Deal-Killer Home Inspectors

And Why I Love ‘Em!

There is definitely a tug-of-war between real estate agents and home inspectors. We want to sell the house and the inspector has the potential to shut it down. Many agents work hard to find a home inspector who will gloss over the defects so as not to kill the deal.

I have a different take on it – PLEASE find the problems!

True Scenario #1

I was representing the buyers. The home inspector found a substantial structural problem in the basement and spent an extraordinary amount of time going over the problem and the possible solutions with the buyers.

The buyer requested that the seller remedy the problem and the seller refused, saying the problem had been there for years and nothing bad had happened. After a day of thinking about it, the buyers called me and rather timidly said they wanted to get out of the contract.

My response? Thank goodness! This was a problem that was going to have to be remedied – now or when the new owners went to sell the property. Either way, it was an expensive problem and one my clients didn’t want to deal with. The day it took them to decide? Turns out they thought I would be angry.

But the seller’s agent? OMG, you’d have thought I’d brought in a serial killer to wipe out the entire family! How DARE I use a home inspector who was so unprofessional as to kill the deal! The agent SCREAMED at me! (Interesting side-note #1: the seller ultimately did the structural repair in order to sell the house, months later. Interesting side-note #2: the buyers found another house that they love better than the first house!)

True Scenario #2

This time I represented the seller. After the inspection, the buyer’s agent called me and said that the whole house was falling down the back-yard-hill and the buyers were canceling the contract. It seemed a little extreme to me and the sellers, but we read the inspectors report. Got a structural engineer out to take a look and ended up with 10 piers sunk into the foundation to stabilize the property. The seller said he was relieved to have the problem taken care of, I made sure the warranty for the project would transfer to a new owner and we were back on the market in no time and under contract shortly after that.

The seller could have been upset about the home inspection, but he wasn’t – mostly because I pointed out that we would face this problem each time an inspection was done. Might as well take care of it now.

Only One Inspector I Really Hated

There was one inspector…I represented the seller and was present at the home inspection, along with the buyers, the inspector and the buyer’s agent.

The inspector said the automatic cut-off switch that shut the flames off when the cover of the gas furnace was removed should be disabled. In other words, the safety feature that shuts off the flames so no one gets burned should be removed. Huh? He also didn’t know what the lever was that locked the stove for the automatic cleaning cycle. I had to explain that to him.

But the worst thing was when he started to opine on value. He said that upgrading the windows would GREATLY increase the value of the house (it was a modest townhome) and that it was rare for any house in PG (yes he said PG) County to have more than one bathroom, so this house was a real bargain.

I’ve kept that man’s card for years, just so I don’t forget and accidentally work with him again.

The Bottom Line

So give me an inspector with no axe to grind and nothing to prove, other than competence – an inspector who knows what he’s doing, can explain the condition of the house in no-nonsense, non-hysterical terms, and give the buyer an accurate idea of the repairs and maintenance needed. After that, if the buyer is uncomfortable with the report and wants to cancel the contract, that’s okay with me. Because I’ll know that the buyer made the decision based on something tangible – and after all, I’m not moving in with the buyer and I’m not going to be responsible for the upkeep of the property.

If you’re looking for the names of a good inspector, let me know. I know a bunch of ’em.

© 2011 Susan Pruden. All Rights Reserved.

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2 Responses to Deal-Killer Home Inspectors

  1. MDSuburbs says:

    If there is something major wrong with the house that needs to be addressed, it's better to find out about it at the home inspection and, if the buyers want out, they should get out.

    I have a little bit of a different take. Some inspectors go through the house with a fine tooth comb and point out every possibly flaw no matter how minor it might be and attempt to impress the home buyer with their vast knowledge. Only it scares the bejeezus out of the buyers, There's nothing worse than looking at a long laundry list of repairs.

    It also seems that buyers tend to have a built-in disconnect between what a repair may actually cost in real life vs what they think it might cost (example: many people think it costs $100 for a plumber/electrician/whatever to just walk through the door. In fact, I know an extremely competent one with a service call fee of $39).

    There is also a bit of a disconnect between ongoing home maintenance and something that should really be addressed right away. Your examples are truly things that the home owner needed to address right away. Older water heaters (that work) or older furnaces (that work), circuit breaker boxes (that provide the needed power to the house) are all things that a new home owner will need to address at some point in their life in the house.

    it's one thing for a home inspector to point out an appliance or even a roof that is getting old and will need attention within the next couple of years. It's quite another to make it sound like an imminent disaster.

    A good inspector will point out things that truly need immediate attention and others that are simply part of the "joys of home ownership".

    • Good points all – and I know you and I have very similar views on this topic. I don't mind the laundry list if it is presented as "future stuff to be dealt with" and "more urgent stuff". I get upset with inspectors who don't differentiate between ongoing maintenance and more urgent things.

      It's all in the presentation! I used the laundry list in the inspection when I bought my house as a guide to what to work on next. 20 years later and I still haven't gotten to a few of them!

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