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Home Inspection: What you should and should not expect

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There are so many TV shows that showcase families going through devastating outcomes of house problems because their “shoddy inspector” didn’t uncover them in the first place. Or you might have heard of horror stories from friends about expensive repairs they didn’t expect when they bought the house. “Damn that inspector!” they said, as if the inspector is the cause of all evil… well, my friends, it’s easy to play the pointing fingers game. As grown-ups, we all have to take on our responsibilities, at some point. But understanding what you should and should not reasonably expect from an inspection is the smarter move…and hopefully will make you feel better. ?

What Inspections Do NOT Cover

Have you ever read an inspection report? I have. They almost always define their “scope”, and explain their “limitations”, meaning they are not a fool-proof, catch-all “insurance”. Even a 10-hour inspection can not guarantee that all latent issues are discovered.

  • They are not intrusive investigations: when you are doing an inspection, technically you haven’t closed yet, so technically it’s still someone else’s home. The inspector can’t tear open the walls or carve open the carpet or poke a hole in the ceiling. They can only see what’s visible and readily accessible.
  • “Covered-up” issues: some problems might be temporarily covered up by cosmetic touchups, like leaky roof; other issues will only manifest during prolonged use, like basement seepage during heavy rains. In the short hours of inspection, there’s a good chance these issues won’t turn up. So the inspector won’t write it up.
  • “Future” issues: they can’t guarantee if an equipment breaks the second day or not. Inspection only covers that point in time, if it was working, then they say it was working.
  • If utilities are not turned on, they can’t test appliances, then they won’t test them.
  • If conditions don’t allow, for example, if the temperature is below 60 degrees, then they won’t turn on the A/C; if it’s summer time, then they won’t test the furnace.
  • They are not contractors. Although some of them do give wonderful advices on how to repair and maintain stuff.

Then What’s the Point of an Inspection?

As a realtor, I do still recommend buyers and sellers to get an inspection before they jump into a transaction. But you’d say, look at the long list of stuff they don’t do! Is it still worth the hundreds of dollars? I’d say, mostly yes.

  • It’s a wonderful negotiation tool. Inspection effectively starts a second round of negotiation after buyer and seller agreed on a purchase price. If major repairs need to be done, it’s equivalent of saving buyers thousands, or more, dollars. So is it still worth the hundreds of dollars you pay?
  • It’s a get out of jail free card. If you regret signing your life away yesterday, you can still get out based on the inspection result.
  • For sellers, be prepared and know your numbers, or fix the problems before the picky buyers start to ask for crazy credits. An inspection before listing helps to minimize the surprise.
  • For most non-handy people, myself included, going through an inspection with a knowledgeable inspector is such a great educational experience! Do you know how to maintain your furnace and water heater, that is, DIY, not relying on expensive professionals? Do you know the moldy window sill is not that scary and you don’t need to freak about “black mold” and evacuate the whole family?

To me, inspection should be viewed more as a strategic card during a transaction, rather than emotional support during home ownership. So be realistic with your expectations. And be gentle to our inspectors 😉

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