Just like mechanics, dentists, plumbers, financial planners, electricians, attorneys, hair dressers, tailorsâ€¦ Realtorsâ€¦ home inspectors are human just like any other service provider.Â
Some are really good, some are okay, and some are bad.Â Luckily word of mouth typically drives the bad service providers out of the marketplaceâ€¦ but not always.
There are a few universal truths about homes and home inspections:
Â·Â There is no perfect house.
Â·Â There is nothing that canâ€™t be fixed for a cost.
Â·Â It is the parts of the house that you canâ€™t see that you need to worry about the most.
Â·Â Once you purchase a home, any problems associated with it become yours.
A good home inspector is looking for â€œmaterial defects.â€Â A material defect is defined as any condition that would have a significant adverse impact on the value of real property.Â However, home inspectors are NOT looking for cosmetic issues; these are evident at the time of showing and are very much â€œin the eye of the beholder.â€
Material defects can be classified into two categories:
1) Health and safety issuesÂ Â
2) A problem that would be expensive to fix
A missing switch plate cover is considered a material defect because someone can potentially get shocked when switch plate covers are missing.Â Even though a cover may cheap to purchase and easy enough for almost anyone to install, it is a material defect.
While the list of potential health and safety issues is extensive, it can include:Â
High radon levels * mold * faulty smoke detectors * faulty wiring * gas leaks * cracks in the chimney liner * trip hazards * chipping lead based paint * well water quality
Although â€œexpensiveâ€ to fix is a subjective term, most home inspectors use a gauge of about $500 or more to fix.Â The need for a new roof, HVAC, or hot water heater are all material defects, but these issues while costly are usually straightforward and manageable.Â
In our opinion, the most serious of material defects are problems that can cost thousands of dollars and also be difficult to identify and correct, including:
Failing septic systems
Persistent water intrusion
Some buyers get â€œspookedâ€ and bail out of contracts on truly solid well-kept homes over something trivial or where the inspector made erroneous recommendations.Â On the flip-side, buyers will work with sellers through issues that cost tens of thousands of dollars.
There are times a buyer should cancel a contract due to inspection issues.Â But there are other times, especially when the seller is cooperative about paying for repairs and you get the right people in to evaluate and do the work, a buyer would do well to stick it out.Â
The key is having a really good home inspector to find and sort through the material defects of the property so you know exactly what you are getting.