Did you know that most people choose a home in less time than they spend choosing a car? Buyers can be in and out in 30 minutes and then commit to spending thousands and thousands of dollars on a home based on a gut feeling, all the while missing some very relevant facts. People will spend $75 to $125 on a mechanic to go through a car that cost them $5000, and balk at spending $400 to go through a house that will cost them $250,000.00.
So what is the purpose of a home inspection?. In essence, a neutral third party is there to objectively report on the condition of a piece of real estate. This is to protect everybody in the transaction, not just the buyer or just the seller. When everyone is properly informed about all aspects of the deal, no one comes back after the fact with a lawsuit saying they were misled.
During the buying process people tend to put pressure on themselves to “get it done.” Maybe they need to get out of a rental, maybe they feel like they need to accomplish a goal, maybe the agent has years’ worth of training in “closing the prospect,” but for whatever reason, people tend to push themselves to choose a house. Once the decision is made and the pressure is off, buyer’s remorse is sometimes not that far behind.
The inspection is an opportunity to make go back in and make sure that this is the place you want; to revisit everything and maybe notice things you simply didn’t see the first time. This is also your chance to be sure you are happy about the deal, or to change your mind and get your earnest money back.
It is also your chance to learn about the home. Allow me to bring up two people; I will call the first “Lisa” and the second “Vince” for the sake of this blog.
Lisa was buying her first home. It was 1999, and it was brand new. She did not have a real estate agent (the builder was double dipping), so no one advised her to hire a home inspector. A more experienced home buyer in her office told her to make sure she hired one anyway, and made a recommendation as to a company. Being a careful individual, Lisa did it.
Lisa was surprised when she got more than 20 pages worth of report. She was impressed by how thorough the report was, and dug into the report with a sense of satisfaction that she had in her hands a tool that she did not have before, a tool that would help her make a better purchasing decision.
She was thrilled to find out that she just narrowly escaped some oversized utility bills. You see, the inspector found out that there was no insulation in the attic. Not having ever bought a home before, it never crossed her mind that something so basic could be missed by a home builder. She figures that the money she spent on the inspection saved her much, much more in utilities that she would have had to pay before she uncovered the problem on her own. Needless to say, Lisa is now a firm advocate about always hiring a home inspector.
Vince was in real estate for 15 years as a professional, and 20 years as an investor. It was 2010 and had a home on a street called Park Avenue that he bought with another professional we will call “Brian.” The home was not new, it was a fix-and-flip scenario and neither of them had been in the attic of this home. In fact, they had already sold it, it was in escrow. Vince understood how an inspector could limit their liability in the deal, yet both he and Brian had been rubbed the wrong way in the past by idiotic reports. Still, they always cooperated with an inspection.
This inspector uncovered a structural crack in a roof truss; potentially a major issue. To put things in perspective, this house was in Metro Phoenix, where dryness and heat can cause wood to crack, and it is rarely a big deal. This particular crack could have been a big deal. Furthermore, Vince admits that he would not have known a major truss failure from a minor heat crack even if he was staring right at it. Vince paid for a repair, which cost less than $300, and prevented himself from being potentially liable for major structural failure at some point in the future (or worse being liable for a potential serious injury to the new owner).
Inspections are important. As a buyer and as a seller, they are good for you.
When considering an inspector, ask for a copy of other reports they have done in the past, and stay away from the companies or individuals who mark checkboxes. Look for a true inspector who is willing to actually put some effort into a report.
If you can, go back to the property before the inspection and with a pen and paper in hand, walk through the whole place including HOA common areas. Note any questions you have for the inspector and for your agent. As soon as you have access to disclosures like the sellers disclosure or the Homeowners Association disclosure, look at them and add to your question list freely. Then ask your real estate agent for answers. You will probably be gratified to see that many of those answers will be found in that report you are about to pay for.
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