The real estate property real estate property inspection is a rare bird to begin with, but I am wondering if it has become extinct. Inspection and a home warranty policy appear to be almost mutually exclusive, the buyer choosing one or the other but not both. It used to be that a home warranty policy was automatically offered upon opening escrow, and the buyer sometimes proposed to split the cost with the seller. My sense now is that the inspection is far preferable.

A real estate property inspection and warranty policy are not necessarily orthogonal. In fact, for new construction, one expects the general contractor to address, free of charge and for up to a year after closing, obvious mistakes and annoyances. The real estate property warranty inspection is designed to generate a punch list for the new owner that is as complete as possible. For older houses, warranty policy to me still makes sense, whether or not it was inspected, if only to provide insurance against a spate of sudden expenses. And the inspector can help the buyer determine if any claims should be made before the warranty expires.

If the buyer didn’t have his house inspected when he bought it, or if the inspector he used isn’t available to do the warranty inspection, then the buyer has to hire someone who is unfamiliar with his property and hence will have to pay his full fee. Otherwise, he should call back whoever did the original inspection. Already knowing the building, he can concentrate on defects cited in his first report, and should charge a reduced fee or even do it pro bono.

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I will come back and do a re-inspection (to verify repairs have been done properly) free of charge, provided it occurs just before or just after closing. After a year has passed, enough about the real estate property may have changed that I can’t justify doing a cursory review. Also, the warranty inspection is typically more involved than a re-inspection. So I charge for it, though at a reduced and nominal rate.

When I’m hired to prepare a warranty punch list I use a somewhat different inspection checklist. I start by reviewing what condition the house was in a year ago as exhibited in my inspection report; I investigate whether defects I found before have been corrected. I also check out specific items the owner wants addressed. Then I perform a limited examination to see if I discover obvious flaws coverable by the warranty.

I check the serviceability of the plumbing, electrical, heating, and cooling systems, expecting their condition to be comparable to that cited in my previous report. (Furnaces and air conditioners are covered by manufacturer’s warranty.) I take time to do a fairly comprehensive pest inspection; evidence of excessive moisture intrusion and/or infestation of wood-destroying organisms suggest a major defect somewhere that the general contractor should remedy. I also look in the crawl space, attic, and garage for signs of structural weakness in the foundation or sub-flooring. Finally, I update my assessment of the roof condition and the operability and functionality of windows, doors, cabinets, and appliances.

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