Home Inspections

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

The home inspection industry is presently unregulated in South Africa and as with anything that isn’t regulated, is open to abuse. While there are many reputable companies out there who employ the right people, there are undoubtedly a number who, seeing an easy way to make money, have jumped on the proverbial band wagon.

How does the average man in the street know which company to trust and how does he ascertain that the person he employs is qualified and experienced enough to do the job properly?

John Graham, CEO of HouseCheck, likens home inspectors to a medical general practitioner and says that just like a GP who must have sufficient knowledge to objectively assess illness in the patient’s body, a good home inspector must know sufficient about every aspect of the building process in order to objectively assess the condition of the house. A GP who diagnoses conditions which require specialist input will refer the patient to an appropriate specialist. Likewise the home inspector should be able to document and evaluate all observable defects and raise a ‘red flag’ if the input of a specialist such as a structural engineer, waterproofing expert, roofer, electrician or plumber is required.

Although the industry is not regulated in this country, there are standards that most of the larger home inspection companies adhere to. Experience is everything in this field and homeowners should enquire about any training the individual has undertaken. The inspector should be au fait with local conditions and have an all-round working knowledge of all aspects of the building process.

Graham states that the average home inspection should take between two to three hours and that the client should be furnished with a written report with photographic evidence.

“Reports are usually delivered electronically. The report should contain plenty of pictures in order to easily assist the client in understanding the problems described in it. A good home inspection report may easily include 10-30 pictures, and in some instances over 100 pictures.” Although the time it takes for a report to be furnished may vary, the average time is usually around 72 hours after the home inspection has been completed.

What is absolutely vital to remember is that the general home inspection is based on the observations made on the date of the inspection, and it is not a prediction of future conditions.

It is very important to ensure that the person that is hired is up to the task, before securing their services. In addition to asking about relevant experience it is also advisable to ask to see an example of a typical report. Graham states that a good report will contain a detailed checklist (to ensure that the inspector does not overlook any aspect of the property) as well as customised comments that are relevant to a particular property.

Home inspectors need to get their hands dirty. A home inspection is not the same as a bank appraisal and as such the person who inspects the property needs to be far more thorough. Although the inspection will not be invasive and a home inspector is not going to start digging up a French drain to ensure that it is in good working order, he will need to climb into the roof and if possible access the crawl space under the property.

Knowing what you are buying and being aware of any problems is undoubtedly going to permit an informed buying decision. Most of us would never dream of buying a second hand vehicle without getting a mechanic’s advice, however the majority of the South African home buying public do not consider employing the services of a home inspector to ensure that they making a sound investment. Don’t fall into that trap and make a buying decision based on knowledge rather than a lack thereof.

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