Help, I’m Scared – I Just Read My Home Inspection Report – Is The House Falling Apart?
Oh My Gosh…pipes are leaking, roofing shingles are damaged, the furnace isn’t working properly, there are electrical issues, the deck needs attention….gheesh…What do I do now? Is this house, the house that I’ve fallen deeply in love with, falling apart?
Well…maybe so and maybe no. There is no perfectly constructed or perfectly maintained house…at least, I’ve never inspected such a thing nor do I expect that I ever will. Nevertheless, be assured that there are homes out there that are just plainly in very poor condition. Chances are, though, that the issues identified in a Home Inspection report are typical issues for a home of any given or particular age. While this isn’t always the case, the issues are very likely able to be repaired. Most anything can be repaired. Even more serious items e.g. structural issues, water intrusion and resultant damage, heating and air conditioning systems that need to be replaced etc., are able to be repaired. Once issues have been identified, irrespective of their severity, it then becomes a matter of whether or not they are going to be repaired, how and by whom they might be repaired, how much those repairs are going to cost, and what party is going to be financially responsible for those repairs.
First…and in my opinion…the details of what a Home Inspection is, and of how a Home Inspection report is typically used in a real estate transaction, should have been fully explained to the buyer by their real estate agent prior to the Inspection period. Then, at the beginning of the Home Inspection, the Home Inspector should explain to the client what they can expect from the Home Inspector, and from the Home Inspection report. The Home Inspection report, and again in my ever so humble opinion, shouldn’t be considered as an all-inclusive list to be used to beat the selling party severely about the head and shoulders. There will likely be…will almost certainly be…items in the report that, while required to be reported by the standards governing the Home Inspection, may not fall within the scope of the Real Estate Offer To Purchase Contact as items that are able to be asked to be repaired by the seller. That determination, or interpretation, is best left to a real estate agent or to an attorney. The issues identified in the report, in their totality, is information…information provided as part of the basis upon which to make an informed purchase decision. That’s why you had an inspection in the first place, right? You paid for a professional evaluation of the home to make a more informed purchase decision.
Second…take a half-step backward, take a deep breath or two, and re-read the report. I promise that the world hasn’t come to an end as the result of the report. If there are numerous individual items to consider, then try to itemize those issues in the order of their importance to YOU. The report may categorize the issues to some degree but the Home Inspector cannot decide what importance YOU should place on any given item. Neither should the Inspector be advising you as to whether or not you should purchase the home; such advice or guidance is simply outside the scope of a Home Inspection. There are two questions that I, personally, have never answered. The first is “Would you buy this home?” and the second is “How would you rate this home on a scale of 1–10?” There is too much that a Home Inspector just simply doesn’t know to be able to answer such questions. Sure, they know a great deal about the physical condition of the home by the time the inspection is complete, but that’s only part of the equation. They don’t know how much the home is worth, they don’t know the clients financial condition, and they don’t know what the financial arrangements might be. I suggest, too, that they shouldn’t want to know.
Third…set about gathering yet more information. Information…accurate information…and the resulting knowledge gained are your most dear of friends. You need to associate a dollar value with the needed repairs. Are the repairs going to require a structural assessment by a licensed Professional Engineer? Are the needed repairs such that they will require implementation by a licensed General Contractor? Can any of the items be corrected by a handyman who specializes in general repairs? Seek out and obtain estimates from the contractors that will be performing the repairs. Use all of the resources available to you to attain information and make good decisions. Your experienced, professional real estate agent, assuming you’ve retained that service, is in an excellent position to assist you in this endeavor. The typical professional real estate agent has, at their disposal, a vast wealth of knowledge and resources about how to go about dealing with the contents and issues of a Home Inspection report. That’s part of what they do in representing their clients during a real estate transaction.
Your success in your real estate transaction is at least partly dependent upon gathering appropriate information, processing that information, and making informed decisions based upon that information. Doing so in a calm, direct and straight-forward manner…with as little involved emotion as possible…will likely be contributory to a positive outcome.