As we get back to a normal real estate market, contingencies that buyers waived during the covid crazy months will return. Due diligence periods are back and with them, the main contingencies of appraisal, finance, and inspection. It’s reasonable to say that everyone needs to get reacquainted with home inspection hysteria and the rule of making mountains out of moles hills. The inspection is a critical component of the purchase process and certainly one of the most contentious and misunderstood.

The Imperfect Home Inspection

No home is perfect, ever. Homes are not built in labs, they are built on site, by hand and comprised of dozens of different materials. They are impacted by weather conditions, use, age and maintenance levels. Inspectors find issues every time, buyers must discern routine from serious. That’s not always easy as many buyers expect or demand a perfect home and that simply doesn’t exist.

Inspectors are paid to find issues and they do. The serious things are obvious; foundation issues, water, mold, wall cracking, major safety or code issues….all rightfully sound alarm bells. The typical “wear and tear” things though, can easily become major points of contention. Inspectors are observers, they routinely defer to “have a professional in the field inspect this further”. This is due to liability concerns; they are not experts in any one field and buyers love to sue. Deference then becomes the norm and that will unsettle many buyers. 

Home Inspections Will Contain

Some might say reports are 70% boilerplate; inspectors know what to expect and these items find their way into most reports. Issues arise when the normal routine maintenance things morph into “Immediate attention required”. Easy examples:

Concrete cracks and gets hard. There is no concrete surface, anywhere on earth, that doesn’t have cracks. This is true for tile grout and mortar, it will shrink and move over time. Seal these cracks, but concrete is porous. Same for walks, a contractor for maybe half an inch deflection? “Contractor” immediately elevates this to critical for the typical buyer.

Loose toilets, slow drains, shower diverters and sink stoppers are regular hits on most inspections. Consider the use these items receive – daily and significant. Appropriate to note of course but if a home is older and filled with kids is it typical to expect them to be impacted?

HVAC issues are another expected focal point for home inspections. Compressors out of level, kinked supply lines, black insulation foam missing from coolant lines, condensate pans, pumps and lines and temperature differentials. Clearly if the systems are not functioning as designed attention is required, but where’s the "reasonable" line?

One of the most common panic triggers is “rodent” trails in the attic. That is cringe worthy all day long but many times this is added to the report based solely upon disturbed insulation. If that button is to be pushed, why not look for signs of nests, feces and entry/exit points? If there are rodents in the attic, there are obvious signs. We have “wildlife exclusion” companies we call, they consistently tell us that most of these “trails” are from wires being pulled after insulation is blown in. Low voltage wires particularly. If there are signs – traps, feces, obvious disturbance; call it but take a minute to be confident.   

Buyers, Sellers & Home Inspections

Every seller has the perfect home. Inspectors are always crazy or don't know what they are doing. Any issue was either caused by the inspector or was just corrected. Every buyer wants the perfect home. The seller is getting more than they should and the home better be turned over without issue. Every gig on the report must be corrected or the deal is off. And terminated deals are spiking with the return of contingencies.

The balancing market is empowering buyers - in a sense they're looking to extract their pound of flesh from the battering taken over the last several quarters. Of course the rise in interest rates has them salty as well and it's critical to check emotions and look at everything objectively and with an extra does of pragmatism. No situation, no home, no inspector and neither the buyer or seller are perfect; the challenge is to manage the chaos and set realistic expectations. That means understanding the role of the home inspector, how they operate, how to interpret the reports and most important; how to separate genuine issues from routine deferred maintenance. Like this...

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