There may come a time when you discover something wrong with the house, and you may be upset or disappointed with your home inspection. There are some things we’d like you to keep in mind, that we deal with every day as the realities of Home Inspection.
Intermittent or concealed problems
Some problems can only be discovered by living in a house. They cannot be discovered during the few hours of a home inspection. For example, some shower stalls leak when people are in the shower, but do not leak when you simply turn on the water faucet or shower head. Some roofs only leak when specific conditions exist. Some problems will only be discovered when floor coverings are removed, when furniture is moved, or when finishes such as wallpaper are removed.
These problems may have existed at the time of the inspection but there were no clues as to their existence. Our inspections are based on the performance of the house at the time of inspection. If there are no clues of a problem, it is unfair to assume we should foresee a future problem.
I like to say we are a bit like a Doctor who’s patient gives them zero information about what’s going on with them, and says, “Tell me what is wrong with me!” Maybe a veterinarian would be a better comparable, as their patients generally do not talk…
We always miss some minor things
Some say we are inconsistent because our reports identify some minor problems but not others. The minor problems that are identified were discovered while looking for more significant problems. We note them simply as a courtesy to you. The intent of the inspection is not to find the $100 problems; it is to find the $1,000 and $10,000 problems. These are the things that affect people’s decisions to purchase.
A common source of dissatisfaction with home inspectors comes from comments made by contractors. Contractors’ opinions often differ from ours. Don’t be surprised when a qualified specialist says that something definitely needed replacement when we only said it needed repair or replacement.
Last man in theory
While our advice represents the most prudent thing to do in our professional and personal opinion, many contractors are reluctant to make repairs. This is because of the “Last man in theory.” For example, a roofing contractor fears that if he is the last person to work on the roof, he will get blamed if the roof leaks, regardless of whether or not the roof leak is his fault. Consequently, he won’t want to do a minor repair with high liability when he could re-roof the entire house for more money and reduce the likelihood of a callback. This is understandable and can explain why the inspection report said repairs were needed and the contractor says, “Replace it all!”
Most recent advice is best
There is more to the “Last man in theory.” It is human nature for homeowners to believe the last bit of “expert” advice they receive, even if it is contrary to previous advice. As home inspectors, we unfortunately find ourselves in the position of “First Man In” and consequently it is our advice that is often disbelieved when the next man comes along. Even when that next man in came at our suggestion.
Why we didn’t see it
Contractors may say, “I can’t believe you had this house inspected and they didn’t find this problem.” There are several reasons for these apparent oversights:
- Conditions during inspection
It can be difficult for home buyers to remember the circumstances in the house at the time of the inspection. Home buyers seldom remember that there was storage everywhere, making things inaccessible, or that the air conditioning could not be turned on because it was 55° outside. Contractors do not know what the circumstances were when the inspection was performed. This is a huge contributing factor in all of the disclaimer and boilerplate language that have become so commonplace in home inspection reports. This is unfortunate because that content does not make the report “better.” It just makes it longer and more confusing, but that is the litigious world in which we live.
- The wisdom of hindsight
When a problem manifests itself, it is very easy to have 20/20 hindsight. Anybody can say that the roof leaks when it is raining outside and the water is visible dripping through the ceiling. But in the midst of a hot, dry, windy Texas summer conditions, it is virtually impossible to determine if the roof will leak the next time it rains. Predicting problems is not an exact science and is not part of the home inspection process. We are only documenting the condition of the home at the time of the inspection. If we spent half an hour under the kitchen sink or an hour disassembling the furnace, we’d find more problems, too. Unfortunately, the inspection would take several days and would cost considerably more than what you paid.
- We are generalists
We are not acting as specialists in any trade. The heating and cooling contractor should have more heating and cooling equipment expertise than we do. This is because that’s all he is expected to know – heating and cooling. On the other hand, home inspectors are expected to know heating and cooling, plumbing, electricity, engineering, roofing, appliances, etc. It’s virtually impossible to be a specialist in all the many systems of the modern home. That’s why we’re generalists. We’re looking at the forest, not the individual trees.
- An invasive look
Problems often become apparent during renovation or remodeling. A home inspection is a visual non-invasive examination. We don’t perform any invasive or destructive tests. Sometimes it would be nice to have that luxury, but that is not how things work.
We make recommendations throughout our report to help you be safe in your new home and to help you maintain your new home. If you disregard our recommendations, you could risk your health and safety, or risk damage to your home and, perhaps, valuable possessions. We understand that buying a home is expensive, but we cannot condone ignoring our recommendations to save a few dollars. Even if you are very capable of doing the repair or replacement work, it should be done now, before you move in and forget about it because other things take up your valuable time. Ignoring our recommendations, however, is a risk that only you can evaluate.
- Not insurance or a warranty
A home inspection is designed to better your odds and reduce your risk. It is not designed to eliminate all risk. For that reason, a home inspection should not be considered an insurance policy nor should it be considered a home warranty. The premium that an insurance company would have to charge for a policy with no deductible, no limit, and an indefinite policy period would be considerably more than the fee we charge for a home inspection.
- PLEASE PLEASE READ THE WHOLE REPORT!!
You would be amazed how often a past client will call and ask about a problem they recently discovered. Sometimes they are just looking for advice, sometimes they are saying it was not reported and they think it should have been. We pull up their report and review it and find that exact problem WAS reported. They just never actually read the report or they forgot about it. Having a home inspection is of pretty limited value if you do not read it thoroughly and follow the advice given. We understand it can be difficult and following the recommendations may seem tiresome. We have done this for a long time. We have seen many of the rare problems that we warn against actually happen over the years.