A DC Home Inspection is an Important Step For Real Estate Purchases
A DC home inspection isn’t an appraisal and will not address property value. Your lender will order an appraisal, which will address the value of the property. Lenders require appraisals to ensure that the collateral value meets the sales price value. Inspectors are reluctant to give repair or replacement estimates for issues found during inspection because they will not be the contractors addressing the problems and pricing varies between contractors, so research costs of replacement and repairs items on your report. Inspectors will not perform work on the property after settlement as they must remain objective. It is the buyer’s responsibility to comply with all contingency deadlines in a contract, including the scheduling of home inspections. Make sure DC home inspections are scheduled with a 24 hour report turnaround in mind and give your agent time to prepare and submit the appropriate forms once you have decided on a course of action.
Inspecting The Home
Your DC home inspection professional will inspect the visible and accessible components of the home you’re purchasing. They are not able to open walls, ceilings or floors, pull toilets, hardware, sinks or appliances to inspect or scope their plumbing, wiring or interior components. Some inspectors are members of ASHI and INACHI, some are not. Some offer additional features such as infrared thermography, some add it for an additional fee, and some do not. You’ll receive a written report, photographs from some inspectors (others don’t provide them), and you’ll hear the inspector’s comments as he inspects the home if you attend inspection (highly recommended). There are a few categories that require your particular attention:
Major defects (these will be noted as “significant” on your report)
Issues that contribute to major defects
Issues that your lender will require you or the homeowner to address in order to provide loan approval (often related to FHA and VA loans, but not exclusively)
Safety hazards/code infractions
These types of items should be addressed, either by you, the new home owner, or by the seller if you have included a standard inspection clause in your contract and they can be negotiated in the form of repairs or credits. All DC residential real estate is now sold effectively “as is”, with sellers only required to provide a disclaimer in lieu of disclosure. Recent GCAAR contract changes eliminated “Section 7” requiring mechanicals to be operable, safety hazard items to be addressed, etc. Now, sellers are under no obligation to repair anything unless you have included that standard inspection contingency, and even then they can choose to withdraw from the contract instead. No home is a perfect 10 and with the age of homes in DC, we see more 4’s, 5’s and 6’s than 9’s! There are a huge number of pieces and parts to the average home, some made by fallible machines, some by fallible humans, and installed by humans. Time, weather, wear and maintenance affect the condition of a home through the years, decades and centuries. Some settlement, deterioration and dated components are inevitable. Even a new home is not exempt from issues. Remember that homes are generally priced with condition in mind. Maintain perspective on the home’s value in the market and try not to overreact to inspection issues. Houses are bricks and sticks—almost anything can be repaired or rebuilt, it’s just a question of cost relative to the purchase price of the home and the end market value.
Types of Home Inspections
If your property is a Fee Simple home and sufficient documentation has not been provided to disclose the age, type and condition of the roof, we may want to order a roof inspection. This inspection should answer those questions and provide you with a snapshot in time on the roof’s life expectancy. Roof inspections are ordered separately from the general home inspection and are performed by a different company. While your general inspector can peek through available interior hatches or walk attics to ascertain whether or not there are active leaks emanating from the roof and if insulation and ventilation are sufficient, only a roofing company will carry the ladders and insurance necessary to walk a DC roof. Reports generally take 24-48 hours to receive and may or may not include photos, depending on the roofing company. It is preferred that you be present during a roof inspection, therefore, to gain full knowledge of the condition of the roof if your inspection deadline is short.
A pest inspection is desirable on a Fee Simple home whether or not your lender requires it. Under the standard terms of the GCAAR contract, the seller pays for required repairs/remediation. We recommend the buyer pay for the inspection. That way, you have control over the company chosen and they work for you, not the seller. Pest inspections run between $80 and $150., depending on the company and property. You’ll receive an inspection report. A pest inspection should be performed 7-10 days prior to settlement for the “freshest” termite report possible and to leave time for the seller to effect repairs if they are needed.
Sewer scoping (or “camera”) inspections for single family homes can be an advantage in detecting breaks in the sewer line. Replacing a sewer line is a major expense and quite invasive to the adjacent landscaping. All pipe condition will reflect the home’s age, but the pipe’s condition can also be affected by its material, maintenance, and usage. Sewer line scoping is a way to determine the extent of wear, and flag problem areas that can be mended or replaced before a break occurs, however many DC scoping companies will not perform scopes on properties for sale since the seller must authorize and take responsibility for damage (pulling sinks and toilets to apply scope if there is no clean-out option) and lost camera equipment. Sellers are usually unwilling to do this.
The pre-settlement inspection is to identify issues that have–or have not been corrected following an earlier inspection, or it is the only inspection if you missed the window for a pre-drywall inspection or weren’t permitted to conduct one. Often, the builder will refuse to acknowledge in writing in advance that they will remedy all inspection items. They don’t know which inspector you’ll be using, whether or not that inspector understands new construction, or how realistic the list will be. That’s fair, but buyers do need some protection. Make sure your agent is knowledgeable and experienced in negotiating with developers. That often includes bypassing the sales rep, whose job it is to quelch requests that differ from contract terms.
“As Is” Properties
“As is” properties prevent buyers from making purchases contingent upon inspection or asking for remedy for defects. “As is” means exactly what the term implies; no right to negotiate, no requests for seller credits, so if you have included this clause in your contract along with a “courtesy” or “informational only” inspection, you may have an inspection but you have already agreed not to request corrections or credits. Under new contract terms (c. 2015), buyers void the contract by requesting corrections or credits in writing.
If you’re buying a “flip” (a home a renovator has purchased and upgraded or renovated), be careful to do your homework! Buyers should check with DCRA to make sure required permits were granted and that a fully renovated home has passed DCRA inspection(s). Your agent will not perform this research for you or make representations as to the quality of the work, permit requirements, code requirements, etc., it is part of a buyer’s due diligence. Since a general DC home inspection may not address potential structural issues, you may want to supplement with an inspection by a structural engineer as well as an HVAC and roofing specialist.
Scheduling Your DC Home Inspection
DC home inspections must be scheduled with respect to your real estate agent’s schedule as well as your own and the vendor’s, so please consult your agent before scheduling and remember that agents also have “office hours” and require travel time.
DC real estate contract law and inspections change frequently. The information on this page is considered accurate but not guaranteed. Be sure to consult your real estate agent and home inspector for the most up-to-date information.