As a long time Inspector myself, I've seen many (Home Inspectors) come and go over the past 18 years. The purpose of this post is to have an honest discussion about the value and scope of a home inspection, what effect it has on the buyer, seller and realestate transaction as a whole, and, from a Realtor's perspective, what you find good about the process and what you feel could be changed or done better.
From an Inspector's perspective, I believe we are focused on 3 things; evaluating the overall condition of the home, adhering to state mandated and/or association guidelines and also mitigating potential liability isses we face as a result of what was or was not reported.
yes, it's unfortunate that we do think about liability, but in truth, those who don't never last long.
So, first, lets discuss the issue of how broad the inspection should be. In other words, when is it a bridge too far? I'll give one common example of this. Some inspectors have been known to call out (for replacement) an older furnace that operated normally. Is that a bridge too far? Yes, the inspection does not determine the life expectancy of any component or system under all state or association standards I am familiar with. On the other hand, should an inspector mention a missing drain stop in a half bath vanity sink? Some may find this to be nit picking, but its related to the functionality of the sink and is required to be included in the report under most association SOPs. Any opening in the electrical service panel is required to be reported on, but some also see this a nit picking.
If you take a look at the reporting standards of the largest association: InterNACHI, youll see a long list of what is required to be accessed and reported on and what is not. In my view, all Reators should be familiar with these standards. Why, because it helps explain the "why"; when what may appear to be minor issues were included in the report. Also, it empowers the Realtor since there is a long list of "the inspector is not required to". By going through this list, you'll find areas where the inspector may be going beyond the requirements, and this is an area that should be open for discussion. For example, and Inspector is not required to inspect sprinkler systems, but he/she may choose to do so. An Inspector is required to operate appliances and check for functionality, but not required to plug them in, or turn on the gas valve. So, if the fridge is not plugged in, should the Inspector, plug it in and make sure its running normally?
Which brings us to the other extreme. When is the scope of the inspection too narrow? fridges are required to be inspected, but not if they arn't plugged in and turned on. Many an inspector has ended up paying for water damage caused by moving out the fridge to plug it in and then inadvertantly pulling off the plastic supply hose. Perhaps the water main supply shutoff valve in the basement is closed. What should the inspector do? Turn it on? If he/she does, what happens if some of the fixtures are not properly connected or there are large leaks in the water lines behind the wall? Did he/she have permission to turn that valve on? The answer is NO? What happens if that rusted gate valve now won't turn off?
One of my personal pet peaves is personal belongings blocking things that need to be inspected. In the email I send to listing agents, I make a point to ask the Agent to make sure the sellers have removed shelving and clothes from the closet where the attic access is located. Although, I'm not required to inspect the attic if those items have not been cleared for me, I have, in the past at times, carefully removed the items, put them on an adjacent bed, and put them back when finished. Once when doing this, the seller later emailed the listing agent complaining that I had been going through thier closet, that items had been moved around and that they felt violated. See the problem here?
Communiaction between the agents on both sides of the transaction and the Inspector is vital. In my experience, often listing agents shy away from any contact with the Inspector for fear that they will learn something that would require disclosure should the purchase not make it to closing. It should be pointed out though, that such an approach, gives undue negotiating power to the buyer. One personal example: I inspected an older home with the origional single hung/single pane windows that also had storms. Typically, what I'm looking for is that these windows function, that the storms are sealed, and that they are not missing glazing. In this case, a couple of the windows had some missing glazing. I suggested the loose glazing be removed on these windows and them new glazing applied, a $20.00 fix. By some strange set of circumstances, I heard back that the buyer had demanded all the windows be upgraded as the inspector had said they need replacing. Since the listing agent was not given the report, she had no reason to doubt what the buyer was contending. This sort of thing happens rather often.
I'd appreciate reading about your own experiences with the home inspection process. I'm sure there are some good stories out there, and my hope is we can all learn something that will help everyone involved.