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What is the real value of a home inspection?

     The other day Robert Snowden had a featured post that asked the question, Is there any value in a home inspection?”  The post----and comments, pretty much overwhelmingly supported the notion of having a Home Inspection done. 

Inspection Reports     This post is about how sometimes we can leave a comment on someone’s post that becomes a post itself.  My comment on his post was the seed for this post and it alters Robert’s question of, “Is there any value in a home inspection?” to the question of:

“What is the real value of a home inspection?”

     It seems that generally, people think that the Home Inspection results in a report that is some sort of “all-inclusive,” “comprehensive” and “final word” about the property being inspected.

     Why do we think of inspections this way?

     I think it arose from the buyer needing to make sure that the house had NO REALLY MAJOR DEAL KILLER ISSUES.  This type of inspection----this aspect of the inspection----is often the easiest part of all.  For some inspectors this is ALL that the inspection is supposed to be.  For me, that would be providing marginal service to the buyer.  While this approach can give the buyer the kind of information they are looking for in order to make a somewhat intelligent decision on whether to buy the house or not, it is not going to help them at all with the business of owning a home.  It also does little to reduce the liability of any of the involved parties----and we all know that if there is any kind of a litigation issue, EVERYONE that has been associated with the purchase (and anyone associated with anyone associated with the purchase) will be named----guilty or not.

     Obviously, from a psychological point of view, if the buyer is not prepared to make this decision previous to the inspection, and they are able to do so after the inspection, something must have happened to their confidence level in the process----whether justified or not.  The idea that the report and inspection uncovers all of the “major stuff” necessary to raise that level of confidence is not a far step from concluding that the inspection and report represents “ALL stuff”----important or otherwise----that there is to be found.  When the “information” is found to be “incomplete” after the buyer has moved in----THAT is when the shit hits the fan. 

     The illusion that the inspector is going to find EVERYTHING is crucial to some buyers.  It is less important to some others.  After “closing,” any significant things that are discovered that should have been found at the time of inspection can turn almost any buyer into an unhappy camper.  I think we can all agree that unhappy buyers can forget very quickly the nicest of house warming gifts and how “cheap” the inspection was.

     I have had agents tell the buyer that, “Charles does not miss anything!”

     While the public vote of confidence is flattering, it is unfortunately just not true.  Any inspector that tells you otherwise is not likely going to be someone you want to recommend to your buyers----because on some level they are not being completely honest.  I would rather counsel my buyers that I WILL miss things.  The amount of time that I am at the home is so short that the chance of missing something is very high.  I also counsel them that the chance of missing something of “significance”----those things that are on that “list” of things that are famous for being “deal killers”----is very small.  Promoting the idea that inspectors “find everything” is seriously flawed.

     Now if we could turn this around a bit, and recognize that a Home Inspection can never be more than a systematic method of gathering information----especially as it relates to areas beyond the MAJOR DEAL KILLER TYPE ISSUES.  This could free up the whole information gathering process to one that is alive!  We might even be able to transform the process into:  “Wikispections.”  We could have sellers getting pre-listing inspections as the first step of this information gathering process.  We could then have the buyer (or even multiple buyers in the case of multiple offers) be a second wave of information gathering.  Then of course there are the subsequent follow up or re-inspections for repairs made as a result of the earlier inspections that could be added to all the information already gathered.

     If the home is New Construction, you will also have the plans, permits, sign-offs, owner’s manuals and related information that can be part of this stream of information.

     At the end all of this process, the buyer will have a Wiki of information that gives a much more complete picture of what the home “is about,” has “been about,” and can “be about,” than any one inspection can ever provide.

     Even this approach will still miss things (like the things the neighbors tell the buyer in a conversation over the back yard fence), and then THAT information can be added to the Wiki as well.

     Information gathering about a home is a “process”----not a “home,” a “place,” to arrive at in itself.

Charles Buell

Seattle Home Inspectors, ASHI Home Inspector, Structural Pest Inspector, Charles Buell Inspections Inc, Seattle, WA

 

 

 

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Comment balloon 15 commentsCharles Buell • August 20 2009 08:19AM

Comments

Charles, very well written. I like the gathering aspect of this post. I have never thought of it in this way, but yo uare so right, once again. Great job.

Posted by Ian Niquette (Square One Home Inspection) about 9 years ago

I use the same approach ... no way am I or any of us going to find everything. We'd need a lot more than just 4-5 hours and even then something can be missed simply because there's no way to see it. Great post Charles.

Posted by Suesan Jenifer Therriault, "Inspecting every purchase as if it were my own". (JTHIS-Professional Home Inspection Team) about 9 years ago

Ian, thanks----will be interesting to see how the non-inspectors weight in on this:)

Suesan----good point about the hidden stuff.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 9 years ago

Charles, I have an idea.  Why don't you move to Washington, DC, where you would pop to the top of every good agents' inspector list!

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (RLAH Real Estate) about 9 years ago

Charles, I hate strongly dislike the phrase "deal killer"!
Can we use;

  • Money Saver
  • Lawsuit prevented
  • Sleep Saver
  • Career gone

Just a thought,
Paul

Posted by Paul S. Henderson, REALTOR®,CRS,, Tacoma Washington Agent/Broker & Market Authority! (RE/MAX Northwest.) about 9 years ago

Pat---you are sweet!

Paul---great idea----the phrase really is "loaded" with meaning it doesn't usually deserve:)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 9 years ago

Great job making some very valid points Charles.

I often tell my buyers that a home inspection is the best insurance you can get before heading to the closing table.

 

Posted by Craig Rutman, Raleigh, Cary, Apex area Realtor (Helping people in transition) about 9 years ago

Charles

What you say is true. I also have agents that place high confidence in my ability to find deficiencies in homes, so I also end up managing my clients expectations.  :)

 

 

Posted by Harold Miller, Everett Home Inspector (Miller Home Inspection) about 9 years ago

I agree with Pat, about flying east, or maybe you ca clone yourself. We need more inspectors like you! Great post.

Posted by Janice Roosevelt, OICP ABR, ePRO,Ecobroker ( Keller Williams Brandywine Valley ) about 9 years ago

Craig, thanks

Harold----there are lots of expectations to manage all over the place

Janice, thanks----now regarding cloning me---THAT would be a scary thought:)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 9 years ago

Hi Charles,

I completely agree with Janice. I believe that inspections would be done alot more efficency and have better quality in general, if more people thought like and paid attention to detail like you do! Great post!

:)

Matt

Posted by Matt Listro, Your Credit Repair Expert (National Credit Fixers - Matt Listro) about 9 years ago

Thanks Matt

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 9 years ago

I've found one of the most important aspects of offering inspection services is managing client expectations. That's why I provide every client with a copy of the ASHI Standards of Practice before the inspection.

 

Posted by Vince Santos, Southeast Michigan Home Inspector (StepByStep Home Services LC) about 9 years ago

Vince, I wonder how many people actually read the Standards of Practice?:)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 9 years ago

Charles, I have to say I don't completely agree with your view.

A home inspection by definition, or at least the one I am familiar with, is a snap shot of the house. Like a photo we look at what the house is like when we are there during the inspection. The information gathering as you said. This is what inspectors do, gather information and assemble it into a report and give opinions on that information to help their client make a decision on their purchase of the home.

I totally agree that things will always be missed, but it is what is missed and why that I think is important. There is a big difference between neligence and an honest oversight. Of course you know some lawyer will paint a very dastardly picture of an issue what ever the reason for the mistake.

The Wiki idea is quite novel. I think that would be a great way for owners, old and new, to pass along a history of the house.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) about 9 years ago

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