Cat Scratch Fever (not all pre-listing inspections are created equal)

There is a recent move for sellers to not only have pre-listing inspections done, but to use the pre-listing inspection report as a means of promoting the sale of the house.  This includes, in some cases, the sale of that report to prospective buyers for a small fee.  This helps the seller recoup the cost of the pre-listing inspection and maybe even make some money on it. 

Other approaches amount to the inspector doing the inspection for free and the payments from prospective buyers goes to the inspector.

In my opinion these models, and other similar ones, are fraught with problems.

Despite this, there are so many good reasons to get Pre-Listing Inspection done on your home when you are planning to sell your home.

The reasons most sellers are discouraged from having pre-listing inspections done, has to do with “disclosure” issues. 

Once the cat is out of the bag, they do not go back in quietly or safely. 

It does not seem to matter that sooner or later the seller is going to get scratched by the cat, but the thinking is that there is the “possibility” or “hope” the buyer’s inspector will not find the cat and the seller can ride off into the sunset financially better off.

I think it is better for any possible cats to be found beforehand, so that they can be properly de-clawed, and the home can be improved in the areas that might prevent a sale—or narrow the field of potential buyers.

This is a really good idea if the entire house has been used as a climbing pole and litter box.

There is always a buyer for any house—but are we really thinking about selling it to someone that is just going to tear it down?  That will likely make you the least amount of money—but then again it might be accurate.

A pre-listing inspection can be meaningful in starting the conversation about what the house is REALLY worth—perhaps the seller has unrealistic expectations that need to be brought into perspective. 

Perhaps the cat just needs to be put out of its misery—or merely petted nicely.

As compelling as the idea of pre-listing inspections might be to a seller, they should be of zero interest to a buyer, other than to maybe give them a clue as to whether they want to make an offer. This makes even more sense in a really hot market where there are going to be a lot of offers.

They should NEVER be a substitute for their own due diligence.

There are questions as to who owns responsibility for the report and its content once the report is sold.  Since the inspector has a contract with the seller and not the buyer, the buyer certainly cannot “rely” on that report for anything.

This would seem to add potential liability on the seller–or whoever is selling the report that is not likely even a home inspector.

Sure the “fine print” will say that the pre-listing inspection is not a substitute for a buyer’s due diligence,but there is a real danger the consumer will not know these reports do not satisfy their due diligence.  Under the pressure and the heat of the moment, and without reading the fine print or any encouragement to read the fine print, the buyer can make one of the bigger mistakes of their life.  Is it in the vested interest of the agents and seller to communicate clearly that the pre-listing inspection does not satisfy the buyer’s due diligence?

I caution any buyer, to not rely on these pre-listing inspections solely to make their decision.  If the report is inaccurate or incomplete and you “rely” on that information there will likely be no recourse because you do not have a contract with the inspector that did the report.  Most reports go out with very specific expiration dates and who can rely on them.  The further these reports get from who they were done for the less value they have.

There will be no way to put the cat back in the bag—and there may not be bandages enough if you try.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Key West, Mountain View Home for Sale!

Everyone knows that new construction homes do not need a home inspection!

Why bother—what a waste of money. The jurisdictional inspectors have been all over the home like white on snow since day one. Plus, why would a builder with a good reputation, or any of the sub-contractors working for the builder, that is looking to maintain their good reputation and relationship with the builder, mess with their good reputation and relationships by doing less than professional work?

Of course if you believe this, I have some Mountain View property I will sell you in the Florida Keys.

Here is just one example of some of the many issues I found in a new construction home the other day. In the crawl space, the main plumbing drain makes a long run across the crawl space and has several metal hangers to support the pipe.

Disconnected pipe hangers

Disconnected pipe hangers

While the plumber likely installed the hangers properly initially, someone has come along later and disconnected two of the hangers leaving the pipe to sag and hold water (perhaps the insulation installers?). While not a difficult repair, it is just one example of why inspections on even new homes are important.

Here is a partial list of other issues on the new home:

1. Hot water to tub and shower fixtures above 146 degrees F.

2. B-vent above roof not tall enough

3. No bollard to protect water heater in garage

4. No flashings above window trim

5. Crawl space vents missing vent wells

6. Door bell not functional

7. Kitchen sink/countertop not caulked

8. Seams of 4-piece tub/shower unit not caulked

9. Heat at upper floor registers 30 degrees warmer than lower floor registers

10. Weather-stripping missing on crawl space access door

11. Garage/House door self-closure mechanism disabled

12. Gas fireplace not functional

13. Property address numbers incorrect on house

14. Concrete installed on top of siding

15. No clearances under faux stone at grade

15. No GFCI/AFCI protection at all required locations.

16. Deck ledgers installed on top of siding.

17. Skylights not attached.

18.  Missing roof/attic vents (holes open)

All of these items easily exceed the cost of the inspection and is by no means a complete list. While some will be relatively easy to fix and perhaps already on the builder’s punch list, others the builder will not address at all (like the one where water runs down hill).

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Proximity to stupid people can affect us deleteriously

The other day I did a post about how to change an electric water heater. The post was about why installing a water heater on your own is a bad idea for most people. The post includes a list of things that if you aren’t familiar with might be an indication that you might want to let someone else do the job.

This got me thinking about other aspects of the home and how there are many things about our homes in general that we might not know enough about. To tackle repairs to these components, or actually creating these components, might be beyond our knowledge and skills. Even thinking, “how complicated can it be” is proof of lack of understanding. Having someone more qualified do these things to our homes, or getting more education ourselves, might be in order.

Even for experienced professionals, the codes can be sinuous and complicated. It often takes years to learn the nuances and “exceptions” to what is allowed or not allowed. The fact that so many issues are found even in new construction, done by trained professionals, is proof that even professionals get it wrong at times.

When homeowners tackle these same installations, the number of defects typically skyrockets. This is not always the case, but certainly enough to prove how necessary code enforcement is.

Americans are cowboys and we all live in the Wild West.

None of us likes being told what to do and yet many of “us” (the collective us) have created the codes over the years either by recognizing the necessity for them–or have earned them by burning down our own house and our neighbor’s house with our “projects.”

It is not easy to get codes implemented or changed because of the “cowboy” factor. In a way it is a check-and-balance for anyone that gets too gung-ho for some particular change.

Population density makes these codes even more important as proximity to stupid people can affect us deleteriously.

Because of this, the codes are there to add a layer of protection from each other. So while your home may be your castle, your castle today must be a safe castle for you, your family and for whomever you sell it to or invite over for a slumber party or kegger.

The house has become a complicated assembly of inter-related, inter-dependent components that can only be understood in the context of the whole building and the environment it lives in. Altering one thing can affect something somewhere else. Here are a few examples of modifications that might affect something that someone doing the project on their own might not think about:

Adding a mother-in-law apartment in the basement that the septic system is not designed for.

Creating a 4th bedroom in the garage on the original HVAC sytem. (And by the way, are you aware that the joists you use in that floor system over the old garage floor have to be pressure treated lumber if there is not access, and that legal access means 18” clearance?)

Finishing rooms in a basement with no means of secondary egress/escape and rescue.

Did you know that when you create finished spaces in the basement, the basement light that switches at the top of the stairs now must have a switch at the bottom of the stairs as well?

Stairs that are “grandfathered” as access to an unfinished basement may have to be upgraded to current standards when the basement is finished off.

There are endless examples like this–some more subtle—some less subtle.

The point is that in the permit process for your project, all the things you might not have thought of, will be thought of by the plans examiner, when they check out the plans for your project.

WHAT PLANS?

You mean I have to have “plans?”

It is amazingly easy to change lines on paper compared to concrete in the ground.

A building permit can easily be one of the least expensive parts of your project and should be seen as an investment—not an infringement of human rights.

While any given contractor might do some aspect of your project wrong, it is usually considerably easier to correct that error than it might be to start the whole project over.

While jurisdictional oversight is typically not what you might think it should be (we typically are not willing to pay what it would take for adequate oversight), it generally catches the big stuff and the safety issues.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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