Things You Should Know Before Buying or Selling a Rural Home
By Donald Lawson, Professional Real Estate Inspector
You've found that perfect country property after months of searching. You've looked at countless homes and there was always something about them you didn't like, except for this one. This one is perfect. This is the one where you can raise a family or retire on the lake to enjoy your retirement.
Or is it?
As a professional Real Estate inspector I've inspected many rural properties and I've come to some conclusions.
I'm convinced that most rural homebuilders do try to do a good job building homes. Some however, could care less or just don't know enough to be building homes in the first place and are out for a quick dollar. Here lies some of the problem.
In Texas, homebuilders and contractors are not required to have a license. Any one can hang a shingle stating to the State of Texas that they are a homebuilder. no testing, no background check, no experience, no license, no problem!
Anyone can make the walls look beautiful on the outside and inside. It's what lies beneath the cosmetic face of a home that will determine if this house is going to be a great home or a great source of your money going into someone else hands for costly home repairs.
Most buyers wrongly believe that price or a big named builder is a sure guarantee against having a bad home built. Nothing could be further from the truth. I recently inspected some homes on both Lake Livingston and Lake Conroe that had a huge price tag and were built by builders everyone would recognize. These homes weren't 100-year-old homes either; rather they were built within the last two to five years.
To say these homes had a few problems would be an understatement! I'm sure the builder used licensed electricians and plumbers (I hope they did anyway). What I'm not so sure of is how reputable these electricians and plumbers and their helpers were! I noted a range of flaws and defects on these homes that should have been found during construction but were either missed or ignored.
A/C units wired wrong, electrical service panels with wrong sized breakers, excessive gaps where rafters touch the ridge beam, roof decking not cut for ridge vents, either no ventilation or insufficient attic ventilation, plumbing and gas lines installed incorrectly, the list goes on. My clients were about to lay down sizable amounts of money for these homes. Price alone guarantees nothing in rural homes.
The more I inspect rural homes the more I'm starting to believe some sub-contractors in the rural areas have no idea what a code book is or what safe and sound building ethics are. I continually see common code violations that even the greenest of journeymen would have caught. The attitude that "It's out on the lake, no one will know" seems to persist in many areas today.
Now I'm not saying all sub-contractors are bad, it may very well be that the truly good ones are too expensive or booked up to work on home construction. I see this here in Houston all the time. When sub par contractors have entire crews made up of one guy who somewhat knows what he's doing and the others are just day laborers picked up that morning on the way to the job site. Needless to say, quality suffers greatly from this practice.
One of the best ways to insure your getting a quality built home, whether rural or in the city (because believe me, city homes aren't that much better!) is to hire a professional Real Estate Inspector. When you hire a Real Estate Inspector who has your best interest at heart and knows what to look out for, your way ahead of the game.
I've had many instances where the builder on a new home, and in a few instances even Real Estate agents tell my clients that they were buying a new home and didn't need an inspection! Now if that doesn't set off your warning bells nothing will! It's common now for builders to tell their customers that either they have had a city inspector (if you're inside the city, and if your city even has an inspector!) or they have hired their own inspector to inspect your new house. Now what they don't tell you that either way, at the very best you will get out of these inspectors are a minimum inspection conducted to the code standards. How many of you realize that the codes are the very minimum of what a home should be built to? See how easy it is to get caught up in the "Oh you don't need to hire an inspector, we've hired one to inspect this home as we went along" trap?
Sadly, many consumers believe that when an agent or builder tells them the home has already had an inspection and that they shouldn't hire their own inspector, this means the home has been inspected to the strictest standards. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Hiring your own home inspector just makes a lot of common sense these days, especially if you're in rural Texas!
Now there are good inspectors and bad ones, just like there are good and bad builders. You need to be very thorough when hiring your home inspector, maybe more so than when you hired your builder. Many of the inspectors today don't have the experience needed to do thorough home inspections. How do I know this? First off, I'm often called out to do one year new home warranty inspections and some of these home inspectors inspected the home when it was first built. Generally after my inspection is over and I'm going through the report with my clients they get this strange look on thier face and tell me the first inspector didn't catch any of these items. I will ask them to see the report and more times than not it's either an inexperienced inspector or one who just does not do a thorough job.
Many new and inexperienced home inspectors will try to catch the unsuspecting consumer with the lure of super low prices. Don't be fooled by low prices. A quality professional Real Estate inspector is not cheap. You're paying for years of experience and knowledge of home construction methods. Look at the credentials of your inspector. Many tout "Construction experience". Ask them just what construction experience they do have. To them, carrying shingles up a ladder to a roofer is "construction experience".
You stand to lose far more from using an inexperienced inspector or one who just does the minimum than the few dollars you will save. The value of a complete and thorough home inspection by a professional home inspector far outweighs the fee they charge.
Good luck and remember, no one looks out for your best interest better than you do!