Here’s the fourth and final (?) installment of a series that started with my musing over the ups and downs of “deal breaker” and “deal killer” home inspectors, and misunderstandings and disagreements between inspectors and Realtors.
Jack L. Werner of A to Z Inspections, 3625 N McKinley Ave., was the only inspector to weigh in. Knowing him to be meticulous in these kinds of detailed matters, I yield the floor. This is an edited version of his lengthy email:
“Inspectors are REQUIRED by the CIB (Construction Industries Board), our governing agency, to comment on the life expectancy of all appliances. Several inspectors were at the CIB meeting several years ago when this was addressed. Inspectors did NOT want this task, but the attorney representing the CIB explained that we have the responsibility. The language you cited, ‘system is near the end of its expected life span and you may want to budget for replacement ...’ is appropriate.
“As a two-time past president of our state association and an attendee at the specific CIB board meeting addressing ‘Appliances: hot water tanks, dishwashers, heat and air units, etc.,’ I believe it is required.
“Sometimes we try to make things so precise and technically/legally correct instead of simply asking, ‘What is right?’ The buyer is probably making the largest single investment of their life. If the buyer is your son or daughter (remember buying a home and it seemed like you had to scrape together every penny you could find and there were always a few more expenses than you initially thought?), do you really want them buying a house without being told that a $10,000 component works now but, based on its age, you may have to come up with that much money in a year or two?
“Richard, there are two other things I would like to mention here:
“1. I frequently hear inspectors meet with the criticism from real estate agents that ‘that is not part of the contract’ or ‘he does not inspect according to the contract,’ meaning the real estate contract. YES, that is true. We are not part of the real estate contract. We have our own regulations, standards of practice and ethical obligations we should follow.
“The appliance at the end of its useful life is an example; another would be CSST (corrugated stainless steel tubing). Both of these things are mandated/required for inspectors to write up — even if they appear to be working properly and then, guess what: ‘He is not inspecting according to the contract.’ That’s right. We do not. If we did, we would be in violation of the law, regulations and standards of practice set out for home inspectors.
“2. The most professional real estate agents want, welcome, and encourage the most thorough inspection available. Who would not want as detailed, comprehensive analysis as possible on a property that is perhaps the largest single investment they have ever made? A good inspector absolutely and only works for the buyer, not the real estate agent. The bottom end of the bell curve, the least professional real estate agent, wants no inspection or a ‘quickie’ light inspection.
“Is there a simple, fair, functional answer for everyone? You bet there is.
Every SELLER should secure the toughest, most thorough inspection possible before putting the house on the market. It amazes me that the real estate GIANTS all preach this, but Realtors do not embrace it. ...
“Here’s why: Selling your house is a business — your business. What does a serious business approach require? Knowing your product — in this case, your house, its curb appeal, its roof, its heat and air system, its landscaping, its drainage, its windows and doors, everything about it. Before the deal is through, you can bet the buyer will.
“After a contract is in place is a poor time for you, the seller, to renegotiate. You’ve already agreed to the lowest price you are willing to take, anywhere from 5 to 20 percent less than your list price. Then you get the surprises that a thorough, competent inspector will turn up. Often the needed repairs exceed the allowance you negotiated in the contract, usually $500 to $1,000. The buyer frequently, and under-standably, demands all the repairs or a full allowance for them or cancels the contract.
“Where are you now? Your home has been off the market for at least a month. You have already come down to the lowest acceptable price. Now you have to renegotiate or put your house back on the market. One simple prelisting step could have prevented this state of events.
“Picture having a comprehensive, detailed home inspection in your hand before you start. Aren’t you feeling stronger? You have the option of choosing which items to fix before a buyer ever sees it. You negotiate from an informed, confident position over the remaining items before agreeing to a sale price and repair allowances. The buyer’s inspection report will not surprise you, delay your closing, or bust your contract. In short, a thorough, detailed prelisting inspection will decrease market time and increase your net dollars.
“A pre-inspection or ‘seller’s inspection’ creates an advantage for the buyer as well. The buyer is often as pressured to find a home as the seller is to sell it and is often financially and emotionally stressed by the transaction. Of course, the buyer should get an independent inspection, but imagine, as a buyer, having more information from the seller and not being surprised by serious negative findings on a house you want. If the house is not what you thought it was and the deal is not tenable, you the buyer are back to square one in your search.
“In short, a thorough, detailed prelisting inspection makes the whole process more efficient. It will decrease stress for both seller and buyer (and the real estate agent) and lessen the chances of a busted contract.
“Thanks for the opportunity to respond.”
— Jack L. Werner, Ph.D.