A home inspection can make or break the sale of a home. Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or you’ve been through this process many times before, you need to know a few important things about the inspection process… and why it’s necessary.
Unfortunately, you can’t count on the seller to tell you everything you need to know about their home’s history and maintenance and care. North Carolina is a Caveat Emptor state, which means let the “buyer beware”. Sellers are not required to disclose defects in homes. The North Carolina Association of Realtors created the Seller Residential Property Disclosure to help potential buyers, but it has a lot of loopholes. For instance, a seller answers yes or no questions, but “no” can either mean that they are unaware of a problem or that there is no problem. That’s why a home inspection is so critical.
First, let’s get a realistic view of what to expect from a home inspection. Keep in mind, buyers hire a home inspector to report any problems with the functioning of the home. These problems include everything from roof to the foundation and all of the operational functions from electrical to plumbing. Having said that; a home inspector isn’t a plumber, roofer, foundation specialist etc. A home inspector is a generalist.
WHAT INSPECTORS DO:
- Examine the general functioning of the home from roof to foundation, from electrical to plumbing. If more investigation is needed in a particular area, they will let you know.
- When buyers get home inspections back it is not unusual at all to have a 40 – 50 page report.
WHAT INSPECTORS DON’T DO:
- Detect pests including termites. You’ll want to have this done in conjunction with your home inspection.
- Identify molds, toxins or environmental hazards. If this is a concern, hire a specialist for a separate inspection.
- Provide cost estimates for repairs or recommend contractors.
Our 5 Points Realty brokers work with buyers of all experience levels and with homes ranging from new construction to historic renovations. We asked three experienced agents to share the good, the bad and the ugly truth about inspections.
IT’S A GOOD IDEA TO INSPECT NEW CONSTRUCTION
Broker Tracy Gregg says it can often be hard to convince buyers to get an inspection on a new construction house. “Without an inspection, things could often go unnoticed for a very long time, leading to bigger issues,” says Tracy. “Getting a pre-drywall inspection is a great opportunity for an inspector to see the plumbing and electrical work before the insulation and drywall cover it all. Best case scenario there are no issues, but that doesn’t always happen.”
“One time, an inspector discovered hundreds of nails had punctured the duct work in a new home because it had been installed BEFORE the roof. Could you imagine how high the energy bills could have been? There’s no telling how long it would have taken to find that problem, if ever!”
A BAD INSPECTION MIGHT NOT BE SO BAD…
“Even when an inspection is horrible, it’s ok. After all, you got an inspection to make an informed decision whether or not to proceed with a purchase,” Tracy says. “I’ve had an inspector say, ‘I’m sorry, but this did not go well,’ as if he feels bad. I always tell them I would much rather know these things NOW rather than after my clients close on the property.”
The inspection report can seem overwhelming with some nit-picky things. “It’s the inspector’s job to list all of those things,” Tracy says. “Some of the issues on an inspection report have always been that way and are probably the same way in the home you live in now. Not everything needs to be fixed.”
OR IT MIGHT BE WORSE…
One of broker Kelly Loeblein’s clients once had an inspection report that revealed electrical, foundation, plumbing, HVAC, roof and foundation issues. “We were almost surprised the house was still standing,” Kelly says. “But, the biggest surprise was that the house had suffered a MASSIVE fire. It was not detectable to the naked eye. Most likely the buyers wouldn’t have discovered the problem if the inspector hadn’t gotten into an almost inaccessible attic. The fire was not listed on the property disclosures because an estate was selling the house. But, my client was not ready to back out yet. We negotiated an extension to our due diligence period allowing us to hire a structural engineer to address the foundation issues and the fire damage in the attic. The structural engineer report found the fire damage had been repaired incorrectly The cost to make all of the major repairs was astronomical. My client ultimately decided to cut his losses and terminated the contract. The home was taken off the market for several years.”
There are definitely some things that shouldn’t be overlooked… and Kelly’s client was right to take a serious look at the biggies like roof and foundation issues. Just the roof alone can blow a budget. If the roof needs to be replaced, be prepared for an average bill of $24,700 for asphalt shingles and $40,318 for metal roofing, according to a 2020 report from Remodeling magazine.
NOT ALL INSPECTORS ARE CREATED EQUAL
Broker Chris Hogan once had a situation with a seller he was representing, where on the day before closing, during the buyer’s final walk-through, their inspector found issues he didn’t find in his initial report. “This caused a lot of issues going into closing,” Chris says. “Judging by his second report, he was not at all thorough in inspecting the home the first time. Closing happened the next day, but the buyers felt they had been shorted and were not happy. It left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, especially the other agent who recommended him.”
Chris now works exclusively with Zeiner’s Home Inspections and Freedom Home Services. “What I like about both of these companies is that they educate the buyers to help them have a better understanding of the process as well as helping identify items that could be pain points for the buyers,” says Chris. “Neither of these companies are “doom and gloom” and try not to overwhelm the buyer with 100’s of pages of jargon and information that do nothing but scare the buyer. At the conclusion of each home inspection, they take the time to talk/educate the buyer on their findings, as well as take the time to address any questions or concerns.”
MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Agent Kelly Loeblein says one of her favorite inspection stories is about a client who put a 1930 mill house under contract. “The home was super cute and my client hoped it would be a good investment,” Kelly said. “The home was walking distance to downtown Kannapolis, which, at the time, was in the middle of an immense redevelopment. Because of the age and condition of the home, we knew that an inspection report could reveal several issues, but my client hoped for the best. Overall, the issues we identified were expected in a home of its age and were not cost-prohibitive.” Having reasonable expectations is so important.
Kelly says, managing expectations is a key role for agents. If an inspector only lists major issues, it could lead to an angry client when something malfunctions after closing. If an inspector lists every little thing that could possibly go wrong, it can be overwhelming for the buyer. A good inspector will point out what is significant and discuss the age or vulnerabilities of the home.
The goal of hiring an inspector is to gain a better perspective of how the home is functioning and immediate issues that need to be addressed.
Remember, home inspectors are human. Some are much more thorough than others. Keep in mind, the inspector has likely never seen the property before and is only spending a few hours in the home. There may be some things that only come to light once a family is living in the house. It may not be until you run the dishwasher, the washing machine and someone takes a shower at the same time that you discover a leak. That load on the water lines may provoke a leak that wasn’t otherwise detectable.
IT’S ALL ABOUT TRUST
Ask your agent to recommend inspectors they trust. Agents need to make sure they’re using the most qualified people during all parts of the process, especially the home inspection.
“Our buyers trust us to refer them to the best vendors we know in helping them with the purchase of their new home,” says Chris. “I think the expectation of the actual home inspection is to let the inspector do his job. There’s a reason they ask the agent and the buyer to show up in the last 45-60 minutes of the home inspection and it’s because they want to be able to do their job without anyone being in their way or distracting them.”
TRUST YOUR AGENT
Many items in an inspection report are minor. There are likely five to ten items that need to be addressed sooner rather than later. In this sellers’ market people should assume they are buying resale homes “as-is”. Using the inspection report as a bargaining tool is a terrible idea. Your broker should tell you when something is a serious problem and worth negotiating with the seller.
Ignorance is NOT bliss in real estate. You look at your dream home with rose colored glasses; Inspectors look at the home with a magnifying glass. They hunt for potential problems that, if left unfixed, could lead to bigger issues down the road.
You deserve to know exactly what you’re getting yourself into before you sign your name 100 times at closing (Ok, maybe it’s not officially that much, but it will feel like it!)