Hugh Cairns: At the home inspection altar

Even a procession of correctable things uncovered in an inspection adds up mentally to the buyer. It can make the buyer wonder and can play wildly with their expectations. Photo: Contributed – (Photo: Hugh Cairns)

Hugh Cairns: At the home inspection altar

Here’s a little story from time to time that I offer up about the home inspection and home buying process…. In the pews are the buyers’ family and the sellers’ family. Nestled among them are the buyers’ agent and the sellers’ agent a couple of lawyers, some appraisers, mortgage brokers and insurance underwriters. The buyer and the seller are at the altar. It’s the moment of truth. The cleric says, “Can anyone show a deficiency as to why not these two contracted parties may not lawfully be joined forever, let them now speak”. And the home inspector in the back holds up his report and says, “I do”.

You see, the above analogy is somewhat of a parody of how the home buying process works. The clients literally are standing at the altar, and it is there that the story of the home is dealt with on paper, often within hours or a few days of consummating the deal. They like the looks of the home, or the way it feels or works for them, and now it’s time for the unemotional home inspector to put the condition of the home down in the form of a report. It takes a great deal of tact by the home inspector to explain the conditions they find in the home. Good home inspectors neither like or dislike a home and view them with a mechanical mindset. When the news isn’t desirable, great home inspectors are able to deliver the results to their clients without aggravating an already delicate set of circumstances.

Even a procession of little things uncovered in an inspection adds up mentally to the buyer. It can make the buyer wonder and can play wildly with their expectations. It’s usually written on their faces. With the care of an informative explanation, the inspector can put their own findings into perspective. What the inspector can’t, and never should do, is offer advice on buying the home or how much it costs to fix a finding. Sadly, many home inspectors do, even though it’s dead against their contractual and ethical obligations. Most do it because they are thinking that they are being helpful or knowledgeable.  When the inspector offers advice beyond the home inspection they may be inviting themselves to an appearance before a judge to explain why the information that they weren’t qualified to offer was wrong. There are many professionals that augment the work done by home inspectors. It is the responsibility of the person actually doing the work to offer costs and a scope of work to correct a deficiency. Most deficiencies that home inspectors report on are regular, routine, uncomplicated and not expensive to correct.

Buyers can fairly rely on property disclosure statements. Conditions can change between the completion of this document and the sale. Some of the answers may be wrong because the seller is unaware of a condition. Sadly in other cases, disclosures are inaccurate. All of these reasons are great reasons to have a home inspection completed prior to sale.

When people are getting their house ready to put on the market, it’s better to get problems taken care of upfront, rather waiting for a buyer’s inspector to detail them or uncover them with a purchase contract on the line. In some cases sellers aren’t aware of a developing problem or are not in a position to rectify one. A seller who doesn’t have problems fixed ahead of time may experience a reduced selling price of their home, but if they know about and disclose a condition, it usually doesn’t blindside the process. One word of advice from an experienced home inspector, most people think what needs to be fixed costs more than what it actually does and that goes for both parties. Fixing the deficiency in most cases is a good investment in the home.