Question Details

Toots, Both Buyer and Seller in Toots

How to respond to an overzealous inspector's report?

Asked by Toots, Toots Fri Dec 21, 2007

We take great care in our home, and are currently under contract. When I read the inspection report, I would tell you not to buy the horrible home described in this report. The inspector was crazy and recommended the buyer have 5 specialists come for further evaluation. Our home is neat as a pin and has been lovingly cared for. The buyers are now very nervous and wants us to pay for the extra inspections or they will cancel the contract now. What should we do?

Help the community by answering this question:


Joe, when I see "evaluation by a qualified trade professional" or similar language on just about everything in an inspectors report... I translate that as:

I have been sued in the past, and I am going to tag abso-freakin-lutely everything in the house, so that you can't come back to me and say "you didn't tell me there was a problem with that". There, that should make my insurance company happy.

That kind of overuse in an inspector's report, in my opinion, makes the report practically useless, and becomes alarming for the buyer (and the seller for that matter), who is now panicky, because EVERYTHING in the house has a red mark. Ohmigod, what do I do?
3 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Jan 5, 2008
Alan May, Real Estate Pro in Evanston, IL
At the moment, there's not much for you to do, but wait and see how the buyers respond. If the report is as alarming as you describe, it's likely they'll come back to you, looking for repairs and/or credits. Keep an open mind, and be prepared to bring in some of your own experts to dispute their claims (should you feel it's warranted), or if they come to you with some small reasonable requests, be prepared to grant them.

The fact that you keep your home neat as a pin, and it's been loving cared for, is great, but it's still possible to have a few underlying problems, of which, you weren't aware. Don't take it personally, take your heart and ego out of the equation and look at is from the buyer's viewpoint too. It's a business transaction.

Take a moment and breathe, and then consult with your realtor as to how to respond.
3 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Dec 21, 2007
Alan May, Real Estate Pro in Evanston, IL
Without seeing the property involved, I would be loathe to offer an opinion as to the sanity of the inspector.
I realize that it is difficult to do, but you must understand that the sale of the property is a business transaction and it may be time for a little emotional detachment. You very well could be right in your assessment of the inspector.
How is his/her reputation as an inspector?
Is the inspector from your area, or from out of town? (different localities have different building codes, he may be seeing stuff that is approved in your area and not in his)
Just because a roof is only 2 years old doesn't mean that there may not be problems with it.
Just because a Water heater was just installed doesn't mean that it was done correctly. (It may be done to local code but there may be other problems that may be a safety concern)
Just because an addition was wired by an electrician doesn't mean that it's right either.
And lastly, just because a structure is well maintained, or even new, does not mean that there could be problems. My last inspection was a brand new home, scheduled to close in just a few days. My normal report is 28 pages, this one required 35 pages to list all the issues found. This is a new home, built by a licensed contractor and inspected by the local building official at least 5 times in various stages of it's construction. Granted, most of the issues were minor, but there were a couple of things that will require extensive work to correct and the closing has been delayed now. This inspection caused some hard feelings and resulted in some heated debate, but in the end my client the buyer is getting what they paid for. The contractor and a couple of the sub contractors were finally convinced to correct the problems after the building official did some research and contacted some state agencies for guidance.

In my opening I mentioned that without seeing the property I wouldn't second guess the inspector that was actually there. Without reading the report I have no idea how anything was stated and what items were called out for further evaluation. Have you read the report itself or have you only seen a summary? I would ask the buyer for a copy of the report and read it line by line. If you have only seen the summary or have not read the entire report then you may not be getting the entire gist of the inspectors findings.
As far as paying for any specialist inspections, I wouldn't do it. I would allow the buyer to hire specialists to inspect all they wanted to, and I would cooperate in any way that I could.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Dec 24, 2007

Inspectors will often defer detail inspections to licensed professionals in a specific field. (Roof, HVAC, Pool, etc).
This is mainly for liability reasons.

A seller should allow the buyer to have, at buyer's expense, any and all inspections they want.

If a buyer has done due diligence on inspections, it is difficult for them to frivilously come back to the seller for problems they incur after the closing.

Your contract should indicate specifically what inspection items the seller is contractually liable with $ cap.
Your contract should also give reference to contractually "cosmetic" points which contain no seller liability.

If items your responsible to repair per the contract are identified by the inspections, just have them repaired. If the buyers ask for repairs that are not contractual, that fact should be pointed out to them.

If your contract is contingent upon buyer's approval of the inspection results, then let them invest all the money they want, they will eventually have to decide if after spending all that money, a few minor non contractual repair items are worth walking away from the property they like and all the money they have fronted.

best of luck
2 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Dec 21, 2007
Hi Toots - great quetion! I always recommend that both my buyers AND sellers have their properties inspected prior to listing as well as purchasing a property. Did you disclose any of the issues identified in your property disclosure that were identified during the inspection? If so, the buyer was informed and should have formulated the offer with this in mind. In the city of Chicago, we have boilerplate sales contracts which state that issues identified during the inspection that are under $250 are not material.

While that language sounds helpful, it usually doesn't stand up to an inspector, buyer or real estate attorney's scrutiny. Inspections are intended to discover material defects in the property. Essentially - BUYER BEWARE. I advise buyers that inspections are intended to provide further insight into potential issues that are MATERIAL in nature. Inspections are NOT opportunities to open the contract up for further negotiation, unless the outcome of the inspection identifies MATERIAL defects or building code violations.

I believe it is fair for your agent to communicate to the seller's agent that your home is not new and that regardless of the condition of the home, issues almost always arise. Some are valid - others are not. The lack of GFI outlets are not reason to cancel a contract. A cracked heat exchanger may be open for further negotiation. I have sold properties that have had multiple inspections - I chuckle when there have been multiple inspections and no two issues are the same - hence, it is fair to get a second opinion and not necessarily uncommon for a buyer to seek a second opinion.

I don't know your current market conditions - I suspect it would be important to keep your current deal together if possible. My recommendation is to realistically evaluate the issues identified - if they are material in nature, i.e. rotting support beams etc. it may be something worth addressing. Keep the big picture in mind! You have a buyer for your property who may need to be better educated as to what issues are truly important. I am not totally convinced it is the seller's responsibility to pay for additional inspections - again, it is buyer beware. However, if you can address key issues, it may be worth it to keep the sale together.

I am currently working with a buyer faced with similar circumstances. I have advised my client to fix the issues with a licensed contractor where possible and provide a credit at closing to alleviate the "discomfort" factor.

Best of luck in your sale!
Web Reference:
2 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Dec 21, 2007
Good point, Elvis. I think that home inspectors are probably the single most paranoid group of people regarding liability and litigation that I have ever encountered.

You may be right that the Refer-it-all Inspector has already been sued. They may also be a raw newbie who is scared to death of being sued. Or they may just be an obstinate inspector who clings white-knuckled to his woefully inadequate Standards of Practice for personal protection (regardless of the fact that doing so makes his inspection virtually worthless to the client).

In the end, Refer-It-Alls probably are not often, themselves, referred very often. Hopefully, that acts as a little industry-related social Darwinism.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Jan 6, 2008
I feel your pain and anger. Unfortunately, your problem might not be the inspector but rather the agents. I'll repeat my answer from before.

Durenda and Thomas bring up a good point. WHAT does your inspection contract contingency say? If it is only valid for material defects, that doesn't mean YOU have to pay for additional inspections and it doesn't mean that they can get out of the contract. It all depends on how the contingency is worded.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Sep 8, 2010
Ruthless, Other/Just Looking in 60558
The same thing happened to us only our buyers got so scared that they walked! We are furious, nowhere in the report did the inspector indicate that certain conditions are typical of a 30 -year old house, such as :
- Evidence of prior roof leak, well duh! that's why this house has a new roof, now you want a licensed contractor to come inspect it?
- Evidence of leaking under the kitchen sink, well, duh, did he say boo abut the new fawcett? No.

We don't disagree with the findings, but the wording and tone of the report made the house appear to be in much worse condition, when in reality most of the problems had already been addressed.

We are furious and would like to know what remedies we have. Can we file a complaint somewhere?

How do we prevent this guy from ever doing an inspection on our house if we get another contract in the future? I'm thinking if a complaint is on file then he cannot do another inspection as it might be a conflict of i interest?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Aug 31, 2010
Yeah, the inspector is a moron.

Or, s/he's not. Doesn't matter.

We can't tell you what you "should" do, only what you "can" do - which, you already know.

You can tell them to walk. You can tell them that they can have all the inspections they want, and give them whatever time they need, but that they have to pay for them. Or that you will.

You can ask them for time to verify these problems on your own. I recently had a 5-year-old roof ripped by an inspector because the well-meaning homeowner had pressure-washed the poor thing to death. A water heater is what, $1000? The installation might be covered under warranty, maybe call back the installer.

But maybe the best thing you can do is to ask them: do you want to buy this home, or are you looking for a way out. Because, if they want to buy this home, then you'll probably be able to work things out, with a bit of difficulty. But if they want out, then, you probably need to find another buyer.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 31, 2009
Things to bear in mind:

1) Not all licensed contractors do a good job simply because they are licensed.
2) Not all code officals do a good job simply because they are licensed.

If things have been installed incorrectly...or a job done improperly a smart buyer is not going to want to buy someone else's headache...its that simple.

Often times permits are applied for...but the subsequent inspections from the code officials are never called for...and final approvals are therefore never issued. I'm not saying that is the case with your home, but if it is, the permits are meaningless. They are also meaningless if the work was done incorrectly, even if the code guy gave a final again no one wants to take on someone else's problem.

In addition, a second layer of roof is only advisable if the first layer is still in good enough condition to act as a proper base for the second layer.

If the first layer was very compromised, deteriorated quite a bit, no longer layed flat, etc, the second layer will have a drastically reduced lifespan.

The shingles may be in excellent shape, but the overall roof may be failing due to an inadequate base, or other installation issues. In addition, warranties on the shingles will generally not cover any roof installed incorrectly.

Last but not least, you should require that specific info be supplied for the findings of the home inspector in order to understnad exaclty what led him to his/her conclusions.

He may indeed be the hack...or the contractors who performed the work may be the hacks.

For your sake, I hope it is the former.

Best wishes
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 31, 2009
Let me disclaim up front that I am a home inspector.

One thing that many inspectors do as a defensive reaction is to refer anything and everything under the sun out for "evaluation by a qualified trade professional." This should be viewed as shorthand for:
"I am not a licensed trade pro and I am not comfortable enough with what I see to make a call on it and I really, really don't want to get sued by the buyer (if the thing is wrong and they buy it) or the seller (if it is ok and deal falls apart because I labeled it defective)."

I know one inspector in particular who proudly declares that he is not an expert and will not make any such evaluation (in response to which, I wonder why any buyers hire him at all since they only have to go hire 5 more guys to do what he should have done the first time.)

It is frustrating. It may also be that the inspector is being responsible. If the interior of the chimney is coated with creosote, the inspector can't see very much, and he certainly can't evaluate the liner past the first several feet. So, cleaning and evaluation by a chimney sweep is a good recommendation (since chimney repairs can be quite expensive).

For a roof - that should be easy to refute, and makes the guy sound somewhat unqualified - I reserve judgement until I can see the roof, but you make a compelling case.

For HVAC - I can't often adequately see inside the heating unit and in winter here, I can't run the AC unit. Calling for evalaution and certification is something I do if it is a really old unit, in bad shape, or I have suspicions that it doesn't work or needs repair/replacement. In each case, I build the case to support my recommendation. For example: "Rusting on the interior of the heating cabinet, heavy corrosion near the condensate drip line, and uneven orange flames on the 25 year old unit indicate previous leaking from the condensate drip pan which may have rusted or accelerated wear on portions of the heat exchanger that are not visible but could allow exhaust gases (including carbon monoxide) to enter the home. Evaluation by a qualified HVAC professional is recommended."

Makes sense, right?

There is a time and place for referrals for other inspecitons (pools, spas, and septic are good ones, too). But not everything needs further evaluation or inspection - that is what I am there to do.

Just my 2 cents!
Web Reference:
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Jan 5, 2008
Durenda and Thomas bring up a good point. WHAT does your inspection contract contingency say? If it is only valid for material defects, that doesn't mean YOU have to pay for additional inspections and it doesn't mean that they can get out of the contract. It all depends on how the contingency is worded.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Dec 21, 2007
Ruthless, Other/Just Looking in 60558
The inspector is full of himself. He said we need a new roof. Ours is a second layer roof over an original layer and it is 2 years old. He said it was at the end of life expectancy. He said the hot water heater was installed incorrectly. It was installed by a reputable plumber earlier this year. He said the fireplace was old and needed a chimney inspector. The addiiton is 7 years old and we have all of our permits. He said the wiring on our electrical was done incorrectly. We have a second electrical panel for the addtiion. He didn't even know it was an addition. It was done by top rated contractors with all permits. He did a hatchet job on our home, and he is full of baloney.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Dec 21, 2007
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