SCHEDULE THE HOME INSPECTION
Usually the very first thing I have my buyer clients do once the contract is “signed around” by all parties, is schedule the home inspection. Often people read the contract to mean that they have 5 to 10 days (every contract is different) to DO the inspection. That is not the case.
During that very limited time frame:
a) You have to “DO” The Inspection
b) You have to review the results of The Inspection
c) You have to think about what you may or may not want to ask of the seller as a result of that Inspection
d) You have to cancel the contract, or accept the inspection, or submit any conditions of accepting the Inspection, in writing, so that it is RECEIVED by the seller or seller’s representative by the end of the time frame.
You don’t want to wait until the last minute to “DO” the inspection.
Call the inspector ASAP after the purchase contract is finalized and DO the inspection at the first available opportunity after the contract is signed around. By scheduling the inspection ASAP for the first available time, you should have sufficient time to digest what the inspector said at the inspection, and also to subsequently review the written inspection report after the inspector has left the property.
You should allow about 3 to 4 hours for the actual inspection in most cases for an average sized single family home.
THE HOME INSPECTION PROCESS
The inspection is paid for by the buyer, usually before the inspection begins. The buyer usually attends the Home Inspection because it is not a PASS/FAIL kind of thing in most cases. It is also not ONLY about what is wrong with the house. A good home inspection gives the buyer a lot of information that is not all about what the buyer may want the seller to do to correct defects.
Generally a Home Inspector will:
a) Inspect the outside of the home first. Roof, siding, gutters, etc. VERY IMPORTANT: Most inspectors are inspecting “the home” and not the fence or the shed and sometimes not even decks, especially if they are not connected to the house.
b) The inspector is usually not looking at cosmetic things that can be readily seen by the buyer prior to making the offer, such as a stain in the carpet.
c) An inspector cannot see through walls, so having an experienced inspector who likely knows what is behind those walls based on the age of the house is very important.
d) Since an inspector is not looking at cosmetic items, he will usually spend more time in bathrooms and kitchens, the attic and under the house, at the heater and electrical panel and hot water tank, than in a dining room or bedroom. In a bedroom he may check the outlets and the windows and make sure the door latches properly. In a kitchen or bathroom he will be checking appliances, looking for leaks under sinks, making sure the outlets in the rooms with water have appropriate and functioning GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupters) at the outlets. Often one GFCI will operate more than one outlet.
e) Generally you do not need to take notes at an inspection, as the inspector will be providing you with a written report. Hopefully the report will have a summary of major problems and a separate summary of minor problems. Today Inspection Reports can be 85 pages long with lots of tips on home maintenance and other topics. So a one page summary of actual defects is helpful.
IMPORTANT: If something is wrong with the property, you usually know it before you get the written report. If something comes up that causes you to not want the house at all, you may not want to complete the full inspection. In fact if you suspect that to be the case, you may ask the inspector to break from his normal routine and look at that item first.
HOUSES ALMOST NEVER “FAIL” ON INSPECTION. Contracts often fail “on inspection” due to other issues, BUT “HOUSES” RARELY “FAIL” ON INSPECTION.
Most often when a contract “fails on inspection” and “falls out of escrow” it is because of an erroneous or not reasonable expectation. The buyer isn’t doing what the seller expected the buyer to do, or the seller is not doing what the buyer expected the seller to do. Rarely does a real “deal-breaker” issue come up with the house, that the buyer and seller could not have known about in advance of the offer being made. Most often the contract fails because the buyer or the seller is not responding “appropriately” to an issue. That is usually an emotional problem, vs an actual “problem” with the house that can’t be rectified.
Good “Rule of Thumb” is no seller should expect the buyer to want absolutely nothing at inspection, and no buyer should expect a seller to address everything the inspector talks about as needing to be done to the house.
Instead of taking general notes during a home inspection, I find using a chart like this to be helpful during the inspection. The inspector says SO many things over a 3 to 4 hour period, so organizing them a bit while the inspector is there can help you raise questions at the end before the inspector leaves the premises.
OWNER SHOULD – There are no hard and fast rules here. Many items the Inspector notes as “needing to be done” are things any owner needs to do periodically. Is “The Owner” the Buyer of the Home? Or is “The Owner” the Seller of the home? While contracts often fail over these issues, they should not as they are things the buyer will need to do during their ownership of the home. These are not “once and done” items. If the gutters are so clogged and dirty because the owner never had them cleaned during their ownership, the buyer may ask the seller to have those professionally cleaned prior to closing. The buyer may put this in the “Seller SHOULD” column. Often this has to do with the number of trees dropping debris into the gutters.
Generally a buyer should not decide they do not want the house after all because the gutters are dirty and the seller won’t have them cleaned prior to closing, or because the seller won’t trim a small branch on a tree.
Just because the Inspector tells the buyer “the gutters need to be cleaned” does not mean the seller needs to DO something. The Inspector may simply be saying that at EVERY inspection so the buyer knows that this is a normal owner maintenance item. That statement alone does not mean there is something currently “wrong” with the gutters.
OWNER MUST – These are usually things the seller would have fixed had he known they were not functioning properly. They are usually things that have no aesthetic selection element, so that it doesn’t matter if the buyer does them or the seller does them. They are usually things that can cause a problem or additional damage between inspection and closing.
As example, a leaking sink creates damage every day between the time you discover it and the time it is fixed, so having it fixed without delay is recommended. It is very rare that a seller would not want to fix that leak ASAP.
SELLER SHOULD – Many items fall in here and are basically not major things. Often whether or not the seller “should” fix them has to do with the price of the home. If the buyer is paying a good and somewhat high “fair market value” then the buyer often expects these things to be done and the seller, happy with the price he got for the home, often does them. If the buyer is getting a screaming deal and the seller is walking away with nothing or less than nothing, the seller usually expects the buyer to accept the home with these issues not being addressed.
Often these are things the seller did not deem important enough to fix while he lived there, and not something the seller did not know about. A small crack in a window. A broken window seal (this is cosmetic in most cases). A bedroom door doesn’t “latch” properly, which is often fixed by tightening knob or hinge screws or adjusting the latch plate. Basically things that can be fixed with little or no cost and a screw driver.
WHICH ITEMS ARE CLOSE TO THEIR LIFE EXPECTANCY? These are usually large items that are “in working order” and not currently defective, but near or past their “life expectancy”. Roof is not leaking but 23 years old. Hot water tank is working just fine, but is 18 years old. Heater is working just fine, but is 30 years old. Again these items usually hinge on the price negotiated. If the Seller got the better end of the deal at initial price negotiation, the buyer’s expectations may be different than if the buyer is getting the home at a “below market” price. Often the seller and the buyer do not agree on THAT, on whether the price was at, above, or below market price and THAT is why the sale fails over one of these items. Not because of the item itself, but because the parties think one or the other is not being reasonable given the home price.
Does a house need a new roof because it is “old” but is not leaking? Does a hot water tank need to be replaced because of it’s age when it is functioning well?
Often these things are viewed differently in a Seller’s Market vs a Buyer’s Market.