What you need to know about home inspections.
The day of the home inspection comes with trepidation and fear. Those three to four hours can make or break a real estate transaction. Inspections are a time rancor can present itself between any of the parties involved, including principles, inspector, agents, and brokerages. So what is the unfiltered truth concerning home inspections?
The actual inspection report.
There is not a standard on the format of the actual report. Some have lots of photos, some a few, and then there are the reports without any photos at all. I hate those. If a picture is worth a thousand words, I surely do not want a report with thousands of words written. The report should represent all findings, good or bad. The report should provide the buyer with a good idea of the overall condition of the property. My long-time inspector would tell me, “I don’t find problems, I find deferred maintenance.”
Just who is this inspector?
Currently, inspectors are not licensed by the state but should have a certification from a reputable organization. Chances are they are not contractors, but may have been one previously. They are not a foundation, HVAC, roofing, electrical, or plumbing engineer. Nor are they building code enforcers. With that said they have been trained to know the building codes, current and past, and what constitutes systems that are in working order. If something appears amiss, the inspector will document and suggest that the proper expert is called in for further evaluation. What the inspector will not tell you is the foundation is good, bad or indifferent. They will report any unusual findings and suggest you call an engineer.
What the buyer should look for in the report.
The first issues to search for in the report are health and safety issues. Examples would be a plumbing leak, exposed electrical wires or pronounced stains in ceilings. If the home isn’t advertised as a “fixer,” nor the asking price reflects condition, I would advise the buyer to ask for repairs when it comes to these types of issues.
This stage in the purchasing process requires common sense. The sellers cannot be expected to provide the buyers with a “new” home. If that is the need, go to a new home community. There will be issues with the home that will require attention after possession. Asking for a remodel is not legit. It is reasonable to require that all systems be in working condition though not necessarily complying with the current building code. If the HVAC system is in good working condition but does not meet current state seer requirements, the seller should not be required to update. Buyers don’t ask. A mid-century home may have galvanized water pipes and installed to code at the time, don’t request the seller to replace with copper piping or PEX. A phrase I like to use is “don’t wear out the seller.”
Years ago a buyer client gave me 16 pages of repairs to be performed by the seller. After upsetting the seller and the listing agent, I asked him if he had second thoughts about purchasing the home, which he answered in the affirmative. We canceled the contract. A wasted exercise, but a lesson learned.
What the seller needs to understand.
First off, don’t try and hide something from the inspector. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen fresh paint over dry rot. If you know something is amiss, before you place a home on the market fix it or disclose before listing. I would be willing to bet that most sellers are aware of the warts as it pertains to their home’s condition. Take care of them or don’t be surprised if an inspector calls them out.
There is a chance that the buyer may be a first-time homebuyer and does not understand the whole maintenance issue of owning a home. So when you receive a repair request, don’t get upset, imagine yourself as a buyer. Then again, the opposite could be true, and the buyer is attempting to coerce the seller into repairs.
If the repair is a reasonable request, perform the repair or give credit for repairs after possession. If on the other hand, the repair is deemed to be unreasonable, say NO. If the buyer doesn’t agree the contract may cancel, so be aware.
Then there is the agent and their brokerages.
First off, when I represent a buyer, I do not like having the seller or their agent attending a buyer paid inspection. Far too often these folks will get into an argument with the inspector. If sellers want to control the inspection, then hire an inspector and perform a pre-listing inspection.
Let’s get real. A home inspection is one of the steps on this journey that will determine whether an agent and their brokerage will get compensated. They have a vested interest in the outcome; they should be pragmatic and not emotional. They have an understanding of what is reasonable to bring two competing parties into agreement. Inspection day is not the time for representatives to try and out-agent one another. The only score that matters is the transaction closes with each principal satisfied.