No house is perfect
This is what every real estate agent and in some cases even the inspector will both tell you before during and after the home inspection. And you know what…? They are right, no house is perfect. Wow…Did that actually make it’s way out of my mouth? Yup, and before you fall down in amazement that I actually agree with both the home inspector and a real estate agent, understand that construction is never perfect and this must be fully acknowledged before you proceed to spend any money on an inspection. That way you the buyer are not under any illusion that the inspection go as smooth as a peach and won’t be disappointed when you get your report.
Because construction is not perfect therefore the house you’re trying to by in it’s present condition is likely also not perfect. Now, the degree of imperfection will largely depend on the inspector you choose. What the inspector finds and discovers depends largely on the inspectors knowledge base, experience and equipment. The inspector you choose must have (IMO) inspected no less than 5,000 houses, be a general contractor and possess equipment such as moisture meters, an infrared camera, multi meter, drone etc… just to name a few. You will get only one shot at this so choose your inspector wisely and whatever you do, NEVER go off of the agents list unless of course you have thoroughly vetted the inspectors on such a list.
What to expect on your inspection
Providing you hired an inspector who is on your side as opposed to working for agents, expect the inspector to spend at least a few hours at the property with a house thats over 1200 square feet. Obviously, the more house the more time spent. Depending on the inspectors routine, he may start with the exterior first and work his way to the interior of the building. He should be taking photographs along the way of items that are both superficial and items of more importance.The inspector must be a master of all building trades in order to properly diagnose issues and prioritize them according to their significance. If an inspector doesn’t know how a component is supposed to be or perform, he will not know if its wrong either.
Code or no Code
Does the inspector you plan to use building code as a baseline to establish whether systems are built to a (correct) standard or does the inspector stick to his SOPs and inspect your house half blindfolded?
There are National organizations that possess SOPs which actually limit the inspectors ability (in the form of “the inspector is not required to _____”) to inspect according to building specific standards, codes and / or regulations so I say to them, if an inspector cannot inspect according to a code or standard, what then should he inspect to or by? I mean if there is no standard to compare a component to, how then is the inspector supposed to determine whether the component is in compliance or not? Are the national organizations suggesting that the inspector just “take a stab at it and guess”? This blows me away whenever I read this stuff. Make sure that your inspector is smart enough to realize that there are times where the inspector must know building code, which is like 90% of the inspection. The other 10% is made up of standards set by manufacturers of components in which case, an inspector may actually have to do some research of that manufacturer to locate their specifications, and after which apply it to their specific situation, component or system.
NEW construction vs. OLD construction
Much to the surprise of most home buyers, new construction is not necessarily easier to inspect than older construction. That said, however, what does make the difference is that the new house is inspected with a completely different code and standard as compared to the older house therefore your inspector should be familiar with both newer code as well as old building code. Additionally, with older homes there tends to be a lot more on the exterior side of the house to have to sift through. Added irrigation, added electrical, pools, patio covers, decks etc… this stuff takes time to go through and document. As does the fact that older homes have more of an opportunity to have had modifications, additions performed all of which must be evaluated which takes time. If you are lucky enough to have an older house which has had substandard construction performed on it for example, a room addition, then you win the prize of possibly having a secondary inspection by an individual who can spend an unlimited amount of time at the property dissecting the work, writing their report and providing an estimate if necessary, for improvement. And you the buyer will likely pay for this service.
While were on the topic of secondary inspections, with older houses the buyer should go into the transaction expecting to have secondary inspections by specific contractors. For example, here in Hollywood California, our buyers will get a termite inspection, a Geo inspection, a structural inspection, a chimney inspection, a sewer inspection, mold, radon, roof, asbestos, swimming pool and God forbid its an estate. Then you get aquarium inspections, elevator inspections, electrical inspections, HVAC inspections… it really is endless. The most money I’ve seen spent on inspections topped $17,000, and they didn’t even buy the house.
What a big deal
So what exactly is a big deal? Whatever you do, don’t ask your agent. You won’t like what they’ll have to say, trust me. The term “big deal” is subjective because it can mean many different things to many different people. Take me for example, a big deal to me is a house that has a bedroom without egress (means of escape in case of fire). Others will say that a open junction box is a big deal or depending on the inspector, he may make a huge deal over a cracked truss. There is also the inexperienced home inspector who has never picked up a hammer and only learned what he knows from a book or on line course and really doesn’t know what is a big deal or not. I feel that the term big deal is played out mainly from real estate agent misuse.
What is or isn’t a big deal should ultimately be decided by the home buyer because really, its their money. I believe the home inspector has an obligation to disclose everything he can possibly find within a building and upon writing the report, place items in a summary (if he uses a summary) according their significance for example, safety first then cost. Another example if I may would be if you have a wrought iron fence that is 200′ long and its totally rusted out and the cost of replacement is $20,000, isn’t that a “big deal”. A safety issue it is not, but I submit to you the cost of repair for many people can be much more than expected or even feasible. Now that same fence if it surrounds a pool is now both a safety issues as well as a cost of replacement issue for the buyer. Not to mention that little ones can cut themselves on the rusted out fence whereby the buyer would have expected that to be in the summary. So if the inspector uses good judgment and discloses the issues accordingly, and the buyer reads the entire report without any
assistance interference from their agent, the buyer should be able to make a sound informed decision.
So now you have the report, you’ve hopefully read the entire document you’re now ready to do one of a few things.
- Walk from the property
- Accept is as it is
- Ask for concessions
- Ask for repairs
Depending on how much your agent needs the commission they may try at this point to move you towards a specific direction and can you guys what direction that is? Correct… anything but number one.
With the help of an agent, you can make requests of the seller to perform work on the building or credit you enough money that you can make the necessary repairs yourself (always suggested). But really you are done at this point except for making a repair request list. What happens from here on out has to do with negotiations between your agent and the selling agent. So don’t be afraid to ask your agent to help you out here…make your agent earn their money. Don’t forget to lean on your inspector for advice. A good inspector should be happy to help you with prioritizing the issues and condition of the building and in some cases, the cost of repairs of most issues they discovered. But shhhh, just don’t tell the agent.