Detecting Houses’ Hidden Flaws

By Christopher M. Leporini, REALTOR® Magazine

Hidden physical defects such as water seepage or missing flashings can quickly become last-minute deal breakers in a real estate transactions. If these defects aren’t noticed until after the home inspection, sellers may have to scramble to hire a contractor or be forced to knock thousands of dollars off their asking price. By developing an eye for what inspectors look for and learning to identify common home problems, real estate practitioners can spot defects before the purchase contract is signed. Inspecting a House by Rex Cauldwell ($24.95, The Taunton Press, 2001) offers a reader-friendly guide to the fundamentals of home inspection. A master plumber, electrician, and building inspector, Cauldwell provides insight into the home-inspection process that can help real estate professionals hone their home maintenance skills and avoid unexpected, last-minute disclosures.

Though intended as a reference for home inspectors, the book is accessible to the layperson. Cauldwell’s explanations of home defects are concise and easily understandable with helpful checklists to point you to common problem areas for each component. Furthermore, the book includes abundant diagrams and color photographs to illustrates faults such as improperly sealed pipes, rotten wood, and roof damage. These are valuable because they show rather than tell how to identify these flaws. To keep readers’ interested in sagging gutters and faulty sump pumps, Cauldwell leavens his text with humorous anecdotes from his home inspection experiences.

The book could also serve as a primer for readers interested in developing a second specialty in home inspection. Rather than simply providing a handy encyclopedia of common problems, Cauldwell walks readers through the procedures he follows when inspecting a house. He addresses areas including roofs, gutters, and grading; foundations, structural supports, and decks; garages, driveways, and walkways; heating and cooling systems; and water-supply and septic tanks. For each section, Cauldwell explains typical problems, their symptoms, and how to identify them. (He does not, however, provide suggestions for correcting problems.) Cauldwell also advises establishing a set pattern, or system of inspection, for evaluating a home. While there’s no correct place to start, he maintains that following the same steps each time will help ensure that nothing is forgotten.

Undisclosed defects can cost you a potential sale and land you in legal trouble; failure to disclose property defects are a major source of lawsuits against practitioners. Whether you are an inspection novice or want to brush up on a particular area, Inspecting a House can build your skills at spotting defects before they cost you a sale.

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This post was contributed exclusively for REALTOR® Magazine.

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