Why do some home inspectors and some real estate agents have such bad bedside manners?
Before I attempt to answer this question, I will take you on a little detour.
As a Seattle Home Inspector, a home that has only been lived in a couple of years I would still consider “New Construction.” Basically any house that was built under “current code requirements,” I would consider New Construction. Once the home has had multiple owners or is older than a couple of code cycles, I would be less likely to see it as New Construction, and might refer to it as “Newer Construction.”
For agents, in the business of selling homes, I suspect the definition of “New Construction” might be a little narrower and only include homes that have never been lived in. In these different economic times however, new homes can sit on the market for months and even years without a buyer.
There are also the homes that sit half done–the builder in foreclosure–that get bought up and finished “years” later. Finished after rain has been blowing in the window openings for months or the rats and racoons have been having a field day in the crawl space and attic.
Time is always the enemy of homes that are not built properly or or not completed properly. Actually this is true whether new or old. I think there is the perception “New Homes” are guaranteed to have fewer problems than older housing stock, so the term “New Construction” is used as a “selling point.”
I am no enemy of New Construction. In fact I would argue most new homes are going to be better than their counterparts (same comparative price range–adjusted for inflation) built 75 years ago–and especially 175 years ago. People will point to the grand old mansions around the country that are still standing as some kind of proof old construction is better than new construction–but this argument doesn’t take into account these homes were never in the “price range” of the homes of today they are being compared to.
They are merely the ones lucky enough to still be standing–the comparable ones have long since gone back to the earth, having been eaten by bugs, wood decay/rot, fire or bulldozer.
Of course this is all before we start talking about lead, asbestos, galvanized plumbing, knob & tube wiring, single pane windows, rubble foundations, squeaky/un-level floors, and a long list of missing modern safety features we have grown accustomed to.
So, at a recent inspection, even though it had been lived in for 2 years, I still considered it “New Construction.” For me, this meant I “expected” more from the home–not less. On newer construction, I wonder why some defects were not caught either by the local jurisdictional inspectors, or more importantly, why they were not caught by the home inspector when the original buyers purchased the home.
Were the buyers talked out of having the home inspected because it was “New Construction?” Were the jurisdictional inspectors asleep at the wheel? Was the home inspector incompetent?
The answers to these questions are what they are and do at least provide entertainment value–and blog fodder. Of course there will be the repairs–but that is another issue.
For example, why have the woodpeckers created access to the attic of this 2 year old home?
As you can see in the picture, the screen on the inside of the vent is completely missing. Of course woodpeckers can be very aggressive when it comes to making holes in homes. Most of the time they are merely making noise to attract a mate or going after bugs they can hear inside the wood. Sometimes they see our homes as a good place for their homes as well. To add insult to injury, this vent is merely ornamental and not necessary at all.
For them to turn your attic into a bird house, they really need a “starting” point. A tiny hole that they can make bigger–usually involving a nice work platform for them to roost on while they peck their way in. A screen is really no guarantee that they won’t peck their way through it if they really want in–but at least it is better than nothing.
I am hired to inform. I am there to simply tell the house’s story as accurately and as thoroughly as possible–with the best bedside manner befitting any professional of any real profession.
While the home inspector can not afford to “soft pedal” anything he or she finds, they can impart the information as if they are part of the solution instead of being part of the problem. Of course there will always be those that do not understand enough about the process to know the difference.
There will always be those with agendas that will prevent the light of truth from coming in or getting out.
Information protects all parties in the transaction, and yes, sometimes information is a bummer.
Every home sooner or later returns to the earth. It is just a matter of under who’s watch it happens.
But if the buyer flies the coop–they will do so because they now have a better idea of what the house is–regardless of whether it is new or old.
If the agent is supportive, that buyer is almost guaranteed to use both of us again. If the inspector is an ass, neither one is likely to ever use us again. Like I said, our bedside manner is FREE advertising! relationships don’t have to die–even when the house does.
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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