Why you need a home inspection in Costa Rica

February 11, 2016
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In many countries around the world, it is customary to have a home inspection in Costa Rica, conducted by a professional who has the training and the experience to perform such inspections. The home inspection report typically shows whether the house or condo you are buying has any hidden defects and whether the construction complies with construction codes and permits. The buyer uses this knowledge to make an informed decision on the real estate purchase.

I’m pretty sure it hasn’t even crossed the mind of many home and condo buyers to hire a home inspector, because a home inspection in Costa Rica is not customary, unless you use a real estate agent who works with the North American market. Agents who recommended using a home inspector were rare 20 years ago, because they were afraid to lose the buyer if there was something wrong with the house. Now, agents understand that the recommendation actually fortifies the relationship with the buyer.

When you purchase a used car, you make sure your trusted mechanic checks it out before you pay the seller, don’t you? Why wouldn’t you do it when you buy a property which is probably many times the value of your car?

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Do Costa Ricans hire a home inspector?

Most Costa Ricans will NOT hire a home inspector before they buy a home in Costa Rica, because it is not customary. And few sellers are interested in getting a home inspection done before they offer their property for sale. Therefore, if the buyer needs financing and the bank’s appraiser will also do a home inspection, which some banks do, problems will arise as soon as the report is sent to the bank.

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Who usually does a home inspection?

In Costa Rica, we don’t have licensed home inspectors. It’s a shame that the Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y Arquitectos (Professional Association of Engineers and Architects) has not yet created a career in home inspections, in spite of all the construction going on in Costa Rica.

In the U.S. for example, in 39 out of 50 states, home inspectors have to be licensed experts in electrical, plumbing, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), structure, roof, exteriors, interiors, appliances, pools, codes of ethics, marketing, standards of practice, report writing, risk management, business management, environmental factors, and infrared and energy management.

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Who can do your home inspection?

I’m sure you all have an uncle, a neighbor or a friend of a distant cousin who is a civil engineer, an electrical engineer or worked for a construction company 20 years ago. You might think they can do a great home inspection in Costa Rica but they cannot. While they might have some experience in construction, that doesn’t mean they can do a serious home inspection for  you.Home inspectors are not licensed in Costa Rica, but those who advertise can be found on Google, are a good start for your due diligence to see if they have the knowledge to pinpoint all the details that are important in a home inspection.

Who is responsible for the repairs?

When you negotiate the purchase of the house with the seller (or your real estate agent does), you should make the purchase subject to a home inspection in Costa Rica. This is not regulated by law in Costa Rica as it is in some other countries where a title company will not allow for closing until all the repairs are done and thoroughly checked.

My standard offers state the following: “This purchase is subject to a home inspection, paid for by the BUYER within two weeks of the offer. Only structural damages, septic, drainage or roof problems will give the BUYER the option to default. Minor damages will be accepted by BUYER.”

Without doing a home inspection, you will not only have to pay for the repairs yourself, you will have moved in already before you find out what needs to be repaired.

By having the repairs done yourself, you know for sure that the repairs will be done right, unless you want the home inspector to go back through to check on the repairs.

Ivo Henfling, a Dutch expat who has lived in Costa Rica since 1980, founded the American-European Real Estate Group for your Costa Rica real estate back in 1999 which was the first functioning MLS with affiliate agents from coast to coast. You can contact Ivo at (506) 2289-5125 / 8834-4515 or at ivo@american-european.net

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