By now it’s universally accepted that a home inspection while not a requirement, is a necessity for a buyer. A home inspection can feel much like a final exam. The home is studied up and down, inside and out with a report provided at the finish. However, unlike an exam your report will not come with an “A” or “F”. It won’t tell you if it is a good candidate for a Tom Hanks sequel of “The Money Pit” or if you are getting a great deal. What the report does include are facts intended to help you decide next steps and a final decision. Your inspector will point out what is unsafe and what red flags have been discovered, but they are bound by rules that limit what they can tell you. Conversely here are some things they can’t say:
Whether They Would Buy the House: Many buyers will ask me what happens if the inspection “doesn’t pass”. There is no such thing as a pass or fail and your inspector will tell you that as well. They do not give a thumbs up or thumbs down. Giving real estate advice violates the Certified Home Inspectors’ code of ethics. So what can they tell you? They point out issues, small and large. Small and large are generally real estate code for not so expensive and really expensive. The bottom line is that every house and buyer are unique and what inspection results one person is fine with; another may not be. Confer with your REALTOR® once you have the report.
If It Definitely Has Mold: Really? You would think that this determination would be part of every inspection and to some degree it is. While they won’t say “I see a lot of mold here”. What they will say is there is evidence of a mold like substance in the attic. The best place to start in understanding why your buyer’s inspection report doesn’t explicitly state that you have mold…is to understand liability, and the law. There is no person on the planet that can point at any discoloration and tell you what type of mold is present or if that is definitely mold. There are simply just too many types of mold, and given that they are microscopic in nature. Legally though, unless an area has been tested for mold it simply cannot be documented in writing with any level of certainty that there IS mold present. Therefore, home inspectors found a way to express the presence of the problem without being definitive. Should you have a company that specializes in determining if it is mold come in? Should you ask that the mold be professionally removed? Legitimate questions. Ask your REALTOR® what your best course of action should be if evidence of mold like substance is found.
Pool and Septic System
Home inspectors aren’t certified to inspect everything. If you are buying a home that has a pool you can ask the seller turn the pump and heater on to make sure they work. If you want a more thorough inspection you will need to hire a pool inspector. It gets even trickier if you are buying when the pool isn’t open. You will need to get service records and decide if you want to call the company that takes care of the pool for any possible additional info. Regarding the septic system, in Massachusetts we have a Title V regulation that requires sellers to provide a report by a licensed inspector on the age, location and condition of the septic system.
Are They Making the House Look Worse Than It Is?
Most inspectors make note of EVERY little thing in a home, even ones that are cosmetic (“this room needs paint”). Inspectors are sometimes called “deal killers” because of this. Not true. They are simply stating their findings. It is up to you what you do with the information. I would strongly suggest sitting down with your REALTOR® and go through the report to determine which (if any) issues could be large/expensive.
Some inspectors will actually climb up on the roof to look closely at the condition of the flashing on the chimney, down the chimney itself and the shingles. I said some will do that, most won’t and they’re not required to. If it’s raining or icy, or the roof is steep or more than two stories high, they usually stay on the ground and report what they can see from there. In reality an inspector doesn’t have to go on the roof to see its condition, with binoculars you can see the general condition just almost as well as you can from the ground.
How Much It Will Cost?
Who better to ask than your inspector who has done hundreds or thousands of inspections on how much it will cost to replace the existing fuses with circuit breakers? The problem is they can’t tell you. It’s against their Code of Ethics. While they may be familiar with electrical work it creates a conflict of interest…” not sure how much it will cost Mr. or Ms. Homebuyer but call my friend Bill, he is an electrician and can give you a quote”. You are the one that is going to need to get quotes and determine if it is something you can take on.
Inspections are really about surprises. If the roof is in bad shape or the heating system is old or there is water in the basement when you initially view the home, an inspection is only going to confirm that. However, if you didn’t see the knob and tube wiring or there was evidence of mold in the attic, those are surprises that need to be addressed. Any special feature such as these is your cue to find a specialist. Think of inspectors as doctors giving you a diagnosis after a physical. If your general practitioner sees that you have an issue with your foot he will refer you to a podiatrist. It is your job to go out and find a podiatrist. Same thing here. Big things, little things and everything will come up in a home inspection. It isn’t their job to categorize them as “OMG” or “NBD” but to show them to you. What you do from there is up to you. Don’t become overwhelmed, consult with your REALTOR as to the best course of action.
If you have any questions about this article, real estate in general or are looking to buy or sell a home please contact me, John McCarthy at Rowley Realty, 165 Main St., Rowley, MA 01969, Phone: 978 948-2758, Cell 978 835-2573 or via email at email@example.com