The Home Inspection
The Home Inspection
Sound Home Inspection Advice
When purchasing a home one of the most important steps for a buyer is doing a complete evaluation of the property. This typically means hiring a professional home inspector. The home inspectors job is to point out any defects with the property but especially those that would a buyers ability to use and enjoy the property.
Often those who are in the business of selling real estate refer to major defects as being health and safety, structural or mechanical in nature. Items such as the roof, foundation, cooling and electrical systems. These are major components in a home that all buyers should want to have working perfectly.
Over the years some buyers and the real estate agents who represent them, have lost site of the real purpose of a home inspection. More and more often it seems, real estate agents are seeing buyers who think the home they are buying should be delivered to them in perfect condition.
They submit a list of demands that can be just ridiculous!
It goes without saying that if you are asking a seller to fix things that cost under $100 then you may be far too nit picky. A buyer should never expect perfection in a older home and it is not a sellers job to make it that way for a buyer.
There are some home buyers who are also being given poor advice by agents and friends to use the home inspection as a means for a second round of negotiations.
Keep this in mind……..
Nobody is saying a buyer should not ask for major problems to be rectified but when you ask for things to be fixed that you clearly knew about before making an offer, your asking for issues.
If you are purchasing a home in a sellers market, it is even more important to be a reasonable buyer. You could find yourself on the outside looking in if you annoy the seller to the point they want to have nothing to do with you.
The home inspection should be a give and take negotiation between the buyer and seller. It should have a reasonable conclusion where both parties are satisfied with the results.
Often I explain to my seller clients that a test of reason is whether or not another buyer would have the same inspection concerns. If the answer is YES then the owner should fix what the buyer is requesting.
What Buyers Should, and Should Not Request to Be Fixed
When you find a home you desire, it is important to pick your battles when it comes to repairs requested from a home inspection. While it would certainly be nice for the seller to fix every little home inspection issue before you make your offer, there are only so many repairs most sellers are willing to commit to – especially in a seller’s market.
Electrical, plumbing, roof, HVAC – these are repairs that you can reasonably expect a seller to take care of under most circumstances, as long as the problems are significant enough to impact your use of the house negatively. But there are some repairs that sellers push back on in many cases, repairs that you should avoid asking for if you want to make it through to closing, without risking the seller wanting to get out of your offer.
Unfortunately, on occasion, some buyers can lose site of the purpose of a home inspection. For those that don’t buy and sell homes every day, the purpose of a home inspection is to find out if there are health and safety, structural or mechanical defects.
The issues should be large enough that they could have a significant impact on the use and enjoyment of the home now and in the future. A home inspection should not be used necessarily to create a itemized list that points out every minor defect with the home you expect the seller to fix. Remember you are not buying a new home!
The home inspection should not be explicitly used for renegotiating the offer to purchase with the seller either. In other words, if you have noticed defects before making your offer that is clearly visible, don’t expect the seller to automatically fix them. An excellent buyer’s agent should be able to counsel you on what is worth focusing on and what should be considered trivial.
One of the questions we often get from clients is what reasonable requests from the home inspection are? There really is not a standard for what is reasonable and what isn’t, however, below you will find a bit of guidance.
If the agent you have hired just submits your requests to the seller or their agent, without giving you any advice, there may be a problem. This is not the kind of agent you want representing you. A “yes” man or woman is not a good thing for negotiating. You want someone who will give you an informed opinion.
Over the years I have seen home inspection requests that were completely unreasonable and not even based on what the home inspector said? The answer is far too many to count! If you have found a home that meets all your needs, consider being a reasonable buyer when it comes to home inspection requests.
The best real estate agents understand how to negotiate home inspection problems. There is usually a give and take where both parties feel like the conclusion is a reasonable one.
Below you will find some of the more common home inspection repair requests that a buyer should not make. Use some common sense and focus on the repairs or improvements that really matter for you and your family.
Home Inspection Repair Requests You May Want To Avoid
1. Cosmetic issues
Cosmetic problems like a lanai that needs staining, touching up the paint or repairing a cracked tile may catch your eye and bother you a bit, but they are not the kind of problems that need dealing with right away. Cosmetic issues are at the top of the list to avoid asking a seller to fix.
Many of these problems are relatively easy to handle, and can be taken care of without spending too much money.
We often advise owners what to fix before selling a home and it often comes down to what makes a property more salable. This puts more money in the Sellers pocket but some sellers don’t listen or don’t have the budget to do it.
Even if the repairs are somewhat expensive, perhaps they can be negotiated to be paid at closing, if they are the kind of issues that other buyers may be willing to overlook, you will need to be flexible if you want to get the house and beat out the competition.
When we advise our seller clients on what they should agree to fix and what they shouldn’t, there is one line of thinking when determining what’s reasonable. If the sale fell apart and the home went back on the market would it be sensible to assume the next buyer to come along would also have the same request? And most important, would the issue with the home stop a Buyer from getting financing?
These are two tried and true methods for determining what is reasonable and what is not. There is, of course, the possibility that there are things that should be repaired that don’t fall under either of these categories. These things can be assessed on a case by case basis.
2. Anything under $100
Minor issues under a hundred dollars to fix are definitely home inspection repair requests a buyer shouldn’t necessarily make! Problems that arise from repair requests are not always about the financial cost, however, this may be taking asking for too much to the extreme.
There may be a hundred little things that need to be fixed on a home, but both you and the seller only have so much time to close a deal. When you hit a seller with multiple little repair requests, he or she may feel overwhelmed simply due to the time required to make the repairs.
The seller’s agent may encourage him or her to pass on your offer if the requests become ridiculous. If the repair is going to cost around $100 or less, you may want to just plan on taking care of it yourself after you buy the home.
If you are purchasing a home in a seller’s market, be especially careful not to anger a homeowner off to the point that they look to cancel the deal and go with a different buyer. Over the years there have been plenty of occasions where a seller has terminated the contract and moved on to a backup offer due to a buyer being completely unreasonable.
3. A window with a failed seal
Failed window seals are quite common in homes. Glass that has become fogged is almost always visible when viewing a home unless you are not paying attention. This falls into the category of something you should be paying attention of when viewing properties. Most home inspectors will tell you that a failed window seal is purely cosmetic. The is very little energy lost through a failed window seal. The insulating value loss is extremely minimal.
Keep this in mind when making your offer. If there are a significant number of windows that need replacement, account for that in your offer up front. Explain to the agent that the window failure is why have made the bid at your number. Don’t ask for something to be fixed that you clearly noticed before making your offer or was disclosed up front.
4. Renovations you are planning
You may look over the house and imagine some improvements that will make it perfect for you and your lifestyle. However, it is important to remember that the seller is not responsible for preparing your dream home. They just want to sell the home for the best possible price and be done with it.
Avoid asking for repairs that relate to your planned renovations. Doing so may put the sale at risk, which is unnecessary since you are just going to renovate anyway. This is the kind of home inspection request a buyer should never make and will just piss off everyone involved in the transaction.
5. Loose fixtures, railings, and similar issues
A loose doorknob, light fixture or railing on a deck or stairwell may be annoying, or even potentially unsafe, but these problems are also often fixable with basic hand tools and a little effort. If you can’t tighten the screws yourself – such as if they are stripped out, or if the material involved is old and worn out – you can hire a hanyman or contractor to fix the problem for a reasonable price.
Obviously, if there are vast areas of rot or decay, or major safety concerns, the inspector with say so, and you can demand a repair. But if the issue is minor, avoid stressing about it for the moment.
7. Minor water damage
When water saturates interior building materials, like drywall, it can look pretty bad. You are unlikely to miss such damage as you wander through the house. Fortunately, the home inspector is not going to miss the signs of water damage either, and he or she can tell you the severity of the problem. If the water has caused significant damage, the inspector will let you know, and you can request appropriate repairs. But if the water damage is merely cosmetic, don’t stress about it. You can fix cosmetic stuff later.
One of the more common water stains you will see in a home is in the ceiling over a bathroom. This condition is often caused by either a toilet that has overflowed at some point in time or a kid who left a shower curtain open. Water stains are usually easy to discern whether they are ongoing and still an issue.
A thing NOT to miss is any water stains that could be caused by a defective roof, DO NOT OVERLOOK ROOF ISSUES.
8. External buildings – sheds, garages, etc.
If you are in a competitive market, you are going to have to be able to let some things go when it comes to other buildings on the property. Sheds are prone to rot; garages tend to get dirty. Owners are prone to let external buildings get run down more often than they are the main house.
If there are serious issues, it may be reasonable to ask for a fix, but if the shed or the garage looks like every other shed or garage in the neighborhood – that is, less that perfect – it may just be something you are going to have to deal with yourself. It is also likely you were aware of the sheds general condition before submitting your offer to purchase.
10. Cosmetic landscaping or minor yard problems
You can’t expect the seller to plant the flower beds and install a fountain just for you. The seller also won’t be too keen on making minor landscaping repairs that you can just do yourself after you have bought the home. A missing rock from the border of a flower bed, leveling a few bricks in a walkway, trimming the tree in the backyard – other buyers may not care at all about these things, buyers the seller will be happy to work with if you insist on minor landscaping repairs.
What Inspection Items Should Be Fixed?
As mentioned previously, the issues a buyer should focus on asking a seller to repair or replace are health and safety, significant structural, mechanical, or environmental defects.
These are the substantial home inspection problems. It is reasonable to assume that any buyer would want these items fixed if discovered after a home inspection has taken place. Some of the major home inspection items worth addressing are:
- Termites or other wood destroying insects.
- Wildlife infestation like bats or squirrels in the attic.
- Major drainage or water problems.
- Mold problems.
- Major electrical defects that cause safety issues.
- Significant plumbing problems that interfere with the use of the home.
- Lead paint. It should be noted that it is a federal requirement for sellers to disclose the known presence of lead paint in a property.
- Well water problems, such as a lack of pressure or volume of water.
- Major structural issues such as a leaking roof or substandard building violations.
The above items are a condensed list of possible issues worth asking a seller to address. There certainly could be others but these are without question reasonable repair requests that any buyer would have.
If you are concerned about whether the seller will do an adequate job making these repairs then it may be advisable to ask for a sellers concession instead. This is often referred to in the contract as a closing cost credit. You can then take these funds and make the repairs/modifications yourself.
If you are a buyer and are in the midst of negotiating a home inspection above all else be reasonable, especially if you want the home. If you are a seller, understand how a seller should prepare for a home inspection. By taking care of most of the issues mentioned, you won’t have to worry about having a stressful home inspection negotiation with your buyer.
Home Inspection Problems That May Not Be Found
Having a home professionally inspected before you buy it is standard procedure for obvious reasons. You want to know that that house you are spending all this money on is in good repair and that you aren’t moving into any major surprises. Unfortunately, even with the home inspection, there are some issues that may not be noticed before the money exchanges hands.
Even the best home inspector can only identify so many issues in the short amount of time he or she is in the home – meaning you may still find some problems later on. The last thing you want of course is to find home inspection issues that were missed by the inspector!
Keep in mind this does not necessarily mean that the home inspector didn’t do his or her job. An experienced home inspector has gone through numerous homes identifying problems and even the newest inspectors have gone through lots of training to identify major home inspection issues. However, households are composed of multiple systems – systems where even one broken or damaged component can cause problems. This is why there are specialists in so many areas concerning homes – including roofing, plumbing, electrical, foundations and more.
The home inspector will do their best to identify problems and notify you of them. Just don’t be surprised if something pops up later on when you are living in the house. When looking to hire a home inspector one consideration would be to hire someone that is certified by The American Society of Home Inspectors or ASHI for short.
An ASHI certified inspector goes through many additional hours of training to attain their certification. The ASHI Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics serves as a guideline for home inspectors on their performance and is universally recognized and accepted by many professional and governmental bodies. This is much like a real estate agent and a Realtor being two different things based on subscribing to the code of ethics. A Realtor is required to follow the code of ethics.
ASHI home inspectors work their way to ASHI certified status by meeting rigorous requirements, including passing a comprehensive, written technical exam and performing a minimum of 250 professional home inspections conducted by the ASHI standards of practice and code of ethics. ASHI inspectors are also required to take mandatory continuing education classes that help the inspector stay up to date with the latest in technology, materials, and professional skills.
While having a certified ASHI inspector will not guarantee that home inspection problems are not missed, it could potentially help. ASHI has a great guide for anyone who is going to be purchasing a home and getting an inspection.
Take a look below at some of the more common home inspection issues that may not be found.
Common Problems Missed in a Home Inspection
- Failing Heating or Air Conditioning Equipment – HVAC equipment is a lot like your favorite automobile. It may keep running strong for decades, or it could stop working tomorrow. Sometimes the only way to detect future problems is a thorough examination of the equipment – something the home inspector is not qualified to do in most instances.The inspector will make sure the HVAC system is functional at the time of his or her visit, but that does not mean everything will keep working after you move in. If you are buying a home with an older unit, be prepared for potential problems especially if the current owner has not kept the maintenance up to snuff.
- Damaged or Blocked Sewer Lines – Home inspectors know to check for a functional water and drainage system, but this does not mean they can detect partial blockages or pipe damage. They can determine the age and type of pipe system in the home and can advise on potential issues caused by tree roots, but it often takes special equipment to detect certain issues. After living in the house for a little while, you may discover problems with the pipes that the inspector was unable to identify earlier on.
- Electrical Issues – The inspector is paid to come into the home and identify any obvious problems in a short amount of time – mostly through visual inspection. This keeps the review affordable for the seller or buyer and is often enough to detect common problems. However, electrical issues can require a lot more investigation than the inspector has time for – even if he or she is qualified to do electrical work. The inspector can tell you if there are noticeable electrical problems, like an outlet that has no ground, a GFCI needed in the kitchen or identifying double tapped breakers. They may not be able to determine the malfunction of another component in the home, however, if it is due to an electrical issue. To get a correct understanding of what is wrong with the more technical parts of an electrical system, you will usually need the help of an electrician.
- Internal chimney issues – a qualified home inspector is going to look over the fireplace both from the exterior and the interior. On the outside, they will be looking for structural cracking and deterioration of the bricks along with whether mortar joints need re-pointing among other things. On the inside, the inspector will visually look up the chimney to check for issues including whether there is unsafe soot build up. They will also be looking for any internal damage. This is where things can get tricky, and a problem could easily be missed. In order be one hundred percent sure there are no chimney issues you need to get what is referred to as a level two inspection. Specialists perform level two inspections. Most often a standard home inspection will not include this expertise. Additionally, level two checks are required when changes are made to the heating system. This could include changes in fuel type like going from oil to gas. You would also want to have a level two inspection if there was a house fire, chimney fire or seismic event where the chimney could have become damaged.
- Structural Problems – The home inspector will include the roof in his or her inspection, and will know how to tell if the irregularities in the roof are acceptable or indicative of a bigger issue. The vast majority of all home inspectors will be qualified on how to figure out if the roof needs replacement. This is an area where calling in a roofer is usually not necessary. He or she will also look at the foundation of the home and examine it for any significant cracks or issues that you should know about. If the home does have major issues, the home inspector may not know how to diagnose the problem accurately, or how to measure the cost of repairs. When the inspector identifies the problem being structural in nature most often a structural engineer will need to be called in to evaluate the situation. Roof and foundation issues – and structural problems in general – can be some of the most challenging and expensive problems to fix on a home. If you already know that the house has these types of problems, it is best to bring in a contractor that specializes in roofing or foundations to give you an accurate measure of the damage and the cost of repairs. Bringing in specialized contractors should be done as part of the inspection process.
- Leaks – Leaks can cause all sorts of issues with a home, including mold infestations and structural degradation. This is why it is so important to have a home that is well-sealed against the elements, and that effectively redirects water away from the home. Your inspector will be looking for any evidence of water damage and leaks in the home. The only problem is, it takes water to make the leaks show up in the first place. This means that if the inspector is looking at the house after it has gone unoccupied for a while, or after a dry season, he or she might not notice leaks. It will only be later on after you have occupied the house and experienced precipitation in your area, that the water penetration makes itself known.
- Septic Systems – The problem with a septic inspection is that it is only good on the day it was done. In other words, there is no guarantee that from the time the evaluation is performed to a few months later when a new owner has purchased the property, which it won’t fail. This is the unfortunate part of owning a home that is serviced by a septic system. It is the very reason many homeowners prefer having public sewer. There are some things you can do that will increase the odds you won’t be faced with this problem including looking over the eighteen-page Title 5 report thoroughly. You should be looking for whether or not the current owner has been maintaining the system properly. For example, a septic system should be pumped out every two to three years depending on the amount of people living in the home. The greater use of the system the sooner as a septic system should be pumped.
These are some of the most common inspection items the inspector may miss during your inspection. Keep in mind nobody is perfect. The home inspector is not intentionally going to miss home inspection problems. Like any other business, however, you should keep in the back of your mind there are good and bad inspectors. Getting this part of your real estate transaction right is important. The last thing you want is to move into a house of horrors. If your real estate agent is worth their salt, they should be able to provide you with a few names of well-respected inspectors.
Only take suggestions from an Agent if they are working for you as a buyers agent! You do not want to get stuck with a home inspector that is hand picked by an agent working for the seller as they could pick the inspector with the reputation for glossing over things that are important.
Use these additional home inspection resources when purchasing a home to make smart and informed decisions.