Ten Things to Remember During Your Home Inspection
Much has been made of the qualifications and qualities you should look for in a good home inspector, but here are ten things you should keep in mind to assist you, making your inspection go even better.
1. Have realistic expectations about the home.
A limited understanding of aging in older homes can create stress in purchasers, who might expect a greater degree of perfection than would typically be possible.
Everyone knows that there is a difference between a 100 year old house and a newer home. Older houses perform differently, and were built to different standards. Also, older homes age differently based on era of construction.
A perfect example of this is a basement that was originally built of stone, then packed with mortar and parged to make a more water-resistant area. Although it might still leak, this is an average 100 year old basement. However, such conditions would not be considered acceptable in a 20 year old home. Another age related issue would be an older septic bed or weeping tile system, which would be more susceptible to problems than a newer one.
Even though there are norms for aging in homes that make good general guidelines, each house has its own unique personality that you need to understand and respect.
2. Keep your emotions in check.
You want to avoid feeling roller coaster highs and lows when major expense items are identified by the inspector. Keeping your emotions in check allows you to absorb more information and to keep from getting overwhelmed by "all the little things".
As a purchaser, you must remember that your feelings on the building are not relevant to the inspector’s actual report. While the inspector is required to report on every defect that he finds, he should also put things into context for you.
Of course, a good inspector will not over-express his personal feelings and opinions about a house, or about what should be done with the house. The inspector should not lose sight of what the homebuyer may be thinking or feeling in order to help his client make an informed assessment. Paying attention to you and your needs enables the inspector to explain the things that need extra clarification.
3. There is no such thing as a defect-free home.
A brand new structure will have some items in need of correction, and the most immaculately kept home will also have some issues that could use some improvement. There is no home that was ever inspected that required no ink on the inspection report.
The inspector is attempting to educate you on all of the little things that need to be done, and he also has the overall goal of helping you identify major expense items. While it may seem like the inspector is picking on your purchase decision, he is really just trying to pack as much information as he can into the limited time frame that he has to spend with you. Remember that it is important to keep things in context.
Inspectors want to give their clients a lot of useful and relevant information on the property, but sometimes, especially when there aren’t any major issues, some inspectors may seem to go overboard by individually describing all the little things. It may only be a window screen here, and a door knob over there, but after a long descriptive analysis of several details, you may arrive at the conclusion that "My goodness! There are a lot of things wrong with this house!"
A good inspector will not waste everyone's time and emotional capacity discussing every doorknob and screen in the house. You should be told verbally, and in writing, that there are "one or more" or "some" or "several" minor repairs or improvements required on doorknobs or window screens, or similar.
4. You need to understand the most important items now.
It is a good idea to differentiate between that which is critical to know now, and what you can clarify after you move in.
For example, in the inspector’s efforts to ensure that you successfully accomplish a maintenance activity on your new home, he may tell you how easy it is and possibly explain how to do it. Keep in mind that he is telling you for information purposes, and that you may need additional guidance or instruction when actually doing it for yourself.
5. The inspection procedure is the same every time.
The inspector follows a systematic method of examining and reporting on items, so he will lead you through the house and show you things in a particular order. This consistency of approach is the method that he uses to cover all of the countless items that he must examine.
If you do not allow the inspection to flow as the inspector intends (for example, by asking many questions about things that the inspector has not yet had a chance to discuss), then you could throw him off and he may forget to explain something. Let the inspector lead you, and ask your questions at relevant times.
This is not meant to dissuade you from asking pertinent questions to help clarify things in your mind. If you are wondering "What the heck is he talking about now?" then you need to ask the inspector to explain. While you can telephone your inspector at any time, you have the perfect opportunity to share his time now.
For example, if he is discussing basement dampness and you ask about the electrical system, he should redirect your attention to the topic at hand, and then discuss the electrical when the time comes.
6. Pay attention.
This sounds obvious, but every inspector has encountered a time when they have given their clients a big explanation about why something should be done, or not done, only to find out later that they completely missed (or misinterpreted) a key point. If a homebuyer isn't listening, the message simply does not get through.
The inspection is an important time, designed to inform you and save you money in the short and long term. If you are distracted by anything (children, relatives, friends, etc), you may not get some important information. Do not consider the inspection a good opportunity to show the home to important people in your life.
If there are too many people saying too many things all at once, don't be shy to politely ask for some space to consult with your inspector. The inspector may also redirect your attention to the business at hand.
7. The inspector is a generalist, not a specialist.
The inspector's foremost priority is to diagnose problems. The smart inspector does not offer solutions if he is not completely conversant in the matter at hand. He should guide you to consult a specialist if the matter involves a more thorough analysis.
However, all inspectors have a specialty. If he is a licensed electrician, then you could get more information on electrical issues than if he is trained in a different discipline.
8. The inspection is the only thing the inspector should talk about.
Most of the issues involving a home purchase have nothing to do with the inspection. Unless he is being paid to pump a septic tank or test a well, you are probably a little off-track talking about it. If you ask where the boundary lines are or what the home value is, you should be told by the inspector that he does not know. These discussions will not accomplish anything at the moment, and it is something you would be better off discussing with your agent or lawyer.
Think about the big picture, keeping in mind that buying a house is a big project, and the inspector is only paid to be involved in one part of it.
9. Have fun.
It isn’t every day that you get to buy a home. Enjoy the process as best as you can. Lighten up. There is a lot of work and angst involved in home inspections and home buying, and adding stress will take away from your effectiveness in understanding the inspection and making decisions.
10. Follow up.
Most importantly, if your inspector directs you to follow up on issues with another specialist, be it for termites, wood stoves, insurance or other issues, it is incumbent upon you to do so. This is not a case of the inspector passing the buck, but a case of making you aware of issues that require further investigation.
There are going to be areas that are disclaimed due to restricted access. A good inspector tells you what he cannot see as well as what he can see. Check your report for the restricted areas and focus on these as soon as you can. This will enable you to determine if anything was hidden from view.
If you are told to do some maintenance and fail to do so, there may be negative consequences. As an example, failing to caulk the bathtub or re-grout the tiles could result in some rotting areas. A more significant possibility is falling plaster or drywall, with attendant damage to furnishings, or even personal injuries. The inspector cannot warn you of all possible consequences. He expects that you will do your due diligence with respect to repairs or maintenance.