Diferentiating between "Outbuilding" and "Additional Unit/Inspection"

I’m curious where other people think the line is between a building being considered an “Outbuilding” vs. “another home” to inspect.

It’s common for older homes in Austin to have a back-house kind of structure. Some of them are essentially insulated garages with a foundation, electric and a small HVAC system.Something like that is easy to add-on with the “Optional - Outbuilding” section of the promulgated form we have to use in Texas.

But other times they are more like a detached apartment unit with the whole 9 yards - kitchen appliances, bathrooms, water heater, hvac, attic, etc. Sometimes it feels like the client is getting a great deal to add that on for an extra $100 or whatever.

(Related side question I just thought of - at what point does a garage, when being renovated/updated, become considered “livable space” and part of the square footage of the property?)

Even if the additional building is considered “livable space” and part of the square footage that we provide a cost for, square footage doesnt seem to directly translate into the amount of work I have to do. For example, inspecting two 1500 sq. ft. homes seems to be far more work than inspecting one 3000 sq ft home.

Additionally, It becomes really hard to list everything I find throughout the additional building (electric, appliances,HVAC,plumbing, roof,etc) in the one “Outbuilding” section. Writing a report for essentially two buildings in one becomes very tedious and time consuming.

On the other hand, sometimes the additional building really isnt much more work, even with all the usual components of a home.

Is there a line where you guys say, after arriving to the property, “ehh, sorry Mr.Bob, this additional building is considered a whole other home and I have to charge you more than I expected to inspect it”

If it’s an entirely separate, self-contained housing unit, with every system concern that the primary has, I would guess it should be billed as a separate home, and be charged accordingly. The listing likely describes the main unit at that address, so they “get away with” having the second in the contract.

But if there are two distinct structures, both self contained, (even if the second is on a sub panel setup, sharing a well, septic…), I see a fee for the second due to the amount of work and liability involved. Your time is valuable, and shouldn’t be subject to discount because two homes share an address.

My 2.5 cents’ worth….

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I always communicate with my customer prior to the inspection. Part of that conversation includes detached structures.

I’m not in Texas, but here in GA they are excluded in my agreement and can be added in at a cost.


I do the same as Brian. They are also excluded here in Ohio unless they are a detached garage or carport., but in my rural area we have a lot of outbuildings/additional structures. Many with electric, heat, water etc. They are always a good source of extra revenue.
That is why communication with the customer prior to the inspection as well as your own investigation of the property is important.


I did the same on the appointment sheet during the phone all.


Separate Buildings
• Detached Building - $75 (no mechanicals)
• Detached Building - $100 (w/electric and/or water - No HVAC)
• Detached Building - $150 (w/ALL mechanicals Plus HVAC)
• Detached Building - $200 (w/ALL mechanicals and Apt)
• Guest House Under 1,000sf - $250 (if over 1,000 / call to quote)


First you are only required by the rules to inspect the main structure and the grounds surrounding it for grading/drainage issues (Rule 535.227(d)(1)(C) Detached Buildings). Having said that you do run into a liability gray area if the detached structure is fed (supplied by) the main structure with its basic utilities. One good example is how would you handle the situation where the electrical feed is underground, the origination point can be seen as well as the termination point (if you inspected it) and the cabling/conduit is improper? Many other issues like this can exist.

If you choose to inspect the “detached structure” TREC does not make it clear where you place the results and yes placing it in Section VI. C. Outbuildings is a complete PITA!! What you can do though is in that section place a notice/advisory that the structure was inspected and all facets reported on in the individual sections in sections I. - V. as appropriate. In each of these sections you can either extend the form with additional and duplicate subsections with an appropriate header indicating it is for the outbuilding or within the original section use a distinctive header to do the same. In other words as an example to expand it you can recreate Sections I. A. through I. L. (when you reach I. Z. your next is I. AA.) with duplicate headings and an addition indicating it is the outbuilding. In the second option you can just use a division in each original subsection possibly titled “Main Structure” and “Outbuilding” (or other term) and place all issues for each under their sub-headings.

One other reporting option is a complete different form for the outbuilding essentially creating two reports.

With reference to when the garage becomes “livable space” (A.K.A. conditioned space) that “officially” falls into that category when it has been properly permitted. Otherwise for our tax role system it is not considered “livable space” and is instead still on the books as a garage. For our purposes in inspecting if it is part of the main structure it is reported on as it is built/renovated/exists. It falls under all the original REI 7-5 (soon to be 7-6) categories.

With regards to your question of what to do when arriving on site and finding it is completely livable and how to charge? Completely up to you and comes into play with how you charge for inspections. First you should be looking at the property information that will tell you that “outbuilding” is actually a livable space. If it was properly permitted it will show in the CAD Tax Role data with sufficient markings to indicate that. Next if it is an MLS listed home that will tell you as well since even if it was unpermitted owners like to use it as a selling point. If you suspect it is livable and the CAD or MLS is not showing it just Google the address and it is amazing the information you can find there.

To be safe you can just use a simple formula of calculating your fee based on the entire square footage of what is on the property and treat it all as space with utilities of one form or another. Or you can advise the client you do not inspect outbuildings of any type and ensure it is in your contract.

Lastly if you indicated to the client that you do or will inspect the outbuilding and did not do your research or fee calculations to account for this situation then you bite the bullet and inspect it at the fee you quoted. I can tell you that if a service person or contractor tried to up their fee at the last minute to account for their improper estimates I would throw them off my property/fire them without thinking twice!

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Thanks for all the input!

Yea, i dont mind at all inspecting them. just wondering pricing.

seems like a fair pricing schedule, thanks. ill keep that in mind.

yea, that’s actually what I do in some cases.

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