You know the inherent value of having a home inspection when you first buy real estate and rental property. But what you as a rental investor may not realize is that there are additional benefits to having routine property inspections after you own it.
Some investors schedule annual inspections. Others opt for more frequent and seasonal inspections. But the point is to have an objective, third-party professional come in and evaluate the safety, operability, and marketability of your property every so often. You can’t always review your property’s condition. And you can’t always rely on your residents to tell you if something isn’t working quite right. Only an inspection can keep you informed on priorities with maintenance and repairs of your investment. Here’s what you can expect working with an inspector, including common inspection methods, reporting, costs, and benefits.
Finding a Qualified Inspector
First, let’s talk about finding the right inspector for the job. Not all inspectors will be experienced or certified. It’s best to start with the nation’s two leading organizations for certifying inspectors, InterNACHI and ASHI. Both the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors and the American Society of Home Inspectors provide inspectors with testing, requirements, and ongoing education, with the latest in home improvement and maintenance best practices. Before booking your inspector, ask if he or she is certified with either one of these groups. And when inquiring about years of experience and licensing, don’t forget to also ask for proof of insurance.
In an effort to save a little extra money, sometimes rental property owners turn to the advice of contractor friends and colleagues. And while those around you mean well, advice from others won’t be comparable to an official inspection with a certified inspector. Inspectors are versed in all areas of a home’s provisions, structural components, and safety requirements. They won’t fix any of your problems. They can, however, create a list of problematic or concerning areas so you can budget your repairs and maintenance accordingly.
What an Inspector Looks for During the Inspection
Ask for the inspector’s standards of practice to see a complete outline of what is included with your inspection. In general, all the major components of your rental property, including the roof, foundation, HVAC systems, plumbing, electrical, major appliances, and structural components, will be examined. But remember, an inspector is only visually reviewing a property. Anything not visible or hidden behind walls or due to residents’ belongings will likely not be reported.
Safety is typically the primary concern for an inspector. He or she will review an entire property through the lens of safety, from fall hazards and loose railings to inoperable smoke detectors and non-GFCI outlets. As a rental property owner, you’ll want a routine look at any areas of your investment that may deteriorate over time and become unsafe so you can quickly make repairs.
What an Inspector Won’t Report
As you build a working relationship with an inspector you trust, you’ll learn to know what to expect. But if you’re working with someone new or are hiring an inspector for the first time, you’ll want to know what isn’t typically reported. For example, most inspectors won’t include perimeter fences, pools, or septic systems in their reports. A general home inspection won’t report on radon, and an inspector isn’t required to physically go anywhere it’s not safe – including anywhere active wildlife is present, hazards for electrocution, or fungal growth. The good news is that an inspector will, however, tell you what isn’t getting inspected. And some possess additional training to inspect pools, septic systems, and radon testing.
What Your Report Will Show
Inspections may last a few hours, depending on the age and size of the rental property. And most inspectors will turn around reports within one to three days. Today’s inspectors will most likely offer digital reports, complete with pictures and descriptions of areas that may require repair, maintenance, or the opinion of a specific contractor professional. For example, a dripping pipe might be observed, photographed for the report, and feature a suggestion that you have a qualified plumber come in to address the issue.
If you’ve already had an inspection on the property, you might be assuming everything is still operating as intended. But, as you know, residents can cause wear and tear on flooring, appliances, and living spaces. It’s not uncommon, either, for small issues to arise, like a loose shower head or wobbly ceiling fan. It’s the inspection, though, that will point out those smaller concerns before they turn into major fixes or liabilities.
Your report, again, will only highlight areas that need to be addressed. It’s then up to you to take those recommendations and make an effort to repair or replace things. It’s also important to note that your inspection is only “active” or good the day of the inspection. Since residents, weather, and conditions can change overnight, so can the damage or issues mentioned. If you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to contact your inspector. Their job isn’t done until you not only have your report but also understand everything in it.
How Much Do Inspections Cost?
The cost of an inspection will vary. Most inspectors will suggest a rate based on a few key factors, including the square footage of the property including any garages or outbuildings. The age of a home or structure will also matter since older homes constructed decades ago may require more precision and expertise. Commonly accepted building practices back then have since changed by today’s standards. But only a well-qualified professional will be able to identify lead, asbestos, or nob and tube wiring. Expect an inspection to cost anywhere between $300 and $600. That is a one-time fee that includes the inspector, the inspection, and the finalized report.
How Much Will It Cost You Not to Have Routine Inspections?
Before you write off that inspection in the hopes of saving a few hundred dollars in unnecessary vendor expenses for your rental property, think of this. The $500 you spend on an inspection will be far less expensive than an aging water heater that suddenly bursts, flooding a basement. A $350 inspection that warns you about a low-hanging tree limb is going to cost less to address than if that limb went unnoticed, only to crash onto the roof or the resident’s car. A $400 inspection that recommends an HVAC unit service is going to sting far less in the bank account than it will to have a weekend emergency call to a technician because the AC failed.
Benefits of Having Routine Inspections
There are many benefits to having regular inspections performed on your Lehigh Valley rental properties. And as you would with other contractors, vet each inspector candidate until you find one you can build an ongoing relationship with who might be willing to discount seasonal inspections. Staying on top of the maintenance, safety, and marketability of your property will ensure you stay ahead of major surprise repair costs. And you can preserve your investment for the long term in an affordable and manageable way.
Consider these tips and insights when you look to book rental property inspections. And for more suggestions for preserving your rental property, let Axel Property Management help! We can help you stay on top of all your vendor relationships, including those with reputable inspectors, so you can continue to stay ahead of expensive fixes and maintenance.