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What is a home inspector?

J. Brad Grieve

The objective of writing this column is to act independently and discuss the typical property ownership/maintenance issues and real estate concerns for existing and perspective homeowners here at Lake Chapala.

As a Canadian Civil Engineer who has worked here at Lake Chapala in the local construction business and real estate industry I have in the past had responsibilities as an engineer, inspector, consultant, real estate agent and broker. Since I now have no formal connections to my previous businesses, I hope to bring an experienced, clear and unbiased perspective to these interesting and important topics.

In my present role as an independent real estate consultant and home inspector, I have discovered many definitions of what is a home inspector and what they are supposed to do. An inspector could follow a rigorous and routine checklist of various elements or systems within the house and produce a brief concise report that states the condition of every element however, the deeper meaning or understanding of any “problem” may be lost in the paragraphs of disclaimers and generalities of the “typical” house.

An inspector could also be looking solely at whether or not the property meets the minimum “building code standards” which unfortunately are ill defined or not clear here at Lake Chapala. Furthermore since there were typically no municipal inspectors during the construction process, the quality or standards of construction were dependent on the abilities and criteria of the builder. The builder may have been an engineer, architect, contractor or the homeowner himself.

Typically, homes here at Lake Chapala are individually “unique” meaning that they were not designed or constructed with the idea of the mass production of a few home models (with different floor plans) repeated en masse in a neighbourhood like we see in the rest of North America. Each home will have its own eccentricities and details that will make it unique.

A better definition of a home inspector would be an educator who identifies the “ Material facts or conditions that affect the value, desirability, habitability, or safety of the dwelling " This is prefaced with “educator” since these material facts and conditions need to explained to not only the client of inspector which is typically the buyer of the property but also the seller, the real estate agent and any other party involved. Typically, the buyer wants a thorough detailed inspection, the seller wants a fair inspection and the real estate agent does not want the inspection to be a “deal killer” and cause the agent to lose his respective commission should the results of the inspection cause the buyer not to proceed with the purchase.

Home inspectors in Mexico are not certified or regulated by any state or federal government or agency like in most of the USA or Canada however; there are similar standards of practice and rules of disclosure, which are universal. For example, the inspector works for only his client and the results of the inspection or report are the property of the client. They cannot be disclosed to any other party without the permission of the client. Real estate contracts that have the home inspection as a contingency of the purchase agreement, should include a clause requiring the buyer to disclose the inspector’s report to the seller however, this is responsibility of the client (buyer) and not the inspector.

A final point is some people feel inspectors are guarantors providing the house with a new warranty. An inspector can only base the opinion of the inspection on what is accessible and visible. To truly provide a warranty on the property would require further excavation and destruction walls and floors to examine the various systems (i.e. structural, electrical, plumbing, etc) and provide a greater insight to the conditions of the various elements of the property. Permission of the seller, time and cost are the principal factors why inspections do not examine as deeply to provide a guarantee on the property.

Efflorescence or “ salitre ” is a common problem that bewilders the most homeowners, will be addressed in the next issue.

Published or Updated on: February 14, 2008 by J. Brad Grieve © 2008
Contact J. Brad Grieve

J. Brad Grieve is a professional civil engineer who has lived and worked in the Lake Chapala area since 1994. He is the owner of Ajijic Home Inspections and you can be reach him by phone: (376) 766-2836 or e-mail.

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