Home Inspection Observations in Winnetka/North Shore

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Home Inspection Observations


You've just completed an inspection on a home that you've purchased. Later that evening, you receive an email from the inspector with his full report attached.  If you were to print it out, it would be about 30 pages long.

You think, oh no, 30 pages worth of problems. You may be thinking thisInspection report regardless if this is your first or tenth house. But that inspection report is not a hotbed of headaches, it's a roadmap of your new home. Think of it as a guiding light, a document that has just revealed many unknown and hidden aspects of the house. And that's a good thing. Who buys something that expensive without a full reckoning?

As buyers view their potential homes, they notice things - good and bad. This helps them in determining the price they are willing to ultimately pay for it. Updated kitchen with stainless appliances - check. Rotting wood at the bottom of the back door - check. Old porous caulking in the shower - check. Plants growing out of the gutters - check. However, there is ultimately only so much buyers can see or understand about homes and that's why inspectors are hired.

Home inspector in crawl space with flashlightHome inspectors go into the areas of the home that you can't or don't want to. They routinely clamber down into a crawlspace or climb into attics to survey water damage, pests, unused electrical wiring, mold, asbestos, and many more potential issues. Some will even walk the roof (most peer through binoculars.) I highly suggest that buyers attend their own inspections and follow the inspector around the house because a wealth of information can be learned at this time.

What's really important to understand about home inspections is that in most cases they are not meant as a tool to renegotiate your contract. Roofs can often appear just fine and end up needing repair. Some houses have foundation issues, mold, faulty furnaces or boilers, and electrical, or plumbing problems. These are unforeseen by buyers and probably not disclosed by sellers because they might not be aware of these matters.

The Illinois Real Property Disclosure Report must be completed by all sellers of residential properties - they must, to the best of their knowledge, answer 23 questions. Clearly, if a seller has no knowledge of a potential issue and the buyer bids on the house accordingly, then problems will arise when the inspection discovers said issue.

So if an inspection shows a broken pipe but the disclosure report does notBroken pipe exposed in wall mention it - then buyers have good recourse to do one of three things:  

  1. Ask for repairs if possible (or a credit to replace)
  2. Ask for replacement if necessary (or a credit to replace)
  3. Void the contract

It's easy when we're dealing with the big stuff - and I'm reminded of the book, "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff," as it might pertain to an inspection report. All those pages I mentioned above that deal in great detail about every aspect of the house? They are an accounting of the house itself and in a recent inspection I had, the minor stuff was worded like this:

  • garage electrical observations
  • temperature pressure relief valve observations
  • kitchen sink, faucet, and water supply observations
  • window observations

Observations. It's the inspector's job to point everything out. The inspector is helping you understand your new home and help you differentiate between what's urgent and what's not. Unless you are buying a new construction home (which should also be inspected) your new home will have plenty of observations. Not all inspectors word it this way, but you will always see pages and pages of general information about the condition of items. They are not always meant to be collected into a big grievance and delivered to the seller with a request for credit. They can be overwhelming and sometimes buyers feel the need to get something back for a home they thought was in better condition. If you feel strongly about it and would consider canceling the contract over it, then trying to get a credit might be worth it.

When you are signing the purchase contract for your new home (for the North Shore, it is called The Multi-board Residential Real Estate Contract,) please read paragraph 12 carefully as it refers to professional inspections.  Lines 120-122 in particular:

Home Inspection

Remember that EVERYTHING IS NEGOTIABLE and I am not trying to head you off at the pass from requesting repairs or credits. Too many real estate deals fall apart at this point and when both sellers and buyers have a clear understanding of what is expected, the better the chance to get to closing. Sellers need to disclose and buyers need to inspect. Somewhere between the two, we can find an agreement.


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Winnetka and North Shore Real Estate Broker
Specializing in homes for sale in Winnetka, Wilmette, Kenilworth, Northfield, Glencoe, Glenview, Northbrook, and Evanston.

Comments (17)

Francine Viola
Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty, Olympia WA - Olympia, WA
REALTOR®, In Tune with your Real Estate Needs

Hi Margaret - yes, the lengthy inspection reports are pretty terrifying.  That's another reason why the buyer should be at the inspection to hear the inspector's findings and explain actions because reading this laundry list of repairs and "observations" on paper makes the transaction far scarier.  I also like what your purchase and sale agreeements have to say about minor repairs - I need that in mine!

Oct 05, 2017 09:47 AM
Margaret Goss

Francine - I agree that having that verbiage in the contract is very helpful when explaining the inspection to buyers

Oct 05, 2017 09:56 AM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

Margaret- well said, and I too like the paragraph that talks about minor repairs and routine maintenance items. Too often some buyers feel that every single item listed must be addressed by the seller and forget that they are buying a previously owned home. 

Oct 05, 2017 12:12 PM
Margaret Goss

Kathy - yes, it's a USED house and it will not be perfect!

Oct 05, 2017 12:57 PM
Sheila Anderson
Referral Group Incorporated - East Brunswick, NJ
The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133

Good afternoon Margaret. This is excellent. Home inspections shouldn't be reviwed as a second chance to negotiate.

Oct 05, 2017 02:12 PM
Sheila Anderson
Referral Group Incorporated - East Brunswick, NJ
The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133

Good afternoon Margaret. This is excellent. A home inspection is important but shouldn't be view as a second negotiation.

Oct 05, 2017 02:14 PM
Margaret Goss

Sheila - as it too often is, right?

Oct 06, 2017 12:22 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Margaret

I think this is excellent. It really gives buyers, new or experienced, a grounding in reality about what the inspection is all about and how it fits into the due diligence process.


Oct 05, 2017 04:10 PM
Margaret Goss

Jeff - the inspection can certainly get out of hand if everyone is not grounded!

Oct 06, 2017 12:22 PM
Myrl Jeffcoat
Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Realtor - Retired

I have a friend who just moved to Texas.  And, one of the first things that happened was she was attacked by hornets.  Not only does her home have hornets, but bees who have made honeycome in the attic space around the fireplace.  I only wish she had requested a pest inspection and a home inspection.

Oct 05, 2017 04:59 PM
Margaret Goss

Mylr - I've only had a buyer not perform an inspection one time. There were multiple bids, it was new construction, and they thought they were safe. A year later, their basement flooded . . .

Oct 06, 2017 12:21 PM
Chris Ann Cleland
Long and Foster Real Estate - Gainesville, VA
Associate Broker, Bristow, VA

Sellers need to be reasonable about fixing major issues, and buyers need to understand that not everything in the report is going to be fixed...they are buying a used home.

Oct 06, 2017 10:44 AM
Margaret Goss

Chris Ann - exactly!

Oct 06, 2017 12:21 PM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

                                  Thank you Margaret Goss 

Oct 07, 2017 05:27 PM
Matthew Klinowski, PA
Downing Frye Realty - Naples, FL
Naples Golf Guy | Find Your Dream Lifestyle

Margaret, great post.  Your observations are right on target.  I appreciate your straightforward and concise writing which helps clients digest and understand the value and intent of a home inspection.

Oct 08, 2017 04:53 AM
Alan May
Jameson Sotheby's International Realty - Evanston, IL
An offer you can't refuse!

An excellent essay on the home inspection.  I'm a firm believer that it's the buyer's agent's job to set the expectations of their buyer before the inspection.  If you've had this conversation before starting the inspection... you're less likely to have the overwhelming laundry-list of repairs/credits submitted by the buyer, and causing the transaction to implode.

Oct 08, 2017 06:41 AM
Margaret Goss

Alan - I couldn't agree more. I pull the contract out and we discuss that paragraph and what it means.

Oct 08, 2017 09:29 AM
Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®
RE/MAX Platinum - Waukesha, WI
Giving Back With Each Home Sold!

I can see why Kathy chose your post to highlight this week...well done!

Oct 08, 2017 07:48 AM
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Pasadena And Southern California 818.516.4393

Hi Margaret - ahh, the inspection report laundry list of items/issues that need to be addressed/reviewed/repaired/replaced can be a massive headache-inducing moment for buyers/sellers alike.  Your well-written post shows a common-sense approach to this important part of a real estate transaction.  

Oct 08, 2017 07:52 AM
Corey Martin
Martin Presence Group - Ruston, LA
Real Estate and Management Solutions

Inspection reports can be problematic, but at the same time the buyer has a right to know if there are things wrong with the house. Thanks for sharing. 

Oct 08, 2017 09:34 AM
Margaret Goss

Absolutely - all buyers should conduct home inspections. It's how they read it afterwards that should be discussed in full.

Oct 08, 2017 10:00 AM
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
Retired New Hampshire Home Stager

So glad Kathy shared this post! An excellent explanation of the ins and outs of home inspections!

Oct 08, 2017 10:36 AM
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

I am glad that Kathy featured you in her "What I learned this week" since I had missed your original post. 

Oct 08, 2017 02:46 PM
Gene Mundt, IL/WI Mortgage Originator - FHA/VA/Conv/Jumbo/Portfolio/Refi
NMLS #216987, IL Lic. 031.0006220, WI Licensed. APMC NMLS #175656 - New Lenox, IL
708.921.6331 - 40+ yrs experience

I so appreciate (and applaud) your walk-through of the ABC's, importance, and value of the home inspection process Margaret Goss ... it's often so grossly misunderstood.  Kathy Streib was so right to include your post in her weekly "Ah Hah" article ...


Oct 09, 2017 02:09 PM
Tony and Suzanne Marriott, Associate Brokers
Serving the Greater Phoenix and Scottsdale Metropolitan Area - Scottsdale, AZ
Haven Express @ Keller Williams Arizona Realty

Margaret Goss "It's the inspectors job to point everything out. The inspector is helping you understand your new home and helping you differentiate between what's urgent and what's not."

Right on target - and - re-blog!

Oct 25, 2017 04:50 AM
Margaret Goss

Tony and Suzanne Marriott, Associate Brokers - thank you!

Oct 25, 2017 05:45 AM