If babies came with owner’s manuals—we probably would not have time to read them.
Why don’t homes come with owner’s manuals?
If they did,would anyone read them? I think we would as needed—but probably not the whole thing from cover to cover before we needed them.
Even my run-of-the-mill Jeep Cherokee came with a 248 page owner’s manual—-I have to dig it out twice a year to figure out how to change the clock—-so I know I use that one.
Given that homes generally do NOT come with an owner’s manual, what do agents do to prepare home buyers for what it means to own a home? Is the buyer expected to know all this stuff themselves? Are houses so simple we simply don’t need one?
Is it the inspector’s job to teach them everything they need to know?
If neither the agent nor the inspector does it, is it: “Tough luck?”
I have had buyers on an inspection that did not even know that the furnace has a filter—-let alone that it needs to be maintained—-and where the heck is it located? Who tells them, if there is a screened air intake for the furnace that it has to be maintained free of debris? The average house has MANY things like this that need vigilant maintenance in order for the house to perform properly. I can’t tell you how many times I have asked the buyer if the house has a crawl space or not—-and half the time they either do not know or think I mean the attic.
Some home inspectors provide home maintenance manuals along with the inspection report. These home maintenance manuals are generally “OK” for what they are, but they usually have way too much information about all kinds of houses—-not just what is applicable to the house being inspected. In my opinion no one is going to wade through these manuals trying to figure out which information applies to their home and what does not.
Some home inspectors attempt to turn the Home Inspection Report itself into a sort of “beginning” Home Owner’s Manual—–others are not interested. Some think that the ONLY things that should be in the report are the “defects.” Some agents like this approach as well and are critical of home inspectors that have reports with more than 30 pages.
If the report is also trying to provide information about how to actually take care of the house as well as whatever defects are found—–it can easily get to 60 pages or more. The best place to provide information about how to take care of the furnace for example, is in the furnace section of the report—-not some hand-out that also talks about 20 other types of furnaces—-or is so minimal as to be useless.
The inspection report—-coupled with the many instruction manuals associated with the various appliances in the home—-can amount to a pretty complete owner’s manual for the home.
Ultimately when one buys “anything” it is our responsibility to educate ourselves as much as possible as to what is involved with that purchase.
Can you imagine taking your very first smart phone out of the box and expect to know everything there is to know about it? One quickly finds out just how “smart” we are.
I do think that we as inspectors and agents bear some of the responsibility to educate our buyer. I also think that we are being a little lax when we have an opportunity to inform and do not do it. Pointing the buyer in the direction of the information seems easy enough to do.
It seems to me that if a buyer were to visit ten home inspector websites and read the sample reports on those sites there would be a lot less buyers with that look of a “deer caught in head lights.”
An adequately prepared buyer at a home inspection is the “exception” rather than the “rule.”
I have to assume that agents in general feel very little responsibility toward getting buyers to a point where they are ready to own a house. If this was not the case would there not be a lot more home buying seminars than we see? Most of the home buying seminars I have been to, seem to be more about how to deal with mortgages and financial matters than the home maintenance part of the purchase—-geared more toward how to buy a house, than how to own a house. Also if this were not true I would see a lot more adequately prepared buyers following me around the home—-and they would know “why” they are following me around the home. This is a tremendous opportunity for them to find out what their house is all about—-not just its defects—-but about how the house works.
I think many buyers, if they were truly educated about what it takes to own a home, probably would opt for NOT owning a home—-at least at that point in their lives.
Perhaps, it is this concern that supports keeping the buyer a little in the dark about it all.
I mean, isn’t it a good thing that we are all kept a little in the dark about what is “actually” involved in having kids?
Later, when the buyer’s remorse sets in, and the learning curve begins, it can be useful to the buyer that they have a place to start with that learning curve.
Perhaps there will be an APP for it.
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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