I remember my first week as an associate home inspector, that is Massachusetts lingo for Rookie. I had traveled with seasoned veterans for about 6 months and had seen several inspections by that time, but this was only my third as a solo inspector. Usually, young home buyers would bring an older friend or relative along, not to second guess the inspector, but for moral support or perhaps to help explain some of systems on the house. In this case, the buyer came with his son, a law student at an Ivy League institution of higher learning. It didn't take me long to figure out that he was there in case the buyer needed to sue the home inspector.
Fast forward a few months. Another buyer showed up late, informed me that the vegetation I was crawling in to get under the porch was poison ivy, then vanished. He was not seen or heard from for several hours. When his Realtor finally found him, I started to share my findings about the home. Usually I do this as I go so the concerns are fresh in my mind and the buyer can ask any questions, but that was not an option on this day. However, he listened intently to my laundry list of defects and maintenance items, and followed each item with a question. "Does this mean that I can't sue you?" After three or four times, I finally responded the best way I knew how, simply by confirming that he cannot sue me, at least for the items that I had identified as marginal or defective.
There have been many other times in my time as a home inspector where I have overheard realtors advising their clients that a home inspection is important because if something is wrong with the house, you will have someone to sue. It may come to that, but I have to say that this is not the purpose of a home inspection. While I have never met Sue personally, I am quite sure that I would not like her. She sounds scary.
So if don't hire an inspector so you have someone to sue, what is an inspection really for? For starters, lets define what an inspection is. It is a visual inspection of readily accessible components of the house. We can only inspect what we can see, but that doesn't stop people from assuming that we know exactly what is happening between the exterior siding and interior drywall. It is also a snapshot in time. If your inspection is performed after 3 months of dry weather, leaks in the roof or basement may not be evident. The water stains may be present, but it may be difficult to tell if the leaks are active. Appliances that work on the day of the inspection may fail before you close, windows, doors, and walls may be damaged.
Your inspector will inspect the house, identify obvious and potential flaws, and provide you with a clearer understanding how the house works. We are also able to remove the emotion from the transaction and assess the condition honestly and objectively. We are able to do this in part because home inspectors are emotionless droids, but also because we will not be living there. We are not planning to enjoy our morning coffee on the back deck, or warming our buns by the fireplace. Therefore it much easier for us to remain objective. When we are finished, you will be better equipped to make an informed decision on what will likely be the biggest investment of your life.
So relax, interview some prospective inspectors now, before you need them, decide on one you are comfortable with, and enjoy the process.
Happy house hunting
American Bulldog Home Inspection
Watchdog for the American Dream