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Archive for April, 2017|Monthly archive page

An Inspection Makes a House a Home

In Uncategorized on April 13, 2017 at 10:50 am

Not all home inspectors are the same, each having their individual style. Their procedures and reports also differ, so it’s important to be educated before hiring someone. Since your home is probably the largest purchase you’ll ever make, you should understand what the job of a home inspector is and what they do. It’s not the inspector’s job to tell you to buy the house or walk away from it. The inspector usually has no idea what you’re paying for the house. So, even if it is a “disaster” it might be priced so low that it’s a great deal no matter what is found during the inspection.

The home inspector’s job is to impartially and objectively, let you know what you are actually buying. The condition of the roof, structure, plumbing system, water pressure and hot water tank should be evaluated. The home inspector should let you know everything about the electrical system and if it is adequate and safe. You’ll learn about the insulation, the furnace or boiler, if it is operating properly and not leaking carbon monoxide into the house. The inspector will not be able to tell you if the heat is even or adequate throughout, but should let you know if there isn’t a heat source in some rooms or additions (yes it happens). The inspector will let you know if the foundation appears bad or if the basement leaks. When the inspection is complete, you will probably know more about the house you are purchasing than the sellers who may have lived there for 30 years. This inspector will also make a “honey-do” list for the prospective purchaser (my client) of all the “nit-picky” items. If the inspector finds a lot of things in disrepair, remember almost everything can be fixed. The client should be shown what the inspector sees and why it is a problem. He doesn’t make up the problem or exaggerate the seriousness of it, but tries to put it in the proper perspective. We actually have more to lose if the client doesn’t buy the house because it’s possible that two or more real estate offices might blacklist us from referrals (the selling office and listing office).

Why do you need a house inspection? Let me answer that question with another question. Who else in the transaction is looking out for your interest? Is the realtor, who only gets paid if you buy the house, able to be totally objective? Some real estate salespeople tell their clients they really don’t need an inspection because “The seller filled out a disclosure statement”. That document serves to somewhat protect the realtor. “I didn’t know the basement leaked. They filled out the disclosure statement and signed it saying it was a dry basement.” I, in turn am not interested in what the Realtor refers to as a “disclosure statement”. I refer to it as a “Liars statement”.

The inspector will easily be able to determine if the purchaser is handy by the questions they ask, and the purchaser should ask questions. The adage about there being “no such thing as a dumb question” seems especially true on a home inspection. The buyers are spending a lot of money on the house and the inspector should not only make them familiar with the house and how it works, but also its condition. The buyers are encouraged to ask questions. I have had buyers ask what the furnace is and what it is for. If they have to ask, it is because they really don’t know. For that reason, most inspectors want the purchaser to accompany them on their inspection.

On the other hand, the inspector does not want the seller of the house following along on the inspection because they often get defensive. This is a house they live in and now they are hearing about all the little problems that have been ignored, forgotten, or never knew existed. Another reason the seller shouldn’t participate in the inspection is that they didn’t pay for the information. Finally, the buyer needs to feel comfortable about asking questions without being in the presence of someone with whom they are negotiating.

There are some home inspectors who feel their client is the one who refers business to them, i.e. the realtor. They don’t want to lose the referrals (read that as money) so the inspector may feel he has to downplay a problem or gloss over suspect defects. Then there are some home inspectors that are not particularly thorough and issue short reports that basically don’t tell you much. There are also inspectors that have little training and experience and are just out of their league. These inspectors fit the “obligation” of a home inspection and rarely cause a problem for the salesperson. Some realtors refer to the good, competent inspectors as the “deal killers”. Home inspectors, in return, have “names” for those realtors.

There are realtors who might see home inspectors as adversaries or at the least, a necessary evil. There are also many realtors who truly are looking out for their client’s best interest. A good realtor generally has an attitude that is similar to a clerk in a store showing merchandise. They will point out anything that is visible to their client, the buyer. They also rely on good inspectors to educate their clients.

“What you see is not always what is there”. Realtors know that a good, professional inspection will give the buyer not only peace of mind, but will increase their credibility with their client for future referrals. Also, it’s worth mentioning that a thorough inspection should insulate the Realtor from any potential lawsuit against them of their real estate company.

Are you under the impression that municipalities in which, inspections are done by city inspectors protect your investment? Think again. A municipal inspector looks for code violations, period. These inspectors don’t remove electrical service box covers to check for double tapping, aluminum wiring, overheating circuits and oversized breakers, which can only be discovered by inspecting in the main service box. Believe it or not, if the house you are considering buying has aluminum wiring, a bad foundation, asbestos, old galvanized plumbing, or even a wet basement, they are not code violations and not even covered by city inspections. Even a bad roof is not a code violation unless it is leaking on the inspector’s ahead at the time of the inspection. To correct those items is a major expense and a potential deal killer, but a city inspector does not address them.

I’ve been doing inspection in Southeast Michigan for over 35 years but I know I’m not perfect. I am also not naïve enough to believe I’ll find every flaw in a house that I’m inspecting. I just hope if there are any major problems that I’ll find them.

Remember, a home inspector is not a specialist. We consider ourselves “professional generalists”. We don’t have to be a licensed electrician to observe, check, and report on loose and improper wiring, double tapping, aluminum wiring, oversized fuses or breakers, overheating wiring or improperly wired fixtures and outlets. But we need to recognize it and advise our client. We’re only in the house for a few hours and in that time we need to discover, evaluate and report to our client everything that we find. We also need, as I said earlier, to put it in the proper prospective. Remember, the inspector doesn’t know the price or the value of the house. A $200,000.00 house being purchased for $175,000.00 may sound like a great deal, but what if it has a bad foundation and/or needs $40,000.00 in repairs? It suddenly becomes no deal at all.

Over the years we’ve seen houses in which the sellers paint over rotted wood, which by the way is very common. I’ve seen people put furniture and boxes in front of foundation problems to conceal them. We have found fresh, wet paint on basement walls that leaked, and burned or torn carpeting covered with a throw rug. Burn marks on kitchen counters that have been covered with sponges, saucers, plants, etc. And yes, I found a counter top with a crack that was covered with the cord of a coffee pot!

Since the inspector is a ‘guest’ in the home, the inspector is not allowed to start moving furniture, boxes, or crates. If that cheap figurine should break, it immediately becomes a priceless heirloom for which the inspector is usually on the hook. This is one reason many inspectors, like myself, insist that the buyer or their representative (such as a family member) accompany them on the inspection if at all possible. The main reason is so the client can learn about their next house and how it works. In addition, they see things as we do and not let their imagination make it worse. It also helps our client see what’s not visible because of stacked boxes, junk or furniture obstruction the area.

It’s a challenge when sellers try to hide problems. I’m not saying we always find the hidden ones, but is can become somewhat of a game. When a buyer sees a burned or cracked counter, it means they’ll need to replace that some day. However, when we find sellers trying to hide problems with fresh paint, plants or sponges, the buyer immediately wonders what else is the seller hiding. They know we’re doing our job, but they also know we’re only human.

Do we make everyone happy? Sometimes. But that’s not our goal. The good inspector realizes the only one we need to make happy is our client, the purchaser. We know our clients want the house otherwise they wouldn’t be paying us to inspect it. We also know if the house fails the inspection, they will be disappointed. But the inspector and our client know we saved them a lot of money and grief.

To find a good inspector, consider your realtors recommendation but do your own homework. Call several companies. Don’t shop just for the price. The more qualified and professional the inspector, the more valuable is the service you are provided. Ask about their qualifications and licenses as well as errors and omissions insurance. Ask how long they have been in business. Then verify the information with the Better Business Bureau.

There is no licensing for home inspectors in the State of Michigan at this time but you can verify with the State Licensing Board if the inspector is a licensed builder and how long they’ve held a license. You can also check if there are complaints against the individual or company. It is not unusual for someone in business to have complaints lodged against them, or be sued but how many times and how they were resolved should be a concern to you.

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