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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What’s the One Unbreakable Law of Real Estate?

“Perform due diligence!” is the one law you should never break in any kind of real estate deal – residential, multi-occupant, or commercial!

What is due diligence? It’s a common phrase for the evaluation of a property and its surrounding environment before you commit to buying it.

Due diligence has two objectives. First, you want to reduce or eliminate risk! Needless to say, you’ll be assuming a large loan and will want to know exactly what’s right or wrong with a property before you sink any money into it.

Two, due diligence allows you to uncover real bargains, especially for investors. On the surface, one property may look like a “loser,” but a closer inspection may reveal that the building is structurally sound and requires only minor and inexpensive maintenance and repairs.

One part of due diligence is what you’d expect – the physical inspection of the property and inspection of all documents and records concerning that specific property. The other part is the inspection of the documents and records concerning that property.

In this article, I’ll just talk about the physical inspection portion of due diligence.

Physical Inspection of Properties

Below, I’ve listed all the inspection tasks which should be performed by a professional inspector. Of course, you should visit the property as well. Many times, a quick “eyeballing” can reveal any obvious signs or poor maintenance or decay - a leaky roof, wet basement, foundation cracks, cracks in the walls, plumbing leaks, etc.. In those cases, you’ll know you don’t need to waste any further time on that property.

As I mentioned earlier, such an inspection may reveal that you’ve actually got a bargain on your hands instead of a “dog.” In such a case, you’ll want to purchase or invest in that property quickly.

What happens when you find problems in a property and still like it? Well, then, you can require that the seller correct those problems or reduce the price before you sign any contract.

In general, defects fall into two categories. One category contains the obvious defects – wet basements, peeling paint, broken windows, leaky plumbing, warped floors, etc.

The other category contains the more expensive and dangerous hidden defects. These can include corroded pipes in the walls, roof or window leaks that don’t show up until it rains or snows, subtle cracks in the foundation.

Obviously, you want to make sure these hazards are spotted before you ever sign a purchase agreement. They can cost you a lot of money in the long run, not to mention the fact that they can send your blood pressure through the roof!

What Do Professional Inspectors Look For?

Below are the items inspectors examine when they check a property:

• Overall structural integrity
• Property drainage/landscaping
• Walks and drives 
• Foundation, footings, crawl space, basements, sub-flooring, decks
• Exterior walls, siding, trim 
• Windows, doors, cabinets, counters 
• Gutters, downspouts 
• Roof, roof shingles, roof structures. chimneys, attic
• Floors, walls, ceilings, etc.
• HVAC systems 
• Plumbing systems, (fixtures, supply lines, drains, water heating devices, etc.)
• Electrical system (wiring, service panel, devices, and service capacity
• Energy conservation/safety Items 
• Insulation & ventilation 
• Moisture intrusion/mold

And, of course, we can’t forget the voracious appetites of….bugs!

Pest Control Inspection

Depending on the area of the country in which you live, insects can cause a heckuva lot of damage to a property!

I’m talking about such bugs as termites, carpenter ants, powder post beetles, and any other insect that likes to munch on wood. Then, there’s fungus, in the form of “dry rot.” It can also cause a lot of destruction.
In such cases, you’ll need to hire the services of a specialist (pest control inspector) to examine the property.

If the operator identifies any problems, he or she should provide you with a diagram that pinpoints the location of the infestations. If serious problems exist, they need to be corrected immediately! The expense is usually paid for by the seller.

To protect yourself against any of the problems I mentioned above, ensure that the purchase contract provides for cancellation without penalty or loss of money if the physical condition of the property doesn’t meet standards.

So, there you have it – all the physical items you or an inspector should check on to meet the law of due diligence! Remember – never, ever break this law! To learn more about any special concerns for due diligence in our area, contact me today!


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