A common question asked by beginning real estate investors, particularly those planning to flip properties, is whether or not a real estate inspection is really necessary. After all, they’re planning to renovate anyway. The long and short answer to that question is absolutely yes.
Not getting a home inspection is like by-passing the blind date and going straight to the marriage. Not getting a look at potential flaws before buying a home could be a financial disaster.
It doesn’t matter how much the property calls to you on a personal level or how good it looks on the surface; in the business of real estate investing, the only factor you should be considering is the bottom line. You can’t know the bottom line on a fix and flip until you undress the property and see what’s underneath. The really expensive problems are always hidden.
A real estate inspection is the act of having a qualified professional examine the property you are considering buying. The qualified professional is not required to be a “home inspector.” If your uncle Joe happens to be a highly experienced general contractor with decades of experience in remodeling homes, he can probably do the job just fine.
On the other hand, if your uncle Joe is an electrician, or carpenter, or plumber who contributes to a lot of build jobs, it does not mean he’s able to spot all the areas of potential problems in a home. A qualified home inspector is trained to look at the common “hot spots” in a home. If the qualified inspector sees a problem with the plumbing, that’s the time to call uncle Joe the plumber.
Home inspectors are not infallible, though. They are not allowed to poke around inside the walls, dig hole, or pry up floorboards. If they can’t see an area through non-invasive means, then they can’t tell you anything about that area. What they do is look for secondary problems that indicate there might be more serious problems, such as mold, cracks, uneven surfaces, marks that shouldn’t be there, etc. When they see an indicator, they recommend that you have a specialist look at the problem.
That’s your signal to get a bid. Even if you plan to do the work yourself, it may be worthwhile paying a specialist a small fee for professional opinion and bid. Between the general inspector and the specialists, you can get a pretty good idea of what it’s going to cost you in dollars and time to remodel this home. Doesn’t that just make good sense? A home inspection is money out of your pocket, but it may be the best investment you make.