I think this is a worthwhile question whether you are an agent or parent or anyone else involved in the transaction but it is mostly a question for agents.
Why do agents steer first-time home buyers toward turn of the century fixers? I am talking about the last century—-not this one?
While these homes may be in the buyer’s price range, are these folks really in a position to turn them into something worth even the low amount they might be paying for them? Many of these homes require EXTENSIVE PROFESSIONAL WORK and the thought of this work being undertaken by folks with a gift card to the Big Orange Tool Box from their parents distresses me.
I know as a home inspector, it is not my job to figure out what the financial resources of my buyers is like or whether they have the skills and/or physical abilities to make the necessary improvements, but I often do get a sense of these things by the time I am done with the inspection whether they are up to the task or not. It is pretty logical that, if they are buying a home in this price range, they do not have tons of money sitting in a piggy bank to throw at: asbestos remediation, lead paint removal, new windows, new doors, new siding, new roofs, new foundations, new plumbing, new heating systems, and new wiring. Some of these houses need all of these things. Most of them need several to some degree.
These are also the buyers that I am the most pressured by the agents to cut my inspection fee to “help out.” The sad reality is that these houses are difficult to inspect, more time consuming to inspect and the reports go on and on forever. The amount of issues and the volumes of information are often justifiably intimidating to the buyer and possibly even inconsistent with the sales pitch of the listing information and agent.
This is not my fault. I don’t make up the story—-I merely write it down. Seriously, every agent should know enough about the houses they are showing our buyer to expect this type of report from this type of housing stock. It should be a “given,” and if the reports that inspectors produce is not what they want to see from the inspector they perhaps should give the inspector something different to inspect—–and something different for the buyer to buy.
At some point, after their homeowner repairs are all done, the house will be back on the market and they will be dealing with another home inspector and be expected to account for the “improvements” they have done. Will all the permits be in place? And even if not, will all the work be done properly?
My experience teaches me that they generally will not, and once again the home inspector will become the villain—-for killing yet another deal.
I also know that it is not my job to even care—-but I do nonetheless. More often than not, these buyers are the ages of my kids, so some amount of “projection” and “empathy” is bound to happen.
Why not let these homes go to the developers and the remodeling professionals that can either return them to their former splendor or properly remove them and build something new?
I do not think that most agents are capable of accurately describing to the buyer what these buyers are getting themselves into. Many apparently don’t seem to care. And most Home Inspectors’ Home Inspection Reports are not going to be any more helpful in terms of making the houses seem OK.
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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