This post could be considered an addendum to the post I did the other day: Home Inspectors and the Building Codes–Who Cares?
One of the comments on that post was about the “purpose of a home inspection.” I think if you ask ten agents the purpose of an inspection, you will get ten different answers.
If you ask ten home inspectors, you will likewise get ten different answers.
I wonder if we ask ten consumers?
So, what is the purpose of a home inspection?
The minimalist answer to this question could be: For the inspector to find substantive structural and safety issues with the home that affect the habitability and use of the home.
One of the issues with this approach is that the inspection report will be so minimal as to leave the new homeowner to discover the laundry list of little things on their own. These “honey-do” lists can add up to an amount equal to, or larger than, something major. Also, as they say, the devil is in the details and without the details something much more substantial might not be discovered.
One thing that “detail” is good at, is helping to explain conditions that might only be determined by a specialist but the specialist might not even be called because 2 + 2 are not put together. Let me give a scenario. The inspector sticks his head up in the attic and states, “you’ve got some black stuff growing on your roof sheathing.” The client of course wants to know if its mold and the inspector won’t “know.” They won’t know the cause because they didn’t crawl all the way to the far end of the attic where the b-vent for the furnace has a huge hole corroded through the side of the pipe allowing all that moisture and combustion products to vent into the attic.
If the inspector does not push through and scratch his or her head and investigate further what is the client left with? The inspector likely won’t even be able to have a recommendation as to who should figure it out–let alone what repairs might be necessary.
A typical report on the finding might read something like this: “Mold or mold-like fungal growth noted in attic. Recommend repairs.”
If this was an inspection for you, on your future home, is it what you would want to hear from your inspector? Is this what you would expect? So why would any agent think this is good enough for their client buying a home? (This is pretty standard verbiage by the way—perhaps a little wordy is all.)
Why would any inspector think this is adequate?
The advantages of this approach, as near as I can tell, serves two main purposes. One thing it accomplishes is that it gets the buyer to “sign-off” on the inspection contingency quicker (and we all know what that means). Secondly it gets the inspector out of the house and off to their second or third inspection for the day. All that head scratching and being helpful takes time—taking too much time is not “productive.”
A better answer to this question of what an inspection is might be: For the inspector to fully inform (this should be considered relatively open ended) the buyer as to the condition of the home, including but not limited to substantive structural and safety issues that might affect habitability and use of the home.
The issues with this approach are obvious. For one thing the deal might go south (funny how even the minimalist approach results in this too). For example if the buyer could handle 2 big issues but the 10 little issues add up to more than both of the two big issues put together, the deal might not “pencil out” for them. Of course the minimalist inspector did not provide them with the information about the 10 little issues. The buyer was left to find them on their own over the next few years where the condition of those issues did not get any better—but sure were obvious at the time of inspection.
This is when the phone calls start.
First of all to the agent that recommended the inspector gets the call; and then the inspector gets calls from the agent and the buyer wanting to know how the inspector could have missed “all this stuff.”
The second approach is typically desired by informed buyers that have either been recommended by agents that see the advantages of this approach, have found the inspector on the internet or through other happy friends, or by agents buying for themselves or their friends and family. One has to seriously wonder about agents that want a different kind of inspection for their clients than they do for themselves or friends/family.
I have had agents tell me and clients tell me that the level of detail and recommendation actually saved the deal, because they then had a blue print to follow, whereas without the information there was only road-blocks.
The advantages of this approach is that the buyer is fully informed and when they do find a house that is within their budget (whether it is the first one or the tenth one), even the little things make sense within that budget. They can then lay back in front of the fireplace in their new home–with the glow of their laptops and the fireplace in their faces–making great recommendations on Yelp, Angie’s List etc about how happy they are with their inspector and their agent.
Isn’t this what it is really all about?
Making sure the client is taken care of.
Isn’t this really what an inspection is all about?
Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle