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Property Inspections

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In a Nutshell

Your home may require a property inspection for all kinds of reasons. If you need to have one done, read this article to find out about the different types of property inspections and what you can expect to learn from one.

Written by the Upsolve Team.  Reviewed by Attorney Andrea Wimmer
Updated July 30, 2021


Your home may require an inspection for all kinds of reasons. Maybe you are selling your home or renting a new property. Or maybe your home is newly constructed or recently underwent renovations. Homebuyers need inspections in order to uncover and understand any issues with the home. Buyers often use the results of an inspection in the negotiation of a home’s sale price. Banks rely on property inspections to make sure that homes are worth financing. Insurance companies also inspect properties under certain circumstances. Whatever the reason, property inspections are both necessary and routine but they can create headaches for everyone involved.

What Are Property Inspections?

An inspection is done to evaluate the condition and character of a home. Inspectors review everything from the basement to the roofing. They look for unforeseen problems and poor maintenance. During a home inspection, an inspector will test a home’s systems, including the plumbing, electrical, heating and air conditioning. Sometimes, an inspection also involves studying the land around the home, running cameras through the sewer line, checking for termites, or conducting radon testing. The basic goal is to assess the value of the home and property, including any mechanicals or fixtures. 

Different Kinds of Property Inspections and Home Inspections

Sometimes the terms “home inspection” and “property inspection” might be used interchangeably. But, different kinds of inspections can be distinguished. 

Property Inspections During Foreclosure

A property inspection will occur after a homeowner defaults on their mortgage or at some point during the foreclosure process. The lender, often a bank, needs to know the condition and value of the property before placing it up for sale at auction. So, at some point after a homeowner has defaulted on their mortgage, the lender may require a home inspection to evaluate their asset, the property. 

Home Inspections During a Home Sale

Home inspections are a routine part of selling a house. Unfortunately, problems often arise during this process. After a buyer has decided that they want to purchase a home, they will hire an inspector to evaluate the home. The inspector will follow an inspection checklist and later draft a report of their findings. Inspectors usually charge an inspection fee of several hundred dollars for this work. If you are considering buying a home and need home inspection services, your realtor can help you find a qualified inspector. 

A home inspector will almost always find something wrong with the property. Sometimes it is the condition of the roof, an outdated HVAC system, or windows that need replacement. Whatever the issue, the inspector will prepare a home inspection report for the homebuyers. The buyers will then be able to make an informed decision about the potential sale. Buyers may show the report to the sellers, requesting that they repair known issues or reduce their asking price. 

During the home sale process, a home inspector almost always finds issues with the property, particularly if the property is older. Sellers are also required to disclose any known material defects with the property. If the seller fails to disclose or potentially misrepresents the condition of the property, they might be subject to a civil lawsuit from the buyers. However, home inspections don't have to derail the potential sale. The parties are usually able to work through their issues, and if the market is competitive, the buyer might not even try to negotiate. The important point is that the buyers are made fully aware of the condition of the property before purchasing. 

Home Inspections After Construction or Renovation

Another type of home inspection might occur when a property has been recently constructed or renovated. Local governments almost always require new structures to be inspected before issuing certificates of occupancy, which are necessary before a home can be occupied for residential use. If a home undergoes renovations, like plumbing, electrical, or major construction, an inspection is usually required to ensure the work follows applicable code(s). Coordinating these inspections is the responsibility of the homeowner or contractor.

Rental Property Inspections

When you first rent a new home or apartment, you'll also often conduct your own inspection. This process might be as simple as a walkthrough with the property management company or landlord. When renting a property, both the landlord and tenant should do this before the tenant moves-in. Similar to a home inspection, this process gives all parties an opportunity to learn about the condition of the property. Though it might not be as thorough or involve a licensed property inspector, a walkthrough for a rental property is your chance to identify any maintenance issues and document the condition of the property. Even if it is not proposed, you should request this with the property manager.

An inspection is important because when you later move out, you won't want to be held responsible for any pre-existing damage. It also allows you a chance to familiarize yourself with the details of your potential new home. You’ll also have a chance to see how the landlord cares for the property and addresses maintenance. Sometimes you might discover issues which may deter you from renting the property. 

You should also consider taking photos of any potential damage and put all concerns or questions in writing. Showing that you are thorough is also a chance to show the landlord that you will be a responsible tenant who will care for the condition of the property. This documentation can also be very helpful when you are moving out, to better ensure that you will fully recover your security deposit. If you are concerned about issues at the time of moving out, you should definitely request a move-out inspection. 

Sometimes, after you are living in a rental property the landlord may request access to the property. They may request access to conduct maintenance or show the property to potential tenants or buyers. Although landlords have the right to access their property, and related provisions are often included in your lease, state law limits such access. 

In most states, landlords must give their tenants “reasonable notice” of their need to access rental property. In many states, such as New York and New Jersey, courts have determined this to be 24 hours notice. They must also provide a sufficiently specific time range that they plan to access the property. An exception does exist: Landlords or maintenance personnel must be granted immediate access when they need access for an emergency, such as a water leak or structural issue. Landlords routinely need access to property for maintenance, but if your landlord is regularly accessing your unit, this may indicate that they are trying to sell the property and are showing it to potential buyers. 

What Should I Expect if My Lender Wants to Do a Property Inspection?

Lenders usually conduct inspections of foreclosed properties to ensure the property does not fall into disrepair. They might initially conduct a drive by inspection or just send someone to examine the outside of the property. They are often looking for signs that the home is occupied and that there are no problems that need immediate attention.

When a foreclosed home is occupied, lenders have less to worry about. Their main goal is to protect and preserve their asset, which is the value of the home. Consequently, they are often satisfied with simply observing the property. However, if a property in foreclosure has been abandoned, they might take action to protect it from the elements or make necessary repairs. 

Let’s Summarize...

Property inspections occur for all sorts of reasons. Inspection results might be a tool for negotiating a real estate transaction or identifying problems with your existing home. When shopping for a rental, a walkthrough is a way to find problems before you move in. Under different circumstances, if your landlord is regularly requesting access to your property it might be a sign they are trying to sell. If your home has been foreclosed upon, a lender might check out the property to ensure it is being maintained. Whatever the purpose, inspections are used to professionally identify any possible problems with the property.



Written By:

The Upsolve Team

Upsolve is fortunate to have a remarkable team of bankruptcy attorneys, as well as finance and consumer rights professionals, as contributing writers to help us keep our content up to date, informative, and helpful to everyone.

Attorney Andrea Wimmer

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Andrea practiced exclusively as a bankruptcy attorney in consumer Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases for more than 10 years before joining Upsolve, first as a contributing writer and editor and ultimately joining the team as Managing Editor. While in private practice, Andrea handled... read more about Attorney Andrea Wimmer

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