Sunday, May 10, 2020

What Does A Home Inspector Do For You?

Editors Note: We looked at home inspectors a couple of months ago primarily from an investors perspective.  Since then we have had questions about their value for the average homeowner.  So we are revisiting the subject with them in mind.

If you are buying and/or selling real estate you will come in contact with building inspectors. I'm not talking about the ones from the local government that tell you what you can and cannot do with your own property along who can do it. That is a rant for another day. We are looking at the inspectors buyers hire to check out a piece of real estate before they commit to closing.

They can be somewhat annoying even when checking out a property you wish to buy, but they can also be extremely helpful. They are the ones who squeeze into crawl spaces under the house and skulk about in attics so I don't have to. In fact, you will not find me creeping around two foot high caverns dodging sewer pipes, air ducts, and the usual assortment of critters that populate the crawl spaces under many homes.

I say they can be annoying because most have a fetish about finding every real and imagined flaw in the property down to cracked switch plates and missing screws that are scheduled to be replaced anyway. However, that IS what they are paid to do. I must say that I somewhat solved this problem with an arrangement with an inspector friend of mine when I was working in the formerly free state of Virginia. We agreed that he would not give me the notebook, but would just hit the things I really had to fix. It worked out quite well. I saved a bit of money and he did not have to document every unimportant detail many of his colleagues thrive on, and he had the promise of a flow of repeat business.

You may wonder why I deal with inspectors when I buy since I seem to have an aversion to their work. The fact is, if I plan to sell the property after fixing it, I want to know what the next guy's inspector is going to ding me for when he crawls over the property. Which brings us to the question of them being a necessary evil. Here we get a little more philosophical. Nothing that is necessary is evil and nothing evil is necessary... ever!

These guys have saved me a bunch of money and they have kept me from buying a money pit at times. This is why I like to be present when the inspectors are going through a house I am looking to buy. A couple hundred dollars is not a bad price for this and I want to get my money's worth.
It is just understood, that if you are not an investor, but are looking for a home to live in, especially if you have never owned a house before, a good inspector can be your best friend. If at all possible, being there during the process and following him or her around will be an education. They will point out things many homeowners never even think of. There are things they will show you that are not bad or in need of repair but just items that you should be aware of and will make your time in the home less expensive and more enjoyable.

That is why I like a disinterested third party, like the inspector, digging around to pick up on things the seller was hoping I wouldn't see. If they find something you were not aware of, at that point, you, as the buyer, have a decision to make. You can look for an adjustment in the price or you can walk away from the deal IF you have an inspection contingency in your agreement. Any reputable real estate agent will include that in your contract. You usually have somewhere around ten days to check things out. If he tells you it isn't necessary, it is time to look for another agent, run, don't walk away. The only time an agreement with no inspection contingency is acceptable is when one investor is wholesaling a property to another professional who should be able to do his own evaluation.

If you are a homeowner selling a home you've lived in for many years, there may be things you never really noticed or have just decided to live with that may not set well with a new owner. It could well be to your benefit to have an inspector come around before you put the place on the market. If you get a good report, your agent can use it as a marketing tool to show the prospective buyers that the house is solid. If you do not get a good report, it is usually better for you to know about it than to have your buyers inspector present the problem in the worst possible light. You then have the choice of fixing the problem or telling potential buyers about it and factoring it into the price before they come back asking for an even larger discount.

When I am a seller, I don't want to be around when my buyer's inspector comes around. I don't want to give the impression that I am colluding with him or intimidating him. ( I wouldn't want Adam Schiff or Robert Mueller wasting my time coming after me.) I also don't want to be around to answer any impertinent questions that may arise. Beyond that, the practice of being absent may well keep me out of trouble and preserve the physical well being of the guy picking apart my completed work... even though, knowing they will be around helps us do a better and more complete job.

So, like them or not, inspectors are part of the real estate business and since we must deal with them, we may as well understand how the game is played and use them to our best advantage.

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