Pre-offer inspections are not for the faint of heart!
In my market, with limited inventory and abundant buyers, “pre-offer” inspections, or “walk-through” inspections have become very common. I know inspectors that claim to do nothing else. The idea of a pre-offer inspection is for the buyer to get a sense of whether it is worth jumping into the fray of multiple offers.
At a fairly recent inspection, there were something like 18 offers made on the property and during the 2 hours I was at the home there were 8 other inspectors there. That many people traipsing, poking, and prodding through a home can be very stressful on a seller and their home.
I have heard of some sellers refusing to allow walk-through inspections—smart sellers in my opinion.
I am told that if the buyer can get a good sense that there is nothing “major” wrong with the home, then making an offer by waiving inspection might put their ultimate offer in a more favorable light to the seller---thus getting a leg up on the competition.
I do not like these walk-through inspections. I do them however.
I am not worried at all about missing something major. It is the accumulation of little things that would have come out in a full inspection that worries me. Most of the time when I do walk-through inspections, where the client prevails, they typically have me back to do the full inspection to get that all important “honey-do” list. Sometimes these lists are not short. I have to think that sometimes the buyer begins to wonder if they should have considered a walk-through inspection.
The list of things that are NOT CHECKED on a walk-through inspection is almost endless not to mention the amount of time spent on most components is reduced. In a way it is almost like going through the house with blinders on. Of course I discuss everything, even little things, during the walk-through inspection, but the inspection is by no means a “full inspection.”
Typically HVAC equipment won’t be operated, toilets won’t be flushed, water pressure won’t be taken, the ages of appliances won’t get noted (except for maybe the furnace and water heater), difficult to crawl attics won’t be accessed, difficult to traverse crawl-spaces won’t be accessed as thoroughly, lights and receptacles won’t be tested, GFCI’s won’t be tested, water temperature won't be taken, automatic garage door openers won’t be tested, windows and doors won’t be tested, and a host of other things. Some inspectors won’t even walk on the roof. It is not because these things are not important, because they are, it is because NONE OF THESE THINGS SHOULD BE DEAL BREAKERS.
Another thing to worry about is, “What if they don’t call me back for the full inspection?” It is their choice--they could save some bucks. (The vast majority do however.) The other day was a perfect example of something that was not noted at the walk-through and came up as a bit of a surprise on the full inspection. All three toilets were of the “exploding kind.” Now suppose the buyer had decided to not have me back for the full inspection and only found out about the toilets as porcelain shrapnel started spraying?
While this is perhaps an egregious example of what can happen when inspections are waived, it serves as a warning to those undertaking such an approach.
Pre-Offer inspections are not for the faint of heart.
Charles Buell, real estate inspections in Seattle
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WA State, Home Inspector Advisory Licensing Board