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Everything You Need to Know About Condo Inspections

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Generally there are two types of condo/townhouse inspections. The first and most popular is the “Interior Only” inspection. This will cover everything from the sheetrock in, or as others may say, from paint to paint.

For the most part this is all that the home owner is responsible for when owning a condo. The other external items, roof/crawlspace/attic/siding/etc, are covered by the dues paid into the Homeowners Association, but this may not always the case so refer to your HOA guidelines.

The “Interior Only” inspection will focus on health/safety, moisture intrusion, functional testing, and inspecting for components improperly installed, nearing or exceeding their design life. The inspection will last between 1.5-2.5 hours depending on the size and age of the property. The cost of an “Interior Only” inspection starts around $225 and up again depending on size/age of unit.

The second type of inspection is more of a building complex inspection overview. This will cover all items in the “Interior Only” as well as the exterior siding, roof, crawlspace, and attic. This is more of a peripheral view of the exterior components and will be limited to the exterior components directly attached to the unit in question.

Understanding the complex inspection is limited to safe access to the above mentioned components. The inspector will not inspect areas which will endanger him and/or potentially damage the property. The complex inspection generally last between 2.5-3.5 hours again depending on size, age, and access, the fees range from $325 and up.

Some condo purchasers desire to have just the interior of their condos inspected prior to purchase. At Key Inspection Services, we don’t recommend this type of inspection, but we will perform it if you desire.

An interior only inspection means that no commonly owned areas of the condominium will be inspected. The inspection will include electrical in the condo, major appliances, plumbing, etc. It will not include common walls, structure of the building, etc.

When customers request this type of inspection it is usually because the condo they\’re purchasing is fairly new, but has had a previous owner for a short period of time. These customers mostly want to ensure that they are fully aware of the wear and tear the first owner has left on the condo.

The reason we don\’t recommend this type of inspection is because it leaves out the condition of the building and systems that apply to all owners. As a buyer, if one of these systems breaks, you are responsible for a portion of the repair as an owner in the complex. Even if the complex is fairly new, there could be repairs coming down the road.

Interior only inspections also don\’t discuss homeowner dues, and whether or not the monthly amount being paid is sufficient to cover unexpected expenses. During a full inspection, we would look at past assessments, and whether or not there is a surplus in the fund sufficient to cover large maintenance items in the near future, as well as unexpected problems.

We strive to satisfy our Seattle area customer base. If an interior condo inspection is your desire, we\’re happy to perform one. But, keep in mind, you might not be getting the full picture.

Many people ask if condos really need to be inspected, and if the same inspectors that perform home inspections can perform condo inspectors. At Key Inspection Services, we certainly can’t speak for home inspectors everywhere, but we do perform condo inspections, here in the Bellevue and Kirkland areas. They are a lot like home inspections in many ways, but there are some differences.

Condos include shared areas. Essentially the condo owners own these areas as a whole, which is why there is a condo association. It\’s important to know the condition and any problems associated with these areas, even though you\’re not buying the area in its entirety. For example, let\’s say your condo is in a building of six separate units. When the roof needs to be replaced, that cost will be split among all owners.

Part of a good condo inspection is a financial inspection. As a condo owner, you need to know if the condo association dues you\’ll pay each month or quarter are going to be enough to handle repairs like roof replacement or to handle unforeseen problems, like storm damage. As part of your condo inspection, problems with the structure and systems of the building will be noted, and compared to the amount the condo association has in reserve, and the amount being collected each month. Past assessments will also be examined.

Condo ownership does have some special requirements, so condo inspections do, too. Be certain that you hire a home inspector who has experience in inspecting condos so that you can ensure that there are no surprises.

When you’re ready to sell your condo, there are several things you need to prepare for. One of the most important is the buyer’s inspection. Though you won’t have to worry about an inspection until you have accepted an offer on your condo, it still pays to get ready for this important event even before the “for sale” sign goes up.

When your prospective buyer plans an inspection of your condo, their inspector will be checking out all of the condo\’s major systems, just like in a home inspection on a freestanding home. But, in a condo inspection, things are just a bit trickier, and you must be prepared to answer some questions that don’t come up in inspections on single-family dwellings.

Owning a condo means that you are part and party to some shared spaces within the complex. In most cases, what you are solely responsible for includes the complete interior of your condo, including items such as the hot water heater and other major appliances, as well as condition of floors and drywall. Exterior areas of a condo are co-owned by the condo owners, usually as part of a condo association.

As the inspector looks at the exterior portions of the building and other items commonly owned, there will be financial questions asked, particularly if something is in need of repair. Prospective buyers will want to know about reserve funds on hand with the condo association to handle upcoming needed repairs and maintenance. No buyer wants to get into a condo that needs a lot of repairs that will likely require a big assessment after they\’ve purchased.

To be prepared for the questions that come up about common areas and repairs or maintenance that might be needed, you should have access to the financial records of your condo association, including reserve funds on hand, assessments required during the last few years, and anticipated assessments. A little preparation will go a long way toward easing a buyer\’s mind about the state of your condominium, both inside and outside.

Many people purchasing condominiums don\’t believe they need a home inspection. But, even when buying into a condominium building that resembles an apartment, a home inspection is really necessary. You\’ll be able to find out a lot about the building from the condo association, but there are systems unique to each condo that you need to have inspected before you buy.

So, how do you go about finding a home inspector for your condo? The best place to start is with your realtor. Since realtors work with home inspections all the time, he or she will likely maintain a list of home inspectors they have found to be reputable.

If your realtor doesn\’t have a list, check out online reviews of inspectors in your area to see who has earned a good reputation in the field. This is not a good time to seek out the help of the yellow pages. It\’s also not a good time to seek help from the condo association or building management. If they have something to hide, they will not point you in the direction of someone who will help their secrets come out.

Be sure to remember to have your condo inspection completed during your due diligence period. Having the inspection done in a timely manner is critical to being able to get any problems with the condo addressed as well as being able to back out of the contract if you choose.

As a condo buyer, you can hire anyone you wish to do the inspection. You can have your dad do it, you can hire a professional inspector referred by your Realtor or a friend, you can search out someone in the yellow pages or Google them, or heck, you can get the guy on the street standing outside the condo building.

If truth be told, you need to hire someone you are comfortable working with and who is knowledgeable about construction and safety matters. If you get a name from your Realtor or from a friend’s referral, you are probably off to a good start. Now, I’ve had clients come up to me during inspections saying they didn’t want to work with their Realtor’s recommended inspector asking me “What if they are in cahoots with each other and the inspector is getting a kickback or missed something?”

Well if you have this feeling about your Realtor, don’t do business with them. A good Realtor is worth their weight in gold and is looking out for your best interest. They are going to go to bat for you, so if you think your Realtor isn’t, then Fire him or her. There are plenty of honest hard working Realtors out there who in the end will save you time, money and significant stress and headaches.

[Editor’s note: As of January 31, 2009, Washington state law (WAC 308-124C-050) now requires real estate agents who refer an inspector to provide written disclosure of any business/economic or family relationship they have with the referred inspector to their client. This law is intended to prevent collusion between the agent and inspector.]

So what if I’m thinking about hiring my dad (or friend) to inspect my condo? If your dad is comfortable and experienced in all facets of construction, not just one area like framing or drywall or painting, but is also knowledgeable about the electrical, plumbing, HVAC, garage door safety, siding, roofing and fireplace safety, then he may be able to do a condo inspection for you.

A contractor is generally a master of one particular area, i.e. a plumber is an expert at plumbing systems but may not know much about windows or electrical systems. So if your father (cousin, sister, friend) is well rounded in all facets of construction he may be able to perform the inspection. I didn’t say a good one, but a condo inspection nonetheless. Professional inspectors, on the other hand, are generalist, trained in all areas and are licensed and certified.

At the end of the day, whomever you choose to hire to perform your condo inspection, make sure you are comfortable working with them be it a professional inspector, a family member or someone off the street. In addition to being knowledgeable about condominium systems and construction, the inspector should produce an inspection report that’s easy to read, includes photos and is summarized in a format that is easy to understand. The report should be easy for you, the client, to digest and for the Realtor to negotiate with the seller’s agent.

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