Sunday, December 18, 2016

Waive the Inspection? Not So Fast...

"Honey, I've got a friend that knows a lot about houses..." 

"Let's get him to come look this house over and we can save the cost of a Professional Inspector. We can pay my friend in pizza and beer!"

Sounds good, right? We all like to save where we can. But getting a Cheap Home Inspection can be the most expensive purchase you make - or worse.

Last week I inspected a home for a young couple and it turned out well.  I didn't find anything of note to be alarmed about.  Newer water heater, well maintained furnace, a roof that was less than a year old - this was a perfect starter home. As part of my inspection services, I always walk my clients through their homes and teach them how to take care of the various systems so that they can save money down the road through preventative maintenance.  I show them what I look for in my inspection, so they can be on the lookout in the future and head off issues before they become serious problems. This alone is a good value that you will receive from hiring a good home inspector.

I was thrilled when I got a call the next day from my client's mother, who was buying a home as well (the whole family was relocating from California). She initially had waived her inspection (at the advice of her Realtor!), but she told me that her daughter had such a good experience with me that she thought she'd benefit from what I could teach her about her new home.

Similar scenario.  The home looked well maintained.  A recently cleaned furnace, a new kitchen remodel, a newer roof - all things that show well and give confidence to a buyer.  But what I found still gives me nightmares.

This is the exhaust from the furnace.  It had become separated and deadly Carbon Monoxide laden gas was being pumped into the crawl space.  No CO detectors in the home.  Imagine moving into your new home, turning up the furnace and going to bed after a long day of moving in - only to never wake up.  Unbelievable scenario? It could have been all too real.  If there were any survivors, they could spend the rest of their heartbroken lives suing the Realtor for negligence in their advice to forego the inspection. 

Secondly, I discovered this - way back in the crawl space.  Not deadly, but left undiscovered it could have resulted in thousands of dollars in flood damage.

The Sellers disclosed that they had a new water line brought in from the street.  Good, right?  But the new copper was attached to the 50 year-old galvanized water lines, and in many places they were so corroded that they could have literally burst just by looking at them too hard.

I'm not going to go over the other 40 pages of discovery in my report, but let's just say that it contained a wealth of information that any homebuyer would want to know, regardless of whether or not it would have raised an inspection objection at the closing.

So next time you are tempted to save $400 by forgoing an inspection - think twice.  Even if there are no problems to be discovered, the value of the walkthrough with your inspector and the peace of mind of knowing the condition of your new home are worth the minimal investment in a Professional Inspection, don't you think?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Hammer Treats Every Problem as a Nail

Who is the Best Home Inspector for You?

I performed a condo inspection that was attended by the client's Realtor (the client was not present). I asked if he had any more sales coming up (I was fishing for more referrals). He told me that he only had houses - not condos, and that he always referred an Inspector who was also a Structural Engineer to inspect houses. He went on to explain that when inspecting "he doesn't charge for being an Engineer unless he finds a structural problem. Then he'll contract the client for his engineering services."

Then he tells me "I've got a few homes right now with structural issues…"

But several homes – all with structural issues?

I’m not here to deride his Inspector / Engineer, but the Realtor’s last comment about having a few homes with structural issues – all “discovered” by this Inspector – leaves me wondering. Out of the last 150 homes I’ve inspected, maybe five have had structural issues. Some were obvious, like a concrete porch pulling away from the main house. Some less so, for instance a crack in a foundation that had been “repaired” with caulk and the crack appeared to be still enlarging. In my report, I noted the appropriate action to be taken (call a concrete contractor for the former and consult with a Structural Engineer for the latter).

Let’s compare it to a different scenario. Let's say the Inspector also was a licensed HVAC tech. That’s fine and good – most Inspectors have some sort of construction background. But wouldn’t it raise your eyebrows if a large percentage of the homes he inspected were determined to have defective furnaces and the Inspector offered (for an extra fee) to fix or replace the furnace?

Home Inspectors are Generalists. We are trained to look at your home as a system. We note problems as we see them. We know where to look for trouble spots in all the systems of your home. When we see an issue with a specialized system, our report often advises calling in a specialist. We discover and advise – and we adhere to a strict Code of Ethics so that there is no chance there could be – or appear to be – a conflict of interest between what we discover in our inspections and our ability to repair them for profit.

Having an Inspector with specialized skills can be a plus, but keep in mind the old saying: "A hammer treats every problem as a nail". Make sure that he or she is also a Certified Professional Inspector. The best skill your Inspector can have is an ability to accurately and objectively communicate to you and your Realtor the condition of the home you are about to purchase. A Certified Professional Inspector is trained to look at your home as a system and to give you an unbiased and objective analysis of your home that you and your Realtor can use to negotiate the final cost of your investment. So be very skeptical of any problems "discovered" by your Inspector that he or she offers, for a fee, to fix.

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