There may come a time when purchasers discover something wrong with the house, and may be upset or disappointed with the home inspection. Some problems can only be discovered by living in a house. For example, some shower stalls leak when people are in the shower, but do not leak when you simply turn on the tap.
If there are no clues of a past problem, one cannot presume that the inspector should foresee a future problem. Some say we are inconsistent because our reports identify some minor problems but not others. The minor details that are identified were discovered while looking for more significant items. We note them simply as a courtesy. The intent of the inspection is not to find the $100 details; it is to find the $1000 or greater items.
A common source of dissatisfaction comes from comments made by contractors. Contractors' opinions often differ from ours. Don't be surprised when three roofers all say the roof needs replacement when we said that, with some minor repairs, the roof will last a few more years.
The Last Man In Theory
While our advice might represent the most prudent thing to do, many contractors are reluctant to undertake these repairs. This is because of the "Last Man In Theory". The contractor fears that if he is the last person to work on the roof, he will get blamed if the roof leaks, regardless of whether the leak is his fault or not. He might not want to do a minor repair with high liability when he could re-roof the entire house for more money and reduce the likelihood of a call-back. This is understandable.
There is more to the "Last Man In Theory". It suggests that it is human nature for homeowners to believe the last bit of "expert" advice they receive, even if it is contrary to previous advice. As home inspectors, we unfortunately find ourselves in the position of "first man in" and consequently it is our advice that is often disbelieved.
"I can't believe you had this house inspected, and they didn't find this problem."
There are a number of reasons for apparent oversights:
- We are generalists, not specialists. The heating contractor may have more heating expertise than we do. This is because we are also expected to have cooling, plumbing, roofing, structural and electrical expertise.
- When a problem manifests itself, it is very easy to have 20/20 hindsight. Anybody can say that the basement is wet when there's 2 inches of water on the floor. Predicting the occurrence is a different story.
- If we spent half an hour under the kitchen sink or 45 minutes disassembling the furnace, we might find more problems too… but the inspection might take a few days, and would cost considerably more.
Food For Thought:
A home inspection is designed to better one's odds. It is not designed to totally eliminate all risk. A home inspection should not be considered an insurance policy.
The premium than an insurance company would have to charge for a policy with no deductible, no limit and an indefinite policy period would be considerably more than the fee we charge. It would also not include the value added by the inspection.
We hope this is food for thought.
Visit my home inspection website at www.electrospec.ca