Inspection

When I was investigating real estate in Texas, there was a phrase that I heard a few times: “The house has either had foundation repair or will have foundation repair.” This is due to the clay-ish bedrock and the slab concrete foundation of most Texas homes and it created the weird scenario where if a house was of a certain age (think 20+ years), foundation repair was seen as a positive sign.In other words, if the house hadn’t had foundation issues, it just means a bill coming up while having already had foundation issues means the previous owner paid to fix it. The short of this little story is that every house (even new!) has issues, it is up to you to determine what you are willing to tolerate.

An inspection usually occurs early in a homebuying process, after an offer is made and tenuously accepted. For almost every home, a qualified inspection will uncover some issues with the house, ranging from HVAC (heating and cooling), roofing, plumbing, electricity to simple mold around the house or issues with appliances. Perfection is nearly impossible to guarantee. This is the most surprising element to the homebuying process for first-time buyers. If I buy a house, I want it to be perfect! The true nature of things, however, is that everything is
beholden to father time. Those great lights you put in the bathroom? Some of them are flickering due to electrical issues. That brand new carpet? It is starting to dirty and there is mold forming in one corner.

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Unless it’s new (which usually even have issues of their own), it is very unlikely you will have an exactly perfect house or car. The key is understanding what you are willing to accept. My rule of thumb has been to rank things by their expected cost. Here is my generic ranking of the relative costs of repairs (details matter so this won’t be perfect):

  1. Foundation
  2. Roofing
  3. Electrical
  4. Layout (tearing down a wall, depending on what you want to do)
  5. Plumbing
  6. Appliances
  7. Cosmetic

One of the most frustrating things for me is seeing homebuyers turn down a house because the carpet was weird.
Or because the blinds were broken. Or the paint wasn’t what they wanted. These are extremely simple, inexpensive and quick to change. In fact, you can do it the week that you move in and none will be the wiser.

Also, instead of completely turning down a house that you like, consider using the inspection as a negotiating tool. If you love the house but there is some severe electrical work required, say that you will either bring the cost of your offer down $4,000 or leave it the same if it is fixed. The seller will understand your concerns and may be able to provide you the comfort you need.