin, allow Lyon's knowledge and expertise to be your guide to navigating Austin's luxury real estate market.

Work With Lyon

Lyon is the lead broker of the Lyon Real Estate Group at Compass based in Austin, Texas. Lyon Real Estate Group’s goals are to provide the highest level of real estate services available. Honesty, Experience, and Integrity are principles and qualities the brokers and agents demonstrate daily with enthusiasm and solid market knowledge.

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