You’ve saved up for a long time, worked hard on your credit, been pre-approved for a mortgage, and spent days – maybe weeks – shopping for the perfect home. You’ve finally found the “One” and have a home inspection done. The inspection report comes back and it identifies some issues with the house. Don’t panic! Leave the Xanax in the medicine cabinet and let’s examine what the report might mean to you.
No house will be in perfect condition – not even new construction. So, don’t shy away when an inspection identifies issues.
The inspection is a vitally important part of the home buying process, especially if you’re a first-time buyer. You need to know about the house you’re are buying:
- Is it structurally sound?
- Is the electrical system safe?
- Is the roof in good shape?
This list goes on, and it all sounds reasonable enough.
It may have been explained to you that the purpose of the home inspection is to investigate conditions that may affect your decision to buy that particular house. Safety and health concerns are one important consideration; no one wants to unwittingly move their family into an unsafe house and have to spend a lot of money to remedy problems. However, much too often, the inspection report becomes a tool used to pursue perfection. Even a newly constructed house can have problems, and the older a house is, usually the more things will be found during the inspection.
So, what is most important to look at? Faulty electrical system, a leaky roof, and compromised foundations are good examples. Other items that figure prominently include water-tight windows, plumbing that doesn’t leak, missing or inoperable smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and (in California) water heaters that are not fitted with proper seismic straps.
However, things the inspector calls out in the report will not be limited only to “material defects.” The inspector’s job is to thoroughly inspect the whole house, its systems and components, for deficiencies, however small. So, what often happens is that buyers will make a request for repairs that reads like “War and Peace.” We always tell those who ask: “If a buyer needs the seller to address the truly important fixes, they need to understand what those things are, and not get bogged down with demanding that everything in the report gets corrected.”
Will the missing drain stop in the guest bathroom going to cause you to cancel your purchase contract? Probably not. On the other hand, the leak under the sink and the fuzzy stuff growing under there that may be mold, is probably something worth asking seller to remedy. The sprinkler hitting the living room window can be adjusted after you move in; however, the carbon monoxide leak from the furnace should be fixed before you move your family in.
So, the inspection report will tell you what’s really important, right? Not necessarily.
Sometimes, reading the inspection report will make you feel like the “One” you fell in love with is a pile of rubble about to fall apart. That would be a very wrong assumption. Because inspectors, like everyone else these days, have to be concerned and very aware of liability. For this reason, the written report will tend to err on the side of caution.