Saturday, February 8, 2014

When Things Go Wrong After a Home Inspection

That !@#$%^;* Home Inspector should have told us about this!

Recently, I was called to a home I had inspected about a week before. I arrived, went to the basement, took off my shoes and socks, rolled up my pants and walked through 4" of water to plug in the basement sump pump. I will not go into the details of that inspection. Suffice it to say that I was told this basement had leaked previously and the finishes, for the most part, were new in a much older home. I could find no evidence during my inspection that whatever had caused the basement to leak previously had been addressed. I did cover potential for future basement leakage in my report. Do you think that made the buyer feel any better? You can bet that it did not. 

Interestingly, the buyer's agent called about a week later stating that it was raining again and the basement was not leaking. No one had done anything to address the issue but the seller (this transaction had not closed) was convinced because it was raining and the basement wasn't leaking this time that it would not leak ever again. Dream On! 

What should you consider when things go wrong There may come a time after your home inspection that you discover something wrong with the house, and you may be upset or disappointed with your home inspection. Before becoming overly upset with me please pay close attention to this article. 
Intermittent Or Concealed Problems Some problems can only be discovered by living in a house. They cannot be discovered during the few hours of a home inspection. For example, some shower stalls leak when people are in the shower, but do not leak when you simply turn on the tap. Some roofs and basements only leak when specific conditions exist. Some problems will only be discovered when carpets are lifted, furniture is moved or finishes are removed.
No Clues 
These problems may have existed at the time of the inspection but there were no clues as to their existence. My inspections are based on the past performance of the house. If there are no clues of a past problem, it is unfair to assume I should foresee a future problem.
I Will Always Miss Some Minor Things
 Some may say that I am inconsistent because my reports identify some minor problems but not others. The minor problems that are identified were discovered while looking for more significant problems. We note them simply as a courtesy. The intent of the inspection is not to find the $200 problems; it is to find the $2,000 problems. These are the things that affect people's decisions to purchase.
Contractors' Advice
 The main source of dissatisfaction with home inspectors comes from comments made by contractors. Contractors opinions often differ from mine. Don't be surprised when three roofers all say the roof needs replacement when I said that, with some minor repairs, the roof will last a few more years. Contractors are in the business of replacing roofs. I am in the business of documenting the facts. 
Last Man In Theory
 While my advice may represent the most prudent thing to do, many contractors are reluctant to undertake these repairs. This is because of the "Last Man In Theory". The contractor fears that if he is the last person to work on the roof, he will get blamed if the roof leaks, regardless of whether the roof leak is his fault or not. Consequently, he will not want to do a minor repair with high liability when he could re-roof the entire house for more money and reduce the likelihood of a callback. This is understandable.
Most Recent Advice Is Best
 There is more to the "Last Man In Theory". It suggests that it is human nature for homeowners to believe the last bit of "expert" advice they receive, even if it is contrary to previous advice. As a home inspector, I unfortunately find myself in the position of "First Man In" and consequently it is my advice that is often disbelieved.
Why Didn't The Home Inspector See It
 Contractors may say "I can't believe you had this house inspected, and they didn't find this problem". There are several reasons for these apparent oversights:
1. Conditions During Inspection 
It is difficult for homeowners to remember the circumstances in the house, at the time of the inspection. Homeowners seldom remember that it was snowing, there was storage everywhere in the basement or that the furnace could not be turned on because the air conditioning was operating, etc. It's impossible for contractors to know what the circumstances were when the inspection was performed.
2. The Wisdom Of Hindsight
 When the problem manifests itself, it is very easy to have 20/20 hindsight. Anybody can say that the basement is wet when there is 2 inches of water on the floor. Predicting the problem is a different story.
3. A Long Look 
If I spent 1/2 an hour under the kitchen sink or 45 minutes disassembling the furnace, I would find more problems too. Unfortunately, the inspection would take several days and would cost considerably more.
4. We're Generalists
 I am a generalists; I am not a specialists. The heating contractor may indeed have more heating expertise than I do.
5. An Invasive Look
 Problems often become apparent when carpets or plaster are removed, when fixtures or cabinets are pulled out, and so on. A home inspection is a visual examination. I don't perform any invasive or destructive tests.

Not Insurance 
In conclusion, a home inspection is designed to better your odds. It is not designed to eliminate all risk. For that reason, a home inspection should not be considered an insurance policy. The premium that an insurance company would have to charge for a policy with no deductible, no limit and an indefinite policy period would be considerably more than the fee we charge. It would also not include the value added by the inspection.
What do I do NOW?

With all of this stated, what should you do if there is an issue with one of my home inspections?
  1. Read your home inspection report and our contract along with all internet links throughly. You will find a sample contract and the internet information on my blog at this link:
  2. If you think you have a legitimate claim and purchased a one year home warranty (this may have been provided by the seller or purchased from you Realtor) contact the warranty company. 
  3. If it is within 90 days of your inspection or 22 days following your closing whichever is longest check out the 90 day warrant I included free with your home inspection. You will find information at this link:

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