Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What Buyers should know about the Condominium Inspection Scope

When looking to hire a home inspector it's important to know what is and what is not covered under the inspection scope. Knowing the scope is particularly important in the case of a condominium (also apartment or town house) inspection.

That's because condominiums differ from single-family homes. Buyers are often surprised when they find out that the home inspector will not inspect certain things including the roof of the condominium or the foundation.

The reason: Shared building systems and components, aka common elements.

What is a shared system and component?

A shared system and component is anything in and around the home that will not be solely owned by the buyer upon purchase. Rather, it will be a shared responsibility of all homeowners in a particular building or community.

Why is a shared system and component (common element) not included?

Shared systems and components not included in a home inspector's inspection are covered by the technical audit of the Home Owners Association (HOA) or a similar governing community organization. HOAs set their own rules and guidelines, and only their designated technical audit can be deemed a compliant inspection.  Shared systems and components are a shared responsibility among all homeowners.

What is a Condominium Inspection Scope? 

A condominium inspection is a comprehensive, non-invasive visual evaluation of the interior building systems and components that can be reached, entered or viewed without difficulty, moving obstructions or requiring action which may result in damage to the property or personal injury to the inspector.  The inspection is limited to the condominium unit and does not include any areas not solely owned by the unit owner. 
Shared building systems and components such as the Exteriors, Structure, Roofing, Insulation and Ventilation and any other common elements are excluded from a condominium inspection.

Like a single-family home inspection, condominium inspections are not technically exhaustive. Meaning, there are no specialized tests or equipment used to identify hidden problems. They are not geared at identifying every problem that exists, or could ever exist. Rather, the purpose is to provide a professional opinion of the general condition of a property. Exhaustive inspections would require more time, equipment, additional professionals and cost much more than the cost of a general home inspection. 

The difference? A condominium home inspection is limited to the interior, while a single-family home inspection covers the interior and exterior of a property. 

How do buyers ensure a thorough Condominium Inspection? 

The answer lies in the Home Inspector. A good home inspector will go above and beyond the scope of inspection whenever possible. There is nothing that prevents the inspector from offering comments concerning their observations about the condition of common areas - as a courtesy only. However, buyers should know that any comments concerning common areas, or any lack of comments concerning common areas, should not give rise to any claim against the inspector as, again, they are made as a courtesy only. 

Unfortunately, many home inspectors don't do this courtesy for their clients. 

That's why most buyers still agree that it's beneficial to get an inspector's courtesy opinion and waive their right to a claim, instead of proceeding blindly into a sale when they know nothing about certain shared systems and components. 
Wouldn't you like to know that the railings and walkways in front of your home are all broken at the base and unsafe? Would you like to know if there are cracks on the exterior that could affect the structural integrity of the building? Or better yet, would you like the peace of mind that comes with knowing that the roof is in excellent shape? 
A home inspector can help answer those questions and more. They should be working for their clients and giving them all possible information regarding the condition of their property of interest. Only the home owners and the HOA can make final determinations about common areas, but a home inspector can help give groundwork information to begin making decisions. In order to ensure the best possible inspection, buyers (and sellers too) should understand the scope of the inspection, read the contract(s) entirely and ask questions to a potential inspector. 
When looking for your condominium inspector, make sure you know what is and what is not covered in their inspection by asking them: What will you inspect in this condominium? What will you not inspect in this condominium?