The Basics of Property Inspections in Florida

There are many kinds of defects in homes that are not readily apparent to buyers during brief showings of the property.

Before closing on a home, most buyers hire a qualified home inspector (or even an engineer or contractor) to perform a comprehensive inspection. This is true whether the house is older or new construction, and regardless of the kind of home, such as a detached single-family residence, a duplex or triplex, a townhouse, or a condominium unit in a multistory building.  Most real estate brokers have lists of competent home inspectors with whom they have worked.

Property inspectors are not licensed in Florida, but there are several trade organizations, the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), and the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI) that set experience and educational standards for their members.

Property Inspection services provide an invaluable service, but have limitations which are important to understand.  Unless you are paying upward of $2,500 for a property inspection, the likelihood is that the inspector’s contract strictly limits their liability for any errors or omissions which they make.  Most such contracts limit their liability to the price you paid for the inspection.  This, of course, is trivial compared to your cost in addressing any major problem with the property which they may have missed.

Nevertheless, most property inspection services work hard and are extremely conscientious.  They are especially good at identifying issues which you may miss, unless you are extraordinarily well versed in the construction trades.

Some buyers prefer to use General Contractors to do their inspections.  While they cost considerably more, they have a lot to say for them.  Unlike property inspection services, General Contractors are subject to a very strong licensing system.  Their knowledge of building construction is obviously much stronger, and they can put whatever conditions they discover into much better perspective for you, because most are equipped to give you quotes on the cost of correcting whatever problems they uncover.

By the same token, though they aren’t licensed and may not have as many years of training and experience that contractors have, most inspection services are nevertheless very diligent, have excellent, highly comprehensive checklists, and may uncover items a contractor may miss.  Generally thinking, these would be relatively minor issues.  So, the bottom line is, each category of service provider has its strengths and weaknesses.  With time and experience, you will identify professionals you go back to again and again.

A competent home inspection report should contain the following:

  • A list of what the inspector inspected and what the inspector did not inspect.  For those things the inspector did not inspect, there should be an explanation of why they were not included in the inspection.  If they were outside the expertise of the inspector, there should be a recommendation of the type of inspector needed (such things as elevators, solar heating systems, and other specialized technology in the home).
  • Color photographs of all of the defects found by the inspector.
  • An approximate cost of repair for each defect, and an explanation of the type of craftsman need to make the repair.
  • Whether each defect is cosmetic or non-cosmetic (structural, etc.).

In addition to a home inspection for defects, you should also get the house inspected for termites and other wood destroying organisms.  Termites are a major problem is Florida.  They can infest all types of houses, and cause millions of dollars worth of damage to Florida homes.  This inspection should be performed by a licensed pest control company.  In Florida, pest control operators are licensed by the Bureau of Entomology and Pest Control.