Every inspection report likely comes with a fair amount of “qualifiers.” Qualifiers are anything that has to be added to cover somebody’s butt—whether it is the buyer’s, the agent’s or the inspector’s. These are affectionately referred to as the CYA’s of the report.
These CYA’s can be broken into two categories. Since I don’t think anyone has named these categories yet, lets call the first category: FIXED CYA’s.
Fixed CYA’s are anything that limits the inspection that is more or less true regardless of the condition of the house—whether the house is being lived in, whether the house is repossessed and vacant, or whether the house is possessed and “maybe” occupied. For example, that the inspector cannot see inside walls would be considered a fixed CYA. That the inspector cannot tell the condition of the interior of drain pipes could be another fixed CYA.
Lets call the Second type of CYA, MOVABLE CYA’s.
Movable CYA’s are anythings that limit the inspection that could vary from home to home. For example carpeting over wood floors limits the ability of the inspector to tell you much about the condition of those wood floors. Storage and furnishings throughout the home would also limit inspection of the areas they cover. Automobiles in the driveway might limit inspection of the driveway. Snow on the roof or around the home would be a serious limiting factor.
While no inspector likes to use these CYA’s it is for the benefit of everyone involved in the transaction to be on notice that there could be hidden concerns related to both of these types of limitations. Not every house is going to be empty at the time of inspection and those that are vacant might be staged. Staging in in itself is a limiting factor.
On a recent inspection, because of conditions at the exterior of the home, I had to resort to the second type of CYA to a greater degree than I really like.
There was so much vegetative debris on both the roof and the deck that inspection of these surfaces was minimal at best. The condition of these surfaces may just be fine, but would any inspector be expected to say that they are?
I don’t think so.
In spite of the logic of it, when problems later rear their ugly heads, and the inspector is asked why he didn’t report on the extensive granular loss of the roof surface or the rotten deck boards, the agent will at least be grateful that the inspector specifically stated in the report (pictures and all) that inspection of these surfaces was limited.
I am not sure what the answer is. Certainly, compelling sellers to have the homes more prepared for the inspection than they often are, as well as getting buyers on board with the fact that the purchase of any home comes with some risk, would both be important.
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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