Just like auto mechanics, dentists, plumbers, financial planners, electricians, attorneys, hair dressers, tailors, Realtors ... you name it: home inspectors are human just like any other service provider.
Some are really good, some are not so good, and some are bad. Luckily word of mouth typically drives the bad service providers out of the marketplace … but not always.
There are a few universal truths about homes and home inspections:
- There is no perfect house.
- There is nothing that can’t be fixed for a cost.
- It is the parts of the house that you can’t see that you need to worry about the most.
- Once you purchase a home, any problems associated with it become yours.
A good home inspector is looking for “material defects.” A material defect is defined as any condition that would have a significant adverse impact on the value of real property. It is important to understand, home inspectors are not looking for cosmetic issues; these are evident at the time of showing and are very much “in the eye of the beholder.”
Material defects can be classified into two categories:
1) Health and safety issues
2) A problem that would be expensive to fix
A missing switch plate cover is considered a material defect because someone can potentially get shocked when switch plate covers are missing. Even though a cover may cost only 79 cents to purchase and it is easy enough for almost anyone to install, it is a material defect.
While the list of potential health and safety issues is extensive, it can include:
High radon levels, mold, faulty smoke detectors, faulty wiring, gas leaks, cracks in the chimney liner, trip hazards, chipping lead based paint, and well water quality.
Although “expensive” to fix is a very subjective term, most home inspectors use a gauge of about $500 or more to fix (some consider anything over $100 or $200 is a material defect). The need for a new roof, HVAC, or hot water heater are all clearly material defects, but these issues while costly are usually straightforward and manageable. In our opinion, the most serious of material defects (these problems can cost thousands of dollars and also be difficult to identify and correct) include:
- Structural/foundation issues
- Failing septic systems
- Active infestations
- Persistent water intrusion
- Faulty wiring
Over the years, we have sold hundreds of homes and we have seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to home inspections. We have seen buyers get “spooked” and bail out of contracts on truly solid well-kept homes over something trivial where the inspector made erroneous recommendations. On the flip-side, we have seen buyers work with sellers through stucco repairs and septic issues that have cost tens of thousands of dollars.
There are certainly times a buyer should cancel a contract due to the home inspection issues. But there are other times, especially when the seller is cooperative about paying for repairs and you get the right people in to evaluate and do the work, a buyer would do well to stick it out.
The key is having a really good home inspector to find and sort through the material defects of the property so you know exactly what you are getting.
Every Wednesday at noon, the Scott Loper Team of Re/Max Realty Group in Harleysville offers some sage advice to potential and current homeowners in our area. The Scott Loper Team includes Scott Loper, Lisa Loper and Gina Wherry, Re/Max Realty Group, 439 Main Street, Harleysville, PA 19438, 215-256-1200.