Making The Most Of A Home Inspection


Making the Most of Home Inspection

Once upon a time, a home buyer bought a two-story house. He was told one story before he bought it, but discovered another story after he moved in. That vignette may work as an ice-breaker joke, but when the stories before and after the sale are not the same story, no one laughs.

The purpose of home inspection is to ensure that every home you buy or sell is a single-story dwelling — the same story before and after the close of escrow. Unfortunately, home inspectors do not always achieve that purpose — a fact that is not sufficiently recognized by buyers, sellers, or Realtors. To unify the before and after stories by way of home inspection, some basic truths should be recognized.

To begin, home inspectors are not equal in their abilities to discover and report defects. If every home inspector in a given locale were to inspect the same property, their reports would not be the same. Some inspectors would disclose more than others, and a few would report alleged defects that were not defects at all. But how can there be such wide disparities among home inspectors? The main answer is “experience.” In comparing inspection reports, we find that inspectors with many years of experience disclose the most, while inspectors with less experience are far less thorough.

For home buyers, making the most of home inspection means giving some thought to the choice of an inspector. In California, home inspectors are not licensed. Anyone can become a home inspector. You simply print business cards, buy a flashlight, take a two-week correspondence course, and market your services to Realtors. But until you inspect thousands of homes, you are not a master of the profession in any meaningful sense. Buyers who understand this should not allow others, not even their agents, to choose the home inspector. Instead, they should shop the market for an inspector with many years of experience and a reputation for thoroughness. Blind trust in someone else’s choice can be a costly mistake.

For Realtors, making the most of home inspection means representing the best interests of clients. If the clients are buyers, their interests are represented by recommending the most thorough home inspector available. Failure to do so exposes buyers to costly repairs after the close of escrow. If the clients are sellers, their interests are represented by recommending the most thorough inspector available, to avoid disclosure liability and potential lawsuits. Demands for repairs after the close can be costly to agents and their clients, and legal fees can exceed the amount of the real estate commission that was paid. To recommend a home inspector who is not a well-seasoned pro is short-sighted, risky, and morally questionable. Unfortunately, it is an all-too-common practice.

For sellers, making the most of home inspection means hiring your own home inspector before you list the property. A presale inspection offers five advantages:

  1. It limits your liability by providing full disclosure of defects
  2. It enables you to make needed repairs before marketing your home
  3. It positions you for an as-is sale, based on full disclosure of what “as-is” means
  4. It prevents the need to renegotiate the deal after the buyers’ hire their own home inspector
  5. It establishes trust in the minds of buyers by demonstrating your willingness to disclose all defects.

Making the most of home inspection is good for everyone. For buyers, it is a matter of financial prudence. For sellers, it is a matter of smart marketing and reduction of liability. For Realtors, it is a matter of honest representation, liability reduction, and ethical conduct.

In short, it’s a win-win-win proposition, because all parties benefit by making the most of home inspection.

Ernie Martinez

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