Real Estate Investors: Home Inspections are Best Handled by an Engineer

If you’re an investor looking to buy a house or condo in questionable condition and your plan is to “flip it” into a desirable residence for a nice profit, you should pay attention to this advice: Be careful about who you hire to do a pre-sale inspection.

Many people will call a general contractor to inspect a property for possible defects and that seems like a reasonable decision at first. After all, a GC has the training and experience to understand all phases of construction from the foundation to the roof. But remember that a general contractor most often deals with new construction. They work with new materials and products. When you’re buying a home that may be 5, 10, 20 years old or more, an inspector must recognize and evaluate the symptoms of deterioration and wear that affect building materials and mechanics. These are areas very familiar to a structural engineer.

Structural Home InspectionsContractors deal with building codes that are currently in effect but a competent inspector must be aware of rules and restrictions that were in effect when a property was built or remodeled.

Another aspect of a comprehensive and thorough inspection involves forensic expertise as well. For example, if a home has water intrusion in the basement an examination by someone with knowledge of concrete’s composition and rate of deterioration over time is essential. Anyone can see water on the floor and know there is a problem, but only a qualified inspector with specific knowledge will be able to ascertain why there is water on the floor. It may be necessary to point to who made an error so that person or company can be held responsible.

Another thing to consider when hiring a home inspector is that while you should be concerned with all the little things that might be wrong with a house, you really need to be concerned with the big things that might be wrong. Only a qualified engineer will be able to determine if there are major, potentially dangerous defects with a property. Structural beams that support the roof or the roof itself may have compromised integrity and could cause a serious injury should someone walk on it. Faulty foundations can cause issues with everything in the house including doors, windows, and floors. A light switch that doesn’t work is one thing, but an overloaded circuit breaker box can heat up and cause a fire.

Justin Hall. PE is an experienced structural engineer with extensive knowledge of construction principals and practices. He is called upon to inspect properties prior to sale and also to inspect properties where there are defects in construction and he is qualified to prepare accurate reports and testify as an expert witness. Call Justin Hall, PE at (501) 436-0091 for a confidential consultation.