No Bull

By
Home Inspector with Bay Area Home Inspection, LLC WI 739-106

Milk CowGertchrude, my old milk cow was a dear soul and dependable as they come, still she was no Bull and neither is what I am about to say!

As I have transitioned my Inspection Business to Upper Michigan, I keep running into one specific problem that befuddles me.  I suppose I should tell you first that in my Market,  many listed homes are vacant.  Sometimes the owners live out of state, sometimes there is a death in the family and often, people leave the area for career pursuits (usually returning at some point).  in any case, Imagine meeting a client at a property to begin an Inspection only to find that the water, Gas or Electricity have been shut off.  This brings up an interesting question...several actually.  You might first ask, why didn't the Inspector know the Utilities were shut off?  More on that later.  The next logical question might be:  So the water is shut off, what's the big deal, just turn it on...right?  The short answer is: wrong, wrong, wrong!  Lets say, for example that I do turn on the main water valve as it comes into the home.  I begin by inspecting the plumbing, not difficult as I soon learn several pipes have burst (home was not winterized) and there's a hole the size of Niagara Falls underneath the water heater.  So, just quickly shut off the water.  Not so fast, it seems the shut off valve which has been around since Moby Dick was a minnow, doesn't...yep, you guessed it, want to shut off!  The Listing Agent is unavailable and the municipal water might be able to get out later that afternoon.  Now, luckily for me, that scenario has not happened, but less dramatic things have.  Once I make the decision to turn on any component or utility during an inspection, I have not only just assumed responsibility for damages, I have also potentially peeved a whole bunch of people if there is a problem that can't be immediately fixed.

So, I could have just written up the report without inspecting the plumbing.  Sure I could have.  But doing so would not be fair to the client who paid and trusted me to provide a complete inspection.  One month later when this client closes on the home and finds the water heater leaking, or it raining in the dining room from the hall bath above, this buyer will be hopping mad, and ultimately, it won't be me this client addresses his/her anger toward.

Yes, yes, but you say, why didn't you just wait until the Utilities were all turned on?  Well, now here is where we truly get to the nut of this problem.  You see, in my market, when a purchase agreement is drawn up, sometimes the Realtors don't address the issue (within the purchase agreement) of who is responsible for turning on and off ulilities prior to closing.  This can cause a great deal of confusion and buck passing, and I for one, don't wish to be caught in the middle.  Further, as a generalized truth, I find that some Realtors (Listing Agents) are giving the buyer 10 days to have the Inspection completed and then not immediately working toward getting all the Utilities turned on knowing they are not.  It has happened (to me) more than once lately that the water or electricy was still turned off at the time the inspection contigency expired.

The only thing I can think of is to try to provide some guidance and experience on this issue to Realtors in my area.  They need to understand that a Home Inspection Contigency, is just that, a "Contigency".  Failure to allow the buyer a complete inspection within the agreed upon time frame voids..or makes voidable, the purchase agreement.  If the Utilities are shut off and the Listing Agent knows this, and the listing agent also knows the home has not been winterized, it seems reasonable to assume that they may need more than 10 days to fix any forseable problems (i.e. leaks in water and NG pipes, servicing the furnace or boiler, making sure the electricity is safely turned on).  These are not my repsonsibilities.

I do also understand that in Michigan, there are no state standards or competency requirements for Home Inspectors...yet (more on that in another post).  Personally, I adhere to ASHI standards.  How do I know those standards?  Well, I have been licensed in Wisconsin for nearly 9 years now.  I also engage in a minimum of 40 hours up to 200 hours of Home Inspector Training classes and seminars each year.  I know what Michigan Inspectors should be doing, but with no standardized guidelines, there is little consistancy and perhaps some Realtors are misinformed in general about the scope the Home Inspection should encompass.

And how is your weekend going?

  

Walt

    

Comments (16)

Michael Hutchins - Consumer Advocate, Chicago
Michael Hutchins Ent. - Chicago, IL
Great post Walt.  I bet your glad to see spring just around the corner.  I love the UP in the summers
Mar 31, 2007 07:01 AM
Chris Griffith
Downing-Frye Realty, Bonita Springs, FL - Bonita Springs, FL
Bonita Springs Listing Agent
I haven't seen a cow being milked in years.  I fully didn't expect to see one on Active Rain.  LOL
Mar 31, 2007 10:15 AM
Walt Fish
Bay Area Home Inspection, LLC - Marquette, MI
Upper Michigan's Most Experienced Home Inspector

Thanks Michael and Chris!

Yes,  Michael the UP is great.  Cold out today though. 

Yes, Chris I thought it a good tie in for my post.  I used to get 5-6 gallons a day from Gerty.  Had an old surge line in the barn and a couple of surge buckets as you can see.  In my opinion, there is nothing like fresh milk...and cream.

 

Apr 01, 2007 10:16 AM
Steven Turetsky
Comprehensive Building Inspections & Consultants - Staten Island, NY
Building Moisture Analyst

When I was a kid, I worked at Sunland Park Racetrack, in New Mexico. We had a goat. The greatest thing was a few squirts of fresh milk in our coffee. By the way... it was a nanny goat!

I do not turn on... or off, water mains. Nor do I turn on any circuit breakers that are shut off. I notify client of these and other policys when the inspection is scheduled. If the homeowner is present, I ask them to turn on anything that is not on that they want included in the inspection. If they don't turn it on... I include that in my inspection.

I also inform at the time of scheduling that I gladly reinspect... for a fee.

Apr 01, 2007 12:29 PM
Walt Fish
Bay Area Home Inspection, LLC - Marquette, MI
Upper Michigan's Most Experienced Home Inspector

Steve,

My cousins raised some milk goats while I was growing up.  Different taste, but I did like it.  I also loved the cheese.

Usually, the sellers are not at the Inspection.  I do offer to reinspect...for a fee, as you do.  However, then comes the issue of who pays for the reinspection.  If the utilitiy responsibilities were clearly defined in the purchase agreement, and if the seller was the one responsible to get them all on and they were not, then the seller would be responsible to pay for the reinspection.  That, of course, can get tricky...getting paid, I mean.

Apr 02, 2007 01:09 AM
Steven Turetsky
Comprehensive Building Inspections & Consultants - Staten Island, NY
Building Moisture Analyst

Yes, it can be tricky. But since we work for and are contracted by the buyer, that is who authorizes... and pays me to go... if he (they) want me to. Let them work it out among themselves. How about policy being receiving a check prior to the report being handed over.

That is why my policy is to collect a check at the end of the inspection, prior to the report being written out and handed over. That is another reason why I do not wish to do reports in the field.

Apr 02, 2007 10:10 AM
Walt Fish
Bay Area Home Inspection, LLC - Marquette, MI
Upper Michigan's Most Experienced Home Inspector

Steve,

Yes that is the same policy I use.  Where it gets tricky is if you do an inspection, and then have to re-inspect due to a utility being turned off.  The Buyer usually ends up paying and then deals with the seller about it.  Sometimes though, the buyer wants the seller to pay upfront since they, in effect breached the agreement.  Yes, all of my reports are computerized, and though I can print on site, I always prefer to complete the report at my office and email to the client.  

 

Apr 03, 2007 01:45 AM
Steven Turetsky
Comprehensive Building Inspections & Consultants - Staten Island, NY
Building Moisture Analyst

Hi Walt, we are definately on the same page. Which reporting system do you use? I am used to Matrix, but think I want to try something different. I'm considering Inspect Express. Any suggestions?

Although I like a check list type, I also like narrative. I would like a flexable combination of the two styles. I hate to have to buy and try something that I'm not going to like.

Apr 03, 2007 01:52 AM
Walt Fish
Bay Area Home Inspection, LLC - Marquette, MI
Upper Michigan's Most Experienced Home Inspector

Hi Steve,

I am only familiar with HomeGauge and I do like it very much.  It does combine narrative and check lists and also has smart comments, the ability to duplicate sections...such as adding a second garage and some nice other features such as sending automatic emial notifications when the report is uploaded and the ability to block viewing of the report until it has been paid for.  Contact Sean Lowery at:   

sdl@homegauge.com

Tell him I referred you and I believe he will send you a trial version that you can use for about one month for free.

 

Walt

Apr 03, 2007 02:25 AM
Jimmy Breazeale
Sherlock Home Inspections - Coldwater, MS

HomeGuage rules!!  I have made a printed checklist using the homeguage templates as a guide.  I do not complete the report on site, as Russell illustrates in his videos.....and I have got to the point that most of the comments on the software are mine.  I like complete sentences.  I did complete and print one report on site, but I found that it makes the inspection itself longer.  The attention spans of clients and agents is tested when an average inspection lasts much more than 2 hours...not to mention my own!!  With the checklist, I can complete and e-mail a report in about 30-45 minutes back at the office.  That way, I can address the uniqueness of the home inspected. Sometimes, "canned" comments just don't fit.  But that is the beauty of HomeGuage.  You are free to create, and even design your own templates.

As far as utilities being on is concerned, I always check with the listing agent or the buyer's agent beforehand if a home is vacant.  I learned that early on after I drove 55 miles for an inspection only to find that it was a flip still in the process of being...(ahem)...updated.  No water or gas, and the flipper was running a makeshift cord of nm cable with a receptacle on the end of it off one lug of the panel box and the neutral...no ground.  Anybody got a good "flipper" horror story?  I could say more about this one...such as the guy had installed an upright furnace on its belly in the attic, so that there would be no way to service it.

Apr 03, 2007 04:28 PM
Walt Fish
Bay Area Home Inspection, LLC - Marquette, MI
Upper Michigan's Most Experienced Home Inspector

Jimmy,

I agree with you aout HomeGauge...it is a good system with good support.

Regarding flipper horror stories, my last one had to do with a newly installed water heater in a corner of a crawl space that had a Natural gas leak due to a loose fitting.  Luckily, they had installed a main shutoff upstream of the leak and I turned it off.  They had also done a quick remodel upstairs.  In one room, they pieced 3 different carpets togather.  They were all close ot the same color.  

 

Apr 03, 2007 11:45 PM
Jim Watzlawick
Watz Home Inspections - Algonquin, IL
Watz Home Inspections
I put right at the top of the summary that the water or gas was off and those items could not be inspected and let the agent or lawyers work it out.
May 15, 2007 04:17 AM
Walt Fish
Bay Area Home Inspection, LLC - Marquette, MI
Upper Michigan's Most Experienced Home Inspector

Jim,

I understand, but...we do have to work with realtors, and the ones up here would never use you again if you did that.  It may be (probably is) wrong, but the realtors here expect you to do whatever it takes to do a complete inspection.  If the gas isn't on, oh well, guess you have to come back at no charge.

May 18, 2007 11:02 AM
Bob Elliott
Elliott Home Inspection - Chicago, IL
Chicago Property Inspection

Hi Walt..to  bad you can not just write a disclaimer.

I am going back on a final walk through next week due to gas being turned off at the time of the inspection,so I know how you feel.

Steve I thought you were using Horizon now!

May 18, 2007 01:13 PM
Steven Turetsky
Comprehensive Building Inspections & Consultants - Staten Island, NY
Building Moisture Analyst

Hi Bob,

I did choose to use Horizon. The post above is from before I was decided. But I was chatting with a friend, who is amongst one of the best HI's I know. He uses Horizon for "quickie" reports and uses Inspect Express for the more in depth... (and expensive) reports.

I can see that scenario happening with me too, it all depends on the property and what the client is looking for.

 

May 18, 2007 01:42 PM
Jim Watzlawick
Watz Home Inspections - Algonquin, IL
Watz Home Inspections
I just make a note of what utilities are not on and what cannot be inspected without those utilities. Most of the time the buyer gets the seller to pay for me to come back and check those items.
May 22, 2007 10:15 AM