January 03, 2024 at 11:05am | Mike Russell


THE HOUSE WILL BE UNDER A MAGNIFYING GLASS.  A good home inspection means that the home inspector examines every "nook and cranny" in a house and tests all systems and components.

A HOME INSPECTION IS USUALLY A CONTINGENCY ON THE CONTRACT.  If the home inspector discovers and documents serious structural, systems, etc. defects, the seller is usually given an opportunity to cure or the buyer can void the contract.  If the home inspection finds the home in good condition with no structural or system defects, the contingency will expire or the buyer will remove it.

HOME BUYERS BENEFIT FROM A HOME INSPECTION by learning about the condition of the various components of the house from the top to the bottom and all features included in the structure and grounds.

HOME SELLERS BENEFIT FROM A HOME INSPECTION when unknown defects are discovered and not passed on to an unawares buyer.

LISTING AGENTS BENEFIT FROM A HOME INSPECTION by avoiding the risk of not knowing of a significant financial, health or safety defect that would affect the buyers before, during and after closing.

BUYERS' AGENTS BENEFIT FROM A HOME INSPECTION by making sure that defects are discovered and the seller given an opportunity to cure or the buyer isn't forced to accept the property with significant financial, health or safety defects.

DON'T BECOME A DEFENDANT.  Home inspections provide risk reduction for real estate agents.  Many lawsuits involving buyers and sellers are related to property defects discovered after closing.  When buyers litigate property condition and lack of disclosure of defects, the agents are usually included in the litigation as a defendant.

FAR TO MANY SELLERS BELIEVE THAT "IF THIS HOUSE IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME, IT'S GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU".  Sellers also too often believe that the house has no defects unless the buyer finds them.  Giving some sellers the benefit of the doubt in that they have delayed maintenance to systems, roofs, appliances, etc. for so long, they fail to realize that most contracts require that the house be sound and the systems operate normally.

FAR TO MANY BUYERS BELIEVE THAT, IF A DEFECT IS FOUND, THAT THE SELLER MUST MAKE A REPAIR OR REPLACEMENT.  Not so.  The buyer can inspect.  The seller and agree or refuse to repair.  If the seller doesn't repair serious defects, the buyer doesn't have to take the property.

NOTE.  If a material defect is discovered, the seller and their agent may, by law, be required to disclose that defect to future buyers. 

(1)  An air conditioning system that will not cool a house below 85 degrees is not "operating properly" although the system is running and probably running and running.
(2)  A roof that has three layers, is missing tiles and leaks on rainy, windy days is not "operating properly" although it may not always leak. 
(3)  A basement foundation that is only wet on rainy days is not "operating properly" although it may be dry when the buyers toured the home. 
(4) A furnace is not "operating properly" if the filter has not been changed for the past 4 years.  The strain on the furnace has caused it to lose significant life and merely replacing the filter doesn't provide better functionality for the motor.
Defects (1) through (3) above are simple to address.  Red Flags
     (1) The mere "servicing" of such a system is not adequate because the wear and tear on the system by overworking it while it is not operating properly has caused the system to lose value.  Did the seller disclose to prospective buyers that they have not had the 20 year old air conditioning serviced for 11 years. 
Tip:  If a seller is using several fans in the property on warm days, this is a RED FLAG.

    (2)  A roof that is not leaking when the home is inspected is a difficult matter to address in a home inspection notice of defects.  Although the missing tiles may be replaced, that doesn't make the roof newer or remove the old roofs. 
Tip:  When a roof clearly is beyond the useful life, condition the Contract of Sale on the seller replacing the room prior to settlement.  New roofs are often difficult to negotiate in a repair addendum.  It's often better to simply make a new roof a condition of the contract unless, of course, the house is a good buy and the buyer is financially prepared to replace the roof following settlement.  Tiles of several different colors, curled and swollen tiles should be a RED FLAG.
     (3)  Sellers may disclose that the house has water penetration on rainy days, but rarely disclose the degree.  Sellers also do not usually disclose structural defects that would cause water penetration because they may not understand the cause.  Since much water penetration is caused by poor grading of the grounds surrounding the house, trying to address the cure for a wet basement may be difficult.

Tip:  Home owners with empty basements, stored items on shelving, or "high water marks" on the basement walls, or freshly whitewashed basements may be a clue that water penetration has been a problem.  A "high water mark" is always a RED FLAG.

DEFECT (4)is more difficult, but a serious defect nonetheless.  Unless a buyer is prepared to replace a heating system following settlement, when the home inspectors documents that the heating unit needs "servicing", it's a good idea to determine if the unit has been properly serviced in the past. 
Tip:  No service tags, dirty or missing filters, cracked furnace walls, rusty inner parts, etc. should be a RED FLAG.  
Time and space doesn't permit the elaboration of other "tips to deferred maintenance" such as
Ovens whereby the "self clean" feature doesn't work.  No person should have to clean an oven in the 21st Century.  Oven/Range replacement is usually the only cure.

Improperly wired panel boxes.  This can be a serious SAFETY HAZARD.  Write it as such and make sure that any work is done by a licensed electrician.

Loose stair railings.  VA and FHA appraisers will often cite this serious SAFETY HAZARD.
Home buyers in rural areas should always require documented well and septic permits, inspection, acceptable GPM for water and maintenance records for septic systems. These systems are critical to the functionality of the home and expensive to repair.

Tip:  The seller "doesn't know" when the septic tank was last pumped.  The seller "doesn't know" the GPM output for the well.  The seller "doesn't know" where the drain field is located.  All RED FLAGS.

WHAT IS A GOOD HOME INSPECTION??  IF A HOME INSPECTOR DISCOVERS ANY OF THE DEFECTS ABOVE OR OTHERS, that is a good home inspection.  It may avoid the seller being sued after settlement.  It will surely
The last thing that a seller, buyer's agent or listing agent needs is to discover a MATERIAL DEFECT after settlement. 
Tip:  If the home inspector discovers an undisclosed defect, roof, system, structure, etc. THE SELLER SHOULD AMEND THE PROPERTY CONDITION DISCLOSURE TO REFLECT THE FACTS AND KNOWN DEFECTS IN THE PROPERTY.  
WHAT ABOUT THE LISTING THAT SAYS "AS IS".   All resale homes are sold "AS IS".   Notice that the term "AS IS" isn't referenced in any of the above subject to terms and conditions of the home inspection contingency.  Don't let a seller or listing agent rely on the crutch of "AS IS" to avoid responsibility for property defects.  "AS IS" is conditioned on a satisfactory home inspection. 

If a property is technically an "AS IS" sale, as are most REO, foreclosure, bank owned and short sale properties, the "Property Condition" paragraph in the Contract of Sale will be deleted by an "AS IS" addendum. Often these contracts permit a home inspection "For Buyers Information Only". Buyers need to know the difference.
  • FOR HOME BUYERS.  Enjoy your newly purchased home, but first, know what you're buying.
  • FOR HOME SELLERS.  Maintain your home and there shouldn't be any surprises from a home inspection.
  • FOR LISTING AGENTS.  Known defects must be disclosed in most states by the seller and their agent.
  • FOR BUYER'S AGENTS.  Don't avoid tough home inspections.  Buyers don't need to buy a Pig in a Poke.

Courtesy, Lenn Harley, Broker, Homefinders,  Serving home buyers in Maryland and Northern Virginia.


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