So you just had a home inspection. Hopefully it went well for you and there are no “deal-breakers”. But let’s be honest – there is probably no such thing as a perfect home inspection.
Regardless of how good your inspector is, there are far too many factors that can affect how the inspection goes. The weather, utilities not all on, buyer and family members present, furnishings and personal belongings obstructing inspector’s view – well, you get the idea.
The images above are three of the many electrical deficiencies I encountered during home inspections.
(Left image) The first is of an exposed wiring connection under a kitchen sink. Yes, the wires were “hot”; that is, they were energized. If a wire nut was loose or came loose, it could have deadly consequences.
(Center image) The second is something I saw all too often – no cover on the receptacle for the burglar alarm. I reported it every time. I wonder how many people actually had this corrected. “Well, that’s just how they do it.” That’s right, and it’s wrong. It could be DEAD WRONG. This is nothing more than the technician not doing his job.
(Right image) The third was at a newly-built home. The red light on the tester indicates the wire was “hot”. All that was needed was either a receptacle with the appropriate cover plate, or a solid cover plate to close the wires in. Either one is a simple fix, but left undone it is a possible shock/electrocution hazard.
Read Your Report – Cover to Cover
I suspect that very few people read their inspection reports completely. I base this on experience from questions I’ve been asked by clients who, had they read their reports, would not have had to ask the questions. Please don’t misunderstand – I did not mind being asked the questions, especially if the client needed clarification. I’m simply saying that your inspection report is full of information. I also believe very few people took the time to read the pre-inspection agreement I sent them to sign. All too often I received the signed agreement within minutes of having sent it.
So please read your pre-inspection agreement and inspection report carefully. Don’t just look at the pictures. What should you look for? Everything! Read everything.
Deficient: this is the term used in Texas reports meaning a particular item was not functioning as intended at the time of the inspection. It could also mean it was broken – it didn’t work at all. Remember, though, no inspector can predict the future. Something can work perfectly on the day of the inspection and go bad the next day or week or month.
Repair or Replace (RR): this is the term used in some states’ reports meaning the item was not functioning as intended at the time of the inspection. It could also mean it was broken – it didn’t work at all.
Disclaimers: a disclaimer is the inspector’s way of letting you know he does not, did not, or could not inspect something. The inspector should also give a reason and, depending on the item, a recommendation to have it inspected prior to closing. An example would be a workbench blocking the electric service panel. You should have the service panel inspected after the seller moves the workbench and before the end of your option period. If you fail to do so, any existing problems, known or unknown, will belong to you the moment you close.
Note, Notice, Information: often used interchangeably, these terms speak for themselves. But don’t skim over them. The statement is there for a reason. Learn all you can during your home inspection process. If you’re only concerned with items that are reported as being deficient (in need of repair or replacement), you could miss something.
An inspector is not required to move anything during his inspection. I moved things up to a point, but I did not move a pile of clothes out of a closet in order to inspect the wall and floor. Nor did I move a motorcycle so I could inspect the electric service panel.
Again, be sure to read your report in its entirety to learn what your inspector may not have been able to inspect. Depending on the situation, you may want to ask your Realtor to request a longer option period so you can have the inspector return, complete the inspection, and amend the report. Maybe the seller will pay the inspector’s return visit fee.
All Sellers Are Honest – Aren’t They?
Let’s just say that most sellers are honest. There are many components to a home, and most homeowners don’t keep up with everything. In my own home I recently discovered water damage in two separate areas – one was hidden by curtains and a baby crib (we babysit our grandchildren), and the other was hidden by “stuff” stacked high on a closet shelf.
If I had been selling my home, unaware of the two water-damaged areas, and the buyer’s inspector came and didn’t move anything, neither of the two areas would have been reported. This would be a good time for me to remind you to be very thorough on your final walk-through prior to closing, when the home is totally vacant. Take a good flashlight with you, eliminate all distractions, and let your Realtor know if you find anything that concerns you.
Home Inspectors Are Professionals – Right?
For five years I was licensed by the Texas Real Estate Commission. I completed all the necessary training, and my title was Professional Real Estate Inspector – more commonly called a home inspector. Did having the license make me a professional, a good inspector? Not necessarily.
What made me a good inspector was my training along with my desire to continue learning by taking more training than was required; asking veteran inspectors questions; reading the many forums from other inspectors; being very methodical in all my inspections; and treating my clients, the sellers and their Realtors with respect.
I always blocked four hours for each inspection, longer if it was a large house and/or it had a swimming pool. Some inspectors told me they do their inspections in less than two hours. I tried “speeding up” my inspections, but just couldn’t do it without compromising the integrity of my work.
My clients did not always attend the inspection, though I encouraged them to be present. I wanted them to see first-hand what I was seeing. Seeing something in the report on a computer screen or cell phone screen just isn’t the same as being there.
Hopefully you were allowed to be present during your inspection. If you chose not to be or if the inspector didn’t allow you to be, and you haven’t closed on your home yet, consider asking your Realtor to set another time for you to view the home. Take your printed inspection report with you and look at what your inspector reported. Also, try to look at what he could not see during his initial inspection.
3 Hours Go By Quickly
Having a home inspection is usually a rather tense time for the seller. It was important for me to do a good job for my client, the buyer, but I also had to be cognizant of the fact that often times the seller was waiting for me to finish so he could come back home.
As I noted above, there are factors that can hinder a thorough inspection:
- weather: rain, snow, ice can affect not only the inspector’s safety but also his visibility; sun glare can also make it difficult to see
- utilities not all on: many things in a home require water and/or electricity and/or gas to be on
- buyer and family members present: I liked for my client to be present, but no on else; too distracting
- furnishings and personal belongings obstructing inspector’s view: as mentioned above, not all things are readily accessible for inspection; for liability reasons and for his own personal safety, the inspector is not required to move anything.
It is not the inspector’s job to report normal wear and tear unless it affects the operation of the item. For example, a dishwasher button is so badly worn the unit won’t run when you press the button, or it is so worn you can’t tell which button to press to start it.
It is not the inspector’s job to report cosmetic issues – which are often the result of normal wear and tear – unless the issue in question is the result of a deficiency. A water stain on the ceiling, for example, can be painted, but the underlying cause would need to be determined – a plumbing leak, a roof leak, or maybe the HVAC unit or safety pan under it is leaking.
It is the inspector’s job, in Texas anyway, to inspect all readily accessible doors, windows, receptacles, light switches, faucets, drains, and so on. Things that are accessible are not readily accessible if something has to be moved to get at it. An example is an unsafe attic floor that prevents safe access to the furnace.
Fix It Now – Or Pay Dearly Later
It is not my position to tell you how to proceed once you’ve received your inspection report, assuming you haven’t closed on the home yet. That’s between you and your Realtor. I do, however, want to encourage you to have all safety problems fixed. If the seller pays to have everything fixed, great. If not and you still buy the home, I highly recommend that you have all hazards properly repaired or replaced as soon as you close on the home.
I realize it will take time – maybe a few weeks or so, but don’t delay. Make a list an methodically get things done. It’s way too easy to put things off. Things don’t generally fix themselves – no, they usually get worse. Some things might not start out being a safety concern, but can become one if ignored.
Wait! What About Those Minor Safety Issues?
For liability reasons I must tell you there is no such thing as a “minor” safety issue. For ethical reasons I must recommend you repair even the most seemingly unimportant thing. I would feel terrible and would probably be responsible if I were to tell you a particular hazard was “nothing to worry about”, and then something bad were to happen to you or anyone else.
For example, in some cities it was common to see cracks in the sidewalks and driveways. OK, so does that mean I don’t need to report it as a safety concern? What about the elderly, the disabled, the mailman, to name a few? Just because something seems OK or is common to a particular locale doesn’t make it any less hazardous. A safety issue needs to be reported and fixed.
Not long ago my four-year-old granddaughter slithered under a recliner type chair and couldn’t figure out how to back out from under it. She was one scared little girl. I tilted the chair so she could crawl out. Once she was free, I set the chair down and picked her up to comfort her. She clung to me so tightly (I hated that it happened but I enjoyed holding her and comforting her).
Can you image how scared a child would be getting his head stuck between the spindles of a hand rail? Or worse, how horrible for the parents if the child were to die? What is the likelihood of this sort of thing happening? I don’t know, but let’s make sure it doesn’t happen to one of your children or grandchildren or nieces or nephews.
My intent in this article is to impress upon you the importance of making sure your home is as free as possible from any defects that could cause harm to you, your family, or anyone who visits your home. There is much involved in buying a home, so whether you’ve already closed on your home or are about to, I trust you will find this article helpful.
As always, please post any questions or comments below. I will answer them as soon as possible. If you have an experience you would like to share that would be helpful to others, please do so but refrain from using specific names of people or companies unless it’s in a positive light.