Most everyone seems to think that one of the most important qualities a home inspector can have is the ability to communicate their findings to the buyer in a way that both informs them and does not scare them.
We are usually successful, not because of how good we are, but because most of the time most people are reasonable and knowledgeable enough to understand not only what we say but also the implications of what we say. It is when they are not that problems can arise.
Home buying is like reading a book. Some have read the whole book by the time of the inspection, whereas others have left it unopened—-still in its brown wrapper.
All through the home buying process there are many opportunities for the buyer to open that book and learn about what the heck they are doing.
Their agent (and hopefully there is one) can turn a lot of those pages. Looking for house information on the internet can turn some more of those pages. Home-buyer seminars and talking to friends that have bought homes is another way to turn a few more pages. By the time of the inspection, they should be reading the last pages of their home buying book.
The question I have is, “Why wouldn’t a buyer go into the process as informed as possible?” It is almost as if, by the time they get to the inspection, they expect me to read the entire book to them. This is very difficult to do in the context of the inspection—-and within the amount of time allotted to the inspection. Fortunately most buyers are not like this in my experience.
It seems to me that there are some BASIC things that every home buyer should be ready to embrace by the time they get to the inspection process.
- No house is perfect.
- Nothing lasts forever.
- Everything can be fixed or replaced.
- Rats are everywhere.
- Roofs leak.
- Wood destroying organisms and mold are everywhere and waiting for a place to happen.
- Neighbors happen.
- It is your job to decide what “works” for you—-it is not the inspector’s job—-it is not the agent’s job—-it is not your parent’s job.
We all have run across buyers that have not embraced one or more of the things on this list. When they have not embraced any of them, it becomes impossible to predict what will become the proverbial wrench in the gears—-what will set them off.
I think that even the most informed buyers have some particular concern that will spell the end of their interest in the home. And actually there should be some limit—-and knowing what ones limits are can be the sign of having turned the pages in ones home buying book.
On a recent inspection (I knew from past inspections for the buyer that wood destroying insects was a big concern for them) I found myself having to be very patient in explaining exactly what the discovery of wood destroying insects at the property meant—-or might mean to the home. It seemed that every home they looked at had some version of these insects and they were feeling a bit “gun shy.” Through exhaustive communications regarding these various pests, the buyer arrived at a place where they were comfortable with the idea that the critters could be properly dealt with by a Pest Control Operator—-and that the house itself was not in serious danger from these critters.
However, what was “unpredictable” were the critters in the rental house next door. In the short span of about 30 seconds, “ unsavory words were exchanged” with the neighbor and the buyer decided that this was not the neighborhood she wanted her young child to grow up in. So in the end it was not any of the concerns of the property itself that ultimately killed the deal—-but the volatility of a neighbor that may have been having a bad day (or year)—-perhaps becoming the straw that broke the camels back.
It seems like the whole process will always be somewhat predictably unpredictable.
Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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