Any respectable Realtor would advise their buyer to have a home inspection conducted. If you are making an offer on a waterfront property, the right is yours to waive. Yet inspection fees are extremely reasonable when compared to the costs of dock repairs.
We have worked with real estate agents who recommend their sellers have a pre-market inspection conducted before listing their property for sale. It is one of the best preemptive strikes one can take. Even if you have kept up on all preventative maintenance, who knows what evils lurk? Some problems have already become expensive to resolve by the time they make themselves apparent. Having a professional inspect the premises provides an opportunity to remedy issues and be ready to square off against the prospective buyer’s home inspector!
So back to the dock in question. Marine structures by virtue of the environment in which they live are subjected to the worst possible circumstances:
- Undermining caused by natural erosion
- Hydrostatic Pressures
- Poor Drainage
- Soil pH Balance
- Wood Boring Insects
- Wear and Tear Suffered During Hurricane Season
- Inadequate Original Installation
- Corrosion from Water and Sand
- Rot and General Deterioration
Home Inspectors vs. Marine Inspectors
Are there home inspectors who can identify possible issues? Yes. Should you instead consult with a Florida dock design and construction specialist? Absolutely. That statement is not to disparage the integrity and knowledge of a home inspector certified by ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors). They are qualified in residential HVAC systems and foundations. When you accompany a home inspector on their assessment of the property you are to buy, you will likely learn more about the home than the present homeowner does.
But marine structures are a different animal. You wouldn’t necessarily have your home inspector check out the clunking sound your car just starting making. If they are not licensed or have the expertise to construct seawalls, docks, or decks, I would not recommend they inspect marine structures.
No attempt here to cast gloom and doom. If you plan on investing in waterfront real estate, you cannot start life there behind the eight ball. Many of Florida’s coastal enclaves are older, and the dock you are about to purchase with the rest of the property may be almost at the point where it could be in need of major reconstruction.
So if you are considering the property for purchase, take the proactive stance and have every aspect of those existing marine structures inspected. From the pilings, to the decking, to the pile caps, to the bolts and fasteners; and for the entire structure: on the surface, at the waterline, and even beneath the surface. You need to know if your dock is sturdy enough to be safe to use, as well as its chances of weathering future storms and the recommendations for near and long-term maintenance.
These are the answers you need when you are negotiating price and repairs during the inspection phase of your real estate contract. An uninformed buyer will pay dearly.