Costa Rica Coffee Guide

Home Inspectors Help Guarantee Quality

October 7, 2005

WHEN making a big investment in buying or building a home, you should make sure you’re getting exactly what you want for your money. Building inspectors can help put your mind at ease by going over a house with a fine-tooth comb to make sure each nut and bolt is in place. Aside from giving you peace of mind, hiring an inspector can prevent expensive and time-consuming problems in the future.Many inspectors are architects or engineers who are very familiar with Costa Rican building codes and good architectural practices. Inspectors and architects in the country can register in the Federated Association of Engineers and Architects, a professional organization that sets standards within the building industry. When hiring an inspector, check to see that he or she is a member of this organization.INSPECTOR and architect Angela Jiménez offers inspection services for both potential buyers of existing houses and builders of new houses.When inspecting a building project, she works with her team of civil engineers to visit the site on a weekly basis throughout the process. She begins by reviewing both building plans and the permit each home builder must obtain from the municipality in which the lot is located. Failing to adhere to standards established by the municipality, which include zoning regulations dictating how far the house must be located from the street and standards for the design of the house, can result in fines, Jiménez explained.During visits to the building site, inspectors check to make sure the right materials are being used and plans are carried out correctly.Jiménez said one of the most common mistakes she finds during inspections is incorrectly mixed cement, which can later result in a house’s foundation sliding or major damage in the event of an earthquake. She also checks to see that electricity is wired correctly. For inspection of a building project, Jiménez charges in increments during different phases. A total of 10.5% of the house’s value is charged in installments of 1.5% during pre-project design, 4% during planning and 5% during the building process.Jiménez’s clients also include potential buyers who want inspection of a house on the market before closing the deal. She checks out the quality of the concrete foundation, pipes, drains, septic tanks and electrical wiring to give customers a diagnostic of the overall condition of the house. Prices for this service range according to the size of the house, beginning at $125 for homes in the San José area.To contact Jiménez, call 289-4645 or 382-0970 or e-mail angela@orbitcostarica.com.UNIKA is a company made up of engineers and architects who perform inspections of building projects and existing houses.Acting as the “right hand of the client,” Unika specializes in supervising home construction for foreigners who are outside of Costa Rica while their home is being built, said architect Cristián Palomo. Foreigners are often unfamiliar with the market here, and may not know whom to trust, Palomo explained. Unika can recommend reliable builders and send reports and photos of the house in progress to clients during the building process to keep them informed.To ensure quality construction, inspectors visit the site weekly to make sure the project is progressing on schedule and that the correct materials and procedures are being used.Unika’s building inspection services cost 10-15% of the house’s value.INSPECTION of homes for sale is another service performed by Unika’s engineers and architects.According to Palomo, an expert eye can detect many problems, such as poorly placed cement blocks and bricks and less than-adequate quality of paint, tile and overall finish of construction work.Other problems may require more prying by inspectors to uncover. For example, checking proper functioning of pipes and tubes is important, especially in houses that haven’t been lived in for a long period of time.If inspectors feel there may be problems with a house’s foundation, more extensive examinations may be necessary.This can require removing layers of flooring to get to the foundation. However, it’s rare that such extensive work is required, Palomo said.Potential buyers can ask to see a copy of the house’s plans, which owners should be able to provide. With these plans, inspectors can make sure all construction was carried out as intended.Inspection of a house costs about 1.5% of the house’s value.To contact Unika, call 233-3289, ext. 124, or e-mail consultas@unika.co.cr.

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