Pre Purchase Building Inspection: What To Know Before Buying

By - Chris Barnard
Last Updated - February 19th, 2024 8:33 AM
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Whether you’ve finalized a building for purchase or you’re in the middle of purchase negotiations, you’ve already made a significant investment decision. And with millions of dollars on the line a pre purchase building inspection is the best way to safeguard your investment.

You see, in a big-ticket real estate purchase, a faulty or shady component is the last thing you want. 

However, a picture perfect property with zero flaws is something that you can’t be guaranteed of, no matter how shiny or solid the building appears.

Now, a pre purchase commercial property inspection before you close the deal can help you understand the current condition of the property with complete clarity. It can provide in-depth information about potential problem areas that might not be visible during an initial walkthrough. 

Curious as to what these inspections involve and how you can go about them? 

Read on, as I’ve discussed the critical aspects of building inspections before purchase while also drawing insights from my own industry experience. 

What is a pre purchase building inspection? 

For starters, a pre purchase inspection is a building assessment by a certified inspector who reviews the existing condition of the property before you purchase it. 

These assessments aren’t any different from a regular building inspection in terms of scope and coverage. Meaning the areas covered in inspection and the subsequent inspection report or findings will be pretty much the same. 

However, when it comes to determining the quality of vital building components prior to a final purchase agreement, these inspections are indispensable. 

For instance, a pre purchase property condition assessment looks at key areas such as foundation, walls, roofing, plumbing, decks, etc., to name a few. 

Now, no matter how keenly you observe these areas, you won’t be able to detect the hidden defects or problems unless you’re an expert. On the other hand, property inspectors are trained and certified experts who use specialized skills and tools to locate such problems. 

Get A Pre Purchase Building Inspection Today!

Our pre purchase inspections follow ASTM E-2018 standards and detect potential red flags before you make that big-ticket purchase. Click ‘Inspect My Property’ to safeguard your investment and wellbeing.

Which areas does a pre purchase inspection cover? 

Talking about building components covered during a pre purchase inspection, it’ll include everything that your typical building inspection checklist covers. 

Also, the inspection isn’t limited to traditional checklist items, meaning you can even request an assessment of additional areas.

For instance, if you’re purchasing a building with plans to convert it into an AirBNB, you can request your inspector to conduct separate balcony inspections. Similarly, if there’s a separate parking space attached to the building your inspector can examine that too as part of the overall property assessment. 

All in all, you can expect a building inspection before purchase to cover the following areas: 

  • Foundation 
  • Basement 
  • Framing 
  • Roofing 
  • Attic 
  • Decks
  • Balcony 
  • Stairs 
  • Crawlspace 
  • Plumbing
  • Siding
  • Walls (exterior and interior) 
  • Doors and windows 
  • Electrical systems 
  • HVAC systems 
  • Insulation 
  • Fire alarms 

Note: This is a standard pre purchase building assessment checklist and some of these items may or may not be covered during your property’s inspection. For instance, a basement examination will not be a part of your inspection checklist if your building doesn’t have one. 

Why is a building inspection before purchase so important? 

A pre purchase building assessment or inspection doesn’t come free of charge. Moreover, it’s you who’ll bear the inspection expenses despite the fact that you don’t own the building yet. 

So the idea of skipping the inspection and thus the extra cost of it might cross your mind. 

Nevertheless, I strongly suggest you get an inspection as not doing so can risk your millions of dollars down the drain. 

You see, a building might look perfectly fine from the outside, leading you to have confidence in your purchase. But oftentimes, problems lurk within the building’s structure than outside, something you’ll entirely miss out on during a visual walkthrough. 

Also, it is possible that the existing owner will provide you with an inspection report and claim their building is in excellent shape. However, you don’t know about the expertise or the trustworthiness of the inspector involved in the said inspection. 

And this is exactly where the role of a seasoned third party building inspector becomes crucial in terms of assessing critical systems and components. As such, it is important to hire one such inspector before you close a purchase deal. 

After all, it’s better to shell out a few hundred dollars and make a safe investment than to risk failing systems and expensive repairs. 

How can you get a pre purchase building inspection? 

Once you’ve finalized a purchase agreement, you can inform the existing owner that you want to schedule a pre purchase inspection under the due diligence contingency

You see, a due diligence or inspection contingency clause is often included in purchase agreements and allows buyers to get an inspection before purchase. This is an important safeguard to protect your investment and I suggest you make sure it is a part of your agreement.  

Thereafter, you can settle on a mutually convenient timeline for inspection after talks with the owner. 

Now, coming to the most important aspect of inspection, you should hire a certified third party inspector for the job. 

Herein, you should first look for a state-specific inspection certification. For instance, if you’re hiring an inspector or inspection firm in Florida, it’s essential to check whether or not they’re licensed in Florida. 

Furthermore, I suggest you also look for advanced level certifications from institutions like NACBI when hiring a building inspector. That’s because these certifications signal your inspector is both experienced and accomplished, important requirements for a top-notch assessment. 

Bonus: Hire building inspectors who follow ASTM E2018-08 standards 

When it comes to property assessments, ASTM E2018-08 standards are considered the highest benchmark. These standards are set by the American Society for Testing and Materials and provide a standard procedure for walk-through property assessments. 

So, if you’re looking for a pre purchase building inspector, my advice would be to always hire one who follows these standards. 

How much does a pre purchase inspection cost? 

A pre purchase inspection involves a complete assessment of the building from the inside out. So you can expect to pay in the average of $1250 and $2500, which is also the cost of regular building inspections

Nonetheless, the exact cost of inspection will vary and depend on factors such as the size and location of your building, among others. For instance, while a small retail store inspection will cost you on the lower end of the average cost, the same can’t be said for a full-service office building. 

Also, the cost calculation method that your building inspector uses will influence the total cost of inspection. For instance, while the flat fee method offers you a fixed quote, the hourly rate method calculates cost based on the total hours spent on inspection. 

Wondering how much exactly will a pre purchase inspection cost you? 

Tell us the details of your property and get a free cost estimate

What are the common problems found during an inspection before purchase? 

There is a huge range of problems that a pre purchase building assessment can detect, ranging from minor seepages to major structural woes. 

However, the most common of these problems are often non-serious and can be fixed by the existing owner before you close the deal. 

For instance, during the last two decades of conducting due diligence inspections, I’ve mostly spotted issues like leakages, missing sealant, rotting wooden structures, mold, pest, etc. And even though I’ve flagged bigger problems such as wall cracks, shifting foundations, roofing damages, etc., these are a rarity. 

But that said, it is essential to have a trained expert for the task. That’s because, no matter the extent of potential problems, you still need the right expertise to detect them. 

You might also want to read – Facility Condition Assessment Checklist: A Complete Guide

Pre purchase building inspection: Frequently asked questions 

Who should you hire for a pre purchase inspection? 

A pre purchase building assessment should always be carried out by a licensed inspector. 

For instance, let’s say you’re purchasing a commercial property and you want to get a pre purchase inspection. In this case, the inspection can only be carried out by a building inspector with a commercial inspection license. 

Similarly, state specific inspection licenses are also essential, something you should check. For instance, if you’re buying a property in Palm Coast, Florida, the building inspector should have a Florida state license. 

Also, it goes without saying that apart from licensing, additional certifications are also an important criteria for hiring building inspectors. That’s because such certifications showcase the individual inspector’s domain expertise, which matters a lot during inspections. 

How long does a pre purchase property assessment take? 

A pre purchase assessment takes between 4-5 hours, just like any complete building inspection. 

However, the total time to inspect your property can vary depending on its total size. 

What should you do if problems are discovered during an inspection? 

It is commonplace for pre purchase property inspections to detect problems. In fact, this is the one of the reasons why buyers get these inspections in the first place. 

However, that doesn’t mean the property isn’t good enough to purchase. 

Now, there are two things you can demand from the existing owner after the inspection report flags issues: 

  1. You can share the inspection report, list the problem areas, and ask the owner to fix the problems before closing the deal. 
  2. You can also ask the owner for a renegotiation of the purchase deal and a reduction of the asking price. Herein, you can demand a reduction of the total amount that you’re likely to spend on the repairs. 

Bonus: A pre purchase inspection may also discover environmental hazards

Although uncommon, environmental hazards could be present in a property. And it can lead to hefty liabilities if found at a later stage.

As such, it is in your best interest to schedule a phase 1 ESA if the building inspection leads to signs of hazards.

To learn more, read my blog – Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment Checklist.

Can you cancel the purchase deal based on the inspection report? 

Yes, you can. 

The inspection contingency clause allows buyers like yourself to get out of the purchase deal if there are reasonable grounds. 

For instance, here are a couple of scenarios when you can cancel the purchase deal:

  1. The inspection report highlights problem areas, but the owner is unwilling to acknowledge them or undertake repairs. 
  2. The report has detected serious problems such as a sinking foundation, roof or walls shifting from their place, subgrade materials used in construction, etc. 

Should you waive inspection contingency for a lower asking price? 

No, you shouldn’t. 

Many sellers offer to lower their asking price if you agree to waive the pre purchase inspection contingency from the purchase agreement. Moreover, a seller might also show you a recent inspection report to reassure you about your decision to waive inspection requirements. 

Nevertheless, I suggest you to not fall for such offers and get a pre purchase building inspection. That’s because there are always chances of serious problems in the building’s components as well as a compromised inspection report. 

So, an inspection will not only give you a clear picture of the building’s present state but also ensure that you’re making the right purchase decision. 

You might also want to read – What Is A Condition Report & Why Do Properties Need One?

Final words 

A pre purchase building inspection is an important part of the property buying process. After all, this is only how you can learn about the problem areas in a building. 

Not to mention, a pre purchase inspection report can also help you determine a property’s actual price based on its current condition. 

So even though one such inspection can cost you a couple of thousand dollars, it is totally worth it for protecting your investment worth hundreds of thousands. 

Now, if you’re looking for one such inspection, you can get in touch with us

At Florida Commercial Building Inspectors, we’re a seasoned property inspection team with over two decades of expertise and numerous prestigious certifications. And we’ve got all your pre purchase property assessment requirements covered.

You can also find our commercial building inspectors in JacksonvilleMelbourneOrlandoSt AugustinePalm CoastDaytona BeachPort OrangeSawgrass, and more.

Chris Barnard

Hi there! I am Chris Barnard, a licensed building inspector and the founder of Florida Commercial Building Inspectors. With over two decades in the inspection industry, I’ve delivered thousands of commercial and residential inspections across various states. During all these years, I’ve developed detailed insights on the ins and outs of building inspections, something I look forward to sharing with you through my blogs.

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