It seems like a logical course of action when you are a buyer that you get a home under contract, obtain a home inspection, review the data, and then ask the seller to perform repairs or supply a credit. Sounds simple, right?
The home inspection report is actually way more convoluted than it appears and often homebuyers are viewing it through the wrong set of eyes. A home inspection report identifies two things: 1. Things that are broken TODAY, and 2. Things that could be broken in the FUTURE. The majority of a home inspection report identifies POTENTIAL (I can’t say this word enough, POTENTIAL POTENTIAL POTENTIAL) problems, not current ones. Why do they do this?
Think of your home inspector the way that you would think of your family doctor; he is a general practitioner looking at your physical health today but also making recommendations on how you can stay healthy for years to come, such as increasing your exercise program, lowering your cholesterol, and quitting smoking. Your family doctor also makes recommendations for specialty checkups to ensure that you don’t have something further going on that he is not completely qualified to diagnose, such as if you have a weird mole on your arm, he would recommend a dermatologist or if you were having frequent heartburn, he would advise that you see a gastroenterologist. Does this mean that you have cancer or a stomach ulcer? No! It just means that if it is something that you are concerned about, it might be worth checking into.
The same can be said for your home inspection report. On almost every report you will see items of recommendation that look like this:
This is actually a very common recommendation for homes in this area as we have many historic homes and most of those will have floors that are not level. Does this mean that the home has major issues and you should immediately run? No! It is a recommendation, not a diagnosis of doom. The best way to answer your question conclusively as to the soundness of the foundation is to order a structural engineer’s evaluation (a specialist). Yes, this will mean more money out of your pocket in additional inspection costs but it could save you thousands if there is imminent structural damage or if there isn’t, give you valuable peace of mind.
In all honesty, however, if you would like to avoid this recommendation at all costs…don’t consider purchasing an historic home.
Other common recommendations that I see on home inspection reports that are highlighted in red and marked as safety issues are things that you are probably living with in your current home and think nothing about them.
1. The anti-tilt device on the stove
This is a small bracket that is screwed onto the back of the stove and then screwed into the wall so that if someone decides that standing on top of the oven door is a great idea, they won’t tip the range over on themselves. While it is a safety concern, it is also common sense and about a $2.00 handyman fix.
2. Not enough smoke detectors for today’s building codes
Guess what…if the house is not a new construction build then it probably is not going to have today’s industry standard number of smoke detectors. Go out and pick some up at Home Depot.
Now that you have the information, what do you do with it?
That depends upon what kind of market you are in! If we were in a buyer’s market, we would make up a list of 90% of the items on the report and request repair…IF WE WERE IN A BUYER’S MARKET, you would most likely throw the kitchen sink at them and see what happened.
But since we aren’t, haven’t been in quite some time, and this is the strongest and longest seller’s market in decades, negotiations need to be conducted with a bit more finesse and compromise…
So how to proceed?
You pick the items that are of highest concern, get your specialist opinions and estimates, and then negotiate those items that are make or break points for YOU. And be prepared that even though you ask, it does not mean that thou shalt receive. Gauge your emotional attachment to the property, your current living situation needs, and calculate the highest prospective dollar amount that you will have to invest out of pocket to make the home work for you. If all of these things are still in a comfortable range and nothing truly formidable has been revealed from the specialist, then you should feel confident giving yourself the green light.
In the end…your real estate agent, your home inspector, and your specialists are here to make the best recommendations based upon their experience…THE FINAL DECISION IS UP TO YOU.
To put it simply, the doctor can prescribe the pills but he can’t make you swallow them.