Living through hot and humid Louisiana summers, the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) unit is one of the most vital systems in a home. Everyone knows that if your cooling system goes down, it will lead to a tough day and a sleepless night.

As a home inspector and licensed residential builder, I bring a unique perspective to repairs or replacements of HVAC systems. In new construction projects, it is imperative to work with a quality HVAC professional to locate the exterior condenser unit, size the HVAC system accurately, distribute the ductwork, and locate the conditioned air registers in each room. As a home inspector, I see improper installations too often considering it’s usually one of the most expensive items in the home. During most home inspections, these units are near the end of their service life, so a system replacement is a common recommendation to the prospective home buyer/owner.

As a homeowner, when you find that it’s time to replace your HVAC system, I recommend you start by hiring a home inspector with advanced qualifications in HVAC to be an impartial advisor on how best to proceed.  For example, I recently consulted a homeowner who purchased a brand-new HVAC system but was frustrated because the house felt no cooler than the old system she replaced.  After inspecting the system and using infrared technology I quickly determined that the cause of her issues was primarily due to minimal attic insulation. Because the HVAC unit is just one variable in the home system, there could be several reasons why the home isn’t cooling properly. As a trusted advisor, home inspectors are not trying to sell you a system – our goal is to make sure the system works for the house and you. We are here to help you understand all the factors involved in performance and system longevity so the homeowner can make the most informed decision possible. With rising equipment and fuel costs, it’s more important than ever to have a clear understanding of your home’s condition before making any large HVAC purchases.

Home inspectors will inspect the existing house and, if necessary, talk you through brand, company, and cost decisions. We can assess if the original system is over or undersized, if the ductwork is old and leaking, if the refrigerant lines are insulated, the number and quality of windows and doors in the home, and the attic insulation. These factors and more are all vital in delivering high-quality conditioned air to the home at a reduced energy cost. 

HVAC systems are complex pieces of equipment and are constantly evolving. The sheer quantity and options on the marketplace can be overwhelming for the average homeowner. Relying on a friend’s recommendation or Google reviews is only one way of narrowing the field. Keep in mind that a specific type and size of one system in a home may not be the best choice for your home. A qualified, certified home inspector with HVAC experience can not only evaluate the type of systems being proposed but help ensure that all the minor details are specified and optimized for the maximum return on your hard-earned investment.

Real estate disclosure laws became standard practice for most states over the last thirty years. These laws are designed to protect unsuspecting home buyers from unseen past or current issues that may reduce the value of the home. For example, sellers that are aware of termite or water damage must disclose that information to give the buyer an accurate account of the major items that, despite repair, may affect the value of the home.

While real estate disclosure laws are great in practice, not all disclosures are created equal: here’s what every home buyer (and seller!) should know about real estate disclosures.

The “Good” about real estate disclosures is that, when done correctly, they give a seller the chance to document any issues before selling to protect against potential future lawsuits. If problems in a home are disclosed and handled properly, it will assist them, or the buyers determine the cost to replace or repair them.

The “Bad” in real estate disclosure refers to severe, costly, and material issues for a buyer to win a lawsuit. There are two categories these issues can fall into: A “patent” defect is clearly visible during the inspection, one that is “well-known” or seen by the untrained eye. A “latent” defect, on the other hand, is hidden or concealed; these may be defects the buyer or seller would not reasonably discover. Latent defects are not visible and are excluded from the errors and omissions insurance provided by home inspection companies.

The “Not Known” on real estate disclosures is the most concerning. Many honest sellers do not know about issues regarding their homes, don’t know of the defects found by inspectors, and aren’t familiar with proper construction and repair techniques. I found a common theme in my research: real estate disclosure lawsuits are time-consuming, stressful, and expensive processes. As the plaintiff, you must prove that the seller knew of the issue and intentionally failed to disclose it. And even if you win the lawsuit, the defendant may be unable to pay the judgment.

Hiring a qualified, licensed, and certified home inspector to inspect a home before the final sale is the best way for a buyer to protect themselves. Home inspectors are trained to spot known patent defects and conditions that may lead to latent defects. Possible hazards like improperly installed or missing roof flashings that allow moisture in, causing wood rot, decay, or a wood-destroying insect infestation could all be identified. This is just one of many ways that a good home inspector can give buyers a clear picture of the home’s condition and help them make an informed and safer decision.

According to a 2021 survey reported by HomeAdvisor, an average home inspection costs just $340, which I consider to be money well spent for the most important purchase for your family, both in regard to safety and asset protection.

Although home inspections are a normal step in the home buying process, most home buyers are not completely clear on why home inspectors are hired in the first place. From the buyer’s perspective, an inspection provides an unbiased overview of the existing condition of the home and can catch dangerous hazards, major deficiencies and any other items that could result in hidden costs or decreased value of the home after the sale. Without an inspection, the buyer can only rely on their own tour of the home and the accuracy of the real estate disclosure, a lengthy document provided by the seller, who may not have knowledge of any underlying issues. A common response on disclosures is “not known” or “NK” but this can be problematic for obvious reasons. Oftentimes, sellers are hesitant to list defects in their home or highlight any prior issues for fear of losing a deal or settling for a lower price. Outside of potentially costly repairs, the primary responsibility of the home inspector is to find hazards that could harm or injure occupants of the home.

Additionally, a home inspection supplies a written record of the patent defects in the house. Simply put, a patent defect is something that a skilled third party like an architect, engineer, or home inspector would find upon close inspection of the property. If the buyer is unaware of deficiencies, after closing they assume responsibility for the condition of the home as is regardless of needed repairs, so the inspection provides a chance to negotiate value based on the report. If a home inspection is waived, any major material defects could lead to massive repair bills for the new home buyer to correct. If the inspector makes a mistake and misses any major deficiencies, the buyer is usually covered through the inspector’s errors and omissions insurance policy. Without this safety net, the new home buyer must either pay out of pocket or sue the seller, resulting in a potentially lengthy lawsuit to prove that the real estate disclosure was deliberately misleading or fraudulent.

Overall, a home inspection can be a lifesaver, both literally and financially, so do not skip it to save a few dollars!