Things about Home Inspections a Seller needs to know

Buyers pay for inspections… Sellers pay the price

It’s easy to see how some could say that the idea of “Buyer Beware” is now more accurately stated as “Seller Beware.”  In this age of consumer rights and advocacy it is therefore important for sellers to know what to expect when they sell their home.

It is likely that once your home goes under contract… it will undergo a series of rigorous inspections which will most likely discover some problems and perhaps even some defects.  Your interests will be best served by being prepared for these inspections and developing a strategy in advance for dealing with the results of these inspections.

Begin by studying the material below and making an honest assessment of the condition of your property, then work with an experienced REALTOR® to determine the best approach in handling any potential problems.   If you know of existing problems with the structural elements of your home, or possibly termite infestation or damage, you might want to consider getting your own inspections before you put your home on the market.

Sellers need to understand Buyers rights

Like most REALTORS® we encourage all our Buyer clients, customers and visitors to seriously consider the benefits of home inspections. Most everyone in real estate has heard of or even experienced the horrors of undiscovered defects in residential properties.

Considering the potential risks, Buyers believe money invested in home inspections is well spent. They typically hire professionals and look for the best. The home inspection industry has made a great deal of progress over the last 10 years in helping insure to the extent possible that Home Buyers are protected from all but the most obscure of latent or inherent defects.

The “Contract of Sale” used by most REALTORS® in the Tulsa area provides Home Buyers with the opportunity to perform numerous inspections of the physical characteristics of the property. Home inspections in Tulsa are typically arranged by and paid for by Buyers.

If a potential buyer is dissatisfied with the results of certain inspections, the “contract” allows Buyers to exercise a Ten (10) Day Cancellation and Release of Contract.

Types of Inspections:

Review of the Sellers “Disclosure Statement”

By law, most Sellers of residential property in Oklahoma are required to complete a disclosure or disclaimer statement detailing their knowledge or lack of knowledge about the condition of the property.

Sellers are required to deliver this form to potential Buyers “before” a contract has been accepted. If Sellers are aware of defects, they must be disclosed in this document.

Flood and Water History of the Property

During the 10-day Inspection and Review time period, Buyers have the opportunity to satisfy themselves about the flood, storm water runoff and storm sewer backup history of the property. This information may be obtained from the U.S. Corps of Engineers and from the Mayor’s Action Center, 596-2100.

If Buyers are funding their purchase with a conventional or FHA mortgage, their lender will also require a flood certification which will be ordered by the Lender’s Closing Company. Unless the property lies in a flood zone you typically do not see this document until closing.

As a Seller, you can call either of these agencies but be prepared to give them the following information. The legal description of the property (lot, block, and addition), the address of the property, your name, phone number, mailing address, and fax number if applicable.

If you do not have the legal description, Bill will provide it for you or you can contact the county courthouse at 918-596-5000 and ask for Land Records to gain this information.

When calling the Mayors Action Center, ask them for a flood plain inquiry, so that they know exactly what you need.

The turnaround time for a flood plain inquiry is 5-10 days, and the service is free. If you need it quicker than that, call the Corps of Engineers Flood Plain Management Services, 669-7197 and give them the same information. The fee is $25.00 and in most instances the turnaround time is only a day or two.

Roof Inspections

Buyers can have the roof, it’s structural members, roof decking and cover (shingles, tile, slate) inspected to determine the remaining life expectancy and any existing flaws or defects.

Hazard Insurance Inspections

Lenders require that Homeowners casualty insurance be in place to protect the property against loss. Buyers are encouraged to satisfy themselves during the first 10 days that such coverage is available at acceptable premium rates and terms.  If you are concerned about the remaining life of your roof, you may want to have a professional examine it and assess its condition and age.

Environmental Inspections

A range of environmental inspections are available for buyers to determine any potential risks including, but not limited to soil, air, mold, hydrocarbon, chemical, carbon, asbestos, and lead-based paint.

The presence of MOLD seems to be of concern recently. You will find A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home and Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings on the EPA’s Web Site. If you suspect that any part of your property is affected by mold, get out ahead by determining what remediation efforts might be needed to cure it.

Psychologically Impacted Property

Sellers are generally not required to make disclosures about so called “psychologically impacted property”, unless requested by Buyers in writing. This would include Megan’s Law and determining if any known or registered sex offenders live nearby.

It would also include questions to determine if anyone had ever died a violent death in the property or from the aids virus or similar issues.  If you are aware of these kinds of property history, be prepared to answer the questions honestly.

Structural Inspections 

The “structural” inspection is most often performed by a professional engineer registered in the State of Oklahoma. The engineer performs a visual study of the structure to ascertain the general structural condition of the property and the existence of any structural defect.

Elements typically included in the structural inspection are chimneys, external foundations and footings, interior slab foundations and basements, framing and load bearing components, roof structures and mechanical ducts.

Fixtures and Equipment Inspections

Typically called the “EMP” (electrical, mechanical & plumbing) or working component inspection, this inspection attempts to determine that all fixtures, equipment and systems relating to plumbing (including sewer/septic system and water supply), heating, cooling, electrical, built-in appliances, swimming pool/spa, sprinkler systems, and security systems are in normal working order, ordinary wear and tear excepted.

Termite and Wood Destroying Organisms

This inspection is required by all Lenders but should never be bypassed by anyone, even by cash buyers. Properties are expected to be free and clear of “visible infestation or visible damage” from wood destroying organisms including termites but also “fungi or water damage.

The General Oklahoma Home Inspection

This Inspection is defined by the Standards of Practice that are prescribed in the Oklahoma Home Inspection Law for Licensed Home Inspectors inspecting properties.  In many cases, Tulsa home buyers want more items to be inspected than strictly provided therein.  The license requirements for Home Inspectors in Oklahoma does not provide for specialized knowledge as required by experienced Buyers.

Items included in the Oklahoma Home Inspection are evaluated by the inspector to see if they are in “Normal Working Order”.  There are general limitations and exclusions that are shown in the Standards of Practice.  The Inspector may (in accordance with the Customers’ circled choices shown on the Inspection Agreement) inspect and report more or less than the proposed Standards of Practice as listed.  There are clear limits concerning the items a Licensed Inspector is expected to evaluate and the extent of operation to which a particular item is inspected.  For a more detailed explanation of this inspection we suggest you contact a firm who offers it.

Something Else to Consider

Real estate professionals are NOT considered experts when evaluating the physical condition of properties and are not usually qualified to conduct Home Inspections. However, many real estate professionals are experts in determining how a property’s value is affected by its location, it’s general condition, it’s floor plan, as well as other non-physical characteristics.

Do not under-estimate the benefit of having an experienced real estate professional advise you on issues which can adversely affect values just as much if not more than physical defects.