Buying a house is always a great step in anyone’s life, you project your being going through many positive transformations, lifestyle changes, new furniture etc.
Still you need confirmation of what you are buying into; a home inspection can be exciting, worrying but mostly they should be reassuring. Home inspectors shouldn’t just point out problems to negotiate with the seller, or be a deal breaker due to the fact the place is a disaster.
A decent inspector should give you maintenance tips, repairs and the correct scope of the state of repair of this home. Getting a competent, experienced, punctual and diligent inspector can be a gamble. Remember, people go after certifications and that’s fine where inspectors are licensed. In Mexico inspectors are not required to be licensed or certified. What qualifies an honorable Mexican inspector? What we call “Professional Trajectory”.
A building Quality Assurance Specialist, goes over constructive processes that are constantly being visually examined; physically tested and in many cases corrected or improved. An engineer, or architect can make a good inspector. However, the true makings of an inspector is a thorough, persistent, experienced specialist that’s never in haste, one that doesn’t shows a sense of urgency to finish the visit. The inspection is not limited to visual matters, there are smells, noises, and action – reactions and gray areas.
No home is ever perfect...
Formulating a list of known issues that covers most of the known or visually available items. That helps with the initial “owner’s” inspection. Items such as plumbing or water damage can be tricky and that’s where a home inspector earns his wages. Electrical issues abound specially in the traditional Mexican Coast builds. Cherry picking small items that are quick and easy or inexpensive to repair, can significantly reduce the list of repairs. Making a checklist for the inspector is a smart way to get your issues appeased. However try to attend the inspection; let the inspector do his job (side tracking his attention can make him skip items of his due process). You can meet prior or after and go over his thoughts: Incidentally, many inspectors do not take notes; they do a photographic analysis afterwards but may comment key issues in a voice recorder.
Making a list:
Ever thought you be making a mental list of items in a house? Congratulations it’s a sweet struggle. A new home, a handful of details. Hopefully the present state of the property is 9/10th in good order. What we inspect: Keep in mind: The homes in the Banderas bay and Mexico in general, are mostly built of concrete, cinder block or brick. – Cont.
Try beginning with the land; it is wise to check for flood plains, crazy neighbors or wondering animals (dogs, roosters, cats – others). Soft ground and puddles. A septic tank may have burst – smell the air. See the façade and urban setup – sidewalks, trees, and electrical poles to start with.
Is there trash in the street? Or do the bus stops nearby? Where do people set the garbage, here? Some items are not necessarily directly in or on the house. These secondary concerns have made people move out of an otherwise great home.
Roofs: We get torrential rains; gutters and downspouts should be well fastened. Is that a dangling cable or rebar? Ceilings also tell lots about the roof, if they are damp for example, stained or repaired. Roofs don’t get usually replaced in Mexico. But they can be a hassle. However access to roofs should be simple. Inspectors shouldn’t endanger their physical safety under an inspection.
Mold: If the house has been empty and sealed, but water seeps in via drops or moisture; mold will develop in many forms. The most dreaded: Black mold (Stachybotrys chartarum). Its spores can abound and responses at least can be headaches, stomach aches or even stronger reactions for people with asthma and mold allergies. Effects are common if exposed (for hours). Mildew a close second; stinks. And micro algae has a nasty greenish top that can be a trip hazard.
Interior evidence of leaks: as mentioned, check ceilings, windows and bathrooms. Stains, ruptures, fissures, water is one to look out for. It can be corrosive on metals (cabling) and soften concrete if left for years. Can be expensive and frustrating if a leak develops during a downpour manages to dribble on the laptop, guitar, bed or dining table.
Electrical: As obvious as it may seem, contractors vary greatly as their jobs, still most homes made before 2000 are not ground. Why? Well it is cheaper not to ground. Mexicans, well we are not too afraid of electricity, apparently. I’ve inspected homes with the outlets dangling, or superficial cabling. The fact is that a concrete home does not really catch on fire, so people do not care that much about safety. The proper inspector checks out every outlet, fuse box and switch. Some homes are only half ground; the original phase was okay not grounded, but ten years later they figured the second story should be grounded. Now the inspector is like an anthropologist, figuring cabling, colors gauge and reason.
Plumbing: Admittedly plumbing is the one topic people don’t want to think about. The less we know and see of drains the better. Plumbing is foul and can be a total nightmare. This is one of the reasons plumbers make a decent, well deserved living. Your inspector should develop a nose and a good understanding of how it works, its maintenance design, weaknesses and strong areas. In an average home the sewage goes to the public sanitary works (SEAPAL – PVR). However septic tanks need minor care and maintenance. But if the container fails; or a pipe breaks, is not necessarily obvious (at first).
We were inside a few to record their state – what we call a ride to the depths (we have used an endoscopic camera). However plumbing also comprises of faucets and water sources, which can drip under the sink, or harbor mold in the kitchen etc.
Air conditioning: Mini-Split AC units keep gaining popularity and with good reason. They are efficient, quiet, and considerably more economical to run than a central unit. Mini splits are a leap in technology. However the first generation needs to be replaced, and they abound. Replacement is necessary as they are not cost-effective (15+ years old) they rarely work without noise, leaks or can’t lower temperature because of line leaks. A decent unit cools down to 64 °F in under 5 minutes, if it doesn’t go under +70 °F you may have to maintain or repair; or replace the unit if it’s older than 8 years. The new dual inverter technology makes an interesting offer, while they cool they save electricity.
Appliances: Refrigerators, Insinkerator, dishwashers, water heaters, boilers and laundry machines are big items to inspect, however time does limit the inspector to do only dummy wash loads. The machines are tested and qualified, rust buildup is recorded, any water leak may be explained. Real estate deals have broken off due to a fridge not being disclosed as useless. When the inspection found the fridge was dead. The buyers backed out claiming that if the sellers had not disclosed this issue, others may abound.
Solar: Grids or arrays are more common than ever. The electrical hardware, cabling, grounds and even the chassis are of top consideration. However simple to gauge. The inspector checks the type of wiring used, that the grid and chassis are correctly grounded, and well, that it is energy productive.
Suitability: Few people actually includes this as an item in an inspector’s list. Have ever returned clothing or shoes to a store because they weren’t just right? Well same happens to a home. People mismatch luminaries (interior type used on a patio), or installing an interior’s outlet at the yard (electric hazard), real common. Or to save money, the smallest of boilers to serve a home of three bedrooms etc. Not enough water pressure is unsuitable for a large home. This is where most homes fail. Wrong accessories and materials purchased. Most common: the patio fan, with soggy downward blades.
Odors: Homes have smells, the kitchen is different than say a garage. One expects certain smells, but not so much with odors. Use every sense when walking into a house.
Inspectors are not perfect:
As much as we try we do omissions, certainly some hidden damage is out of sight so don’t expect the inspector to find mold behind walls. If there’s doubt about the home’s structural state, consider hiring a structural engineer (we got one on staff). If termite damage is of consideration, pool issues or even electrical issues need to be further investigated; YES get those specialists after the regular inspection which cover an overview of the general state of the house. Inspectors do not make any guarantees or warranties that after they leave the items that were working will remain so for a period of time.
So Caveat emptor: besto pretium est inxpectrix! – Best hire a professional inspector. -TPI