The home inspector may not find everything, so be aware

Mike Mason
Special to the Village News

It should be obvious to every new homebuyer that the home they are buying should be inspected so that there are no repair surprises. Homebuyers want to know that their prospective new home has been properly maintained and that there are no hidden issues. No one wants to move into a home with major repair or maintenance surprises. It’s unfortunate though that not all home inspections are perfect and some issues may go unnoticed before the close of escrow.

You must realize that even the best of home inspectors is only going to be able to identify so many issues in the limited time they spend in the home, which typically will be three to four hours. Sometimes, the missed issues may be attributed to the inspector’s abilities, and other times, the inspector may miss things because issues were hidden – perhaps the home was full of furniture, and the inspector could not gain access to everything they normally would.

The purpose of this article is not to bash home inspectors or to advise homebuyers on how to find a good one. Rather, it is to help the reader be aware of potential issues that may go unreported in a home inspection.

Some common issues can be missed during a home inspection related to the basic systems of the home.

Inspect the air conditioner or heater. HVAC systems can keep on going for years and years without a problem, and suddenly, without notice, they can just stop working. Typically, the home inspector will just verify that it is working at the time of the inspection and is probably not qualified to complete an analysis of the entire HVAC system. For people buying an older home, be should be prepared for potential future problems, especially if the seller has not kept up on the maintenance to the HVAC system.

Watch for a cracked heater exchange. If the home is 10 years or older, it may be worth the investment to have the HVAC system completely inspected by a qualified HVAC professional. Without the proper equipment and expertise, the inspector may not see that the heater exchanger may be leaking carbon monoxide into the home – a potentially hazardous situation.

Plumbing issues can crop up. While the home inspector will check the water and drain system for functionality, they may not be able to detect a partial blockage or pipe damage. While the home inspector can easily determine what type of pipe system the home has, its age and any potential problems caused by tree roots, certain issues will require specialized equipment that the home inspector will not likely have available. It’s possible that the new homeowner will discover issues with the plumbing after they’ve moved in.

Electrical issues can be hidden. The home inspector will identify any obvious issues found during their brief home inspection. Most of their findings will be through a visual inspection, and they should be able to identify issues such as an ungrounded outlet or identifying double-tapped breakers. If there is a malfunction to another component of the home caused by electrical issue, realize that to keep the inspection affordable the home inspector can only spend so much time. For a true understanding of the entire electrical system, it is advisable to hire a licensed electrician.

Next, a home inspector will check the chimney for cracks and deterioration of the bricks and mortar – both inside the home and outside. They will look up inside the chimney to see if there is any build up of excessive soot. If the home has experienced a fire or seismic event, considering having a more detailed chimney inspection done by the appropriate professional.

While the home inspector may be able to identify many structural issues, such as a cracked foundation or problems with the roof, which can be some of the most expensive problems to deal with, if a problem is detected, a structural engineer should be brought in to determine how to cure the situation and help budget the fix.

Water is perhaps the most detrimental force in nature and in the home. Water leaks – either from plumbing or from outside the home – can create all sorts of issues including mold infestation and structural degradation. It is important to have a well-maintained home that is sealed against the elements. The problem with a home inspection is that if the home has been vacant for a long time or if it has been very dry for a long time, there may be no telltale signs visible to the home inspector, and the prospective buyer will never know about a water leak until there is a significant amount of rain.

These are some of the most common issues that arise after a home inspection. It is important that homebuyers remember that no one is perfect. Be assured that the home inspector is not going to purposely cover up a problem.

It’s important for to keep in mind that with home inspectors, like all professionals, some are better than others. Most good realtors will be able to offer buyers the names of two or three respected home inspectors that they have worked with before. It’s up to the homebuyer to do their due diligence and make the decision that is right for them.

It is best to avoid a home inspector provided by the home seller. Also, the buyer’s agent should not provide only one suggested home inspector. In this sue-happy society, if there is only one recommendation offered and something shows up after the purchase, it’s very likely that there will be lawsuits filed.

Should the agent attend the home inspection?

There is not a legal requirement for either agent to attend the home inspection. It does not mean that most good real estate agents or their personal representative will be not there.

The real estate home inspection is one of the most important hurdles to overcome in the purchase of a home, and it is my opinion that all real estate agents should attend all home inspections.

It is such a vital component of the process. The home inspector will have significant impact on the sale, based on what they say during and after the inspection. It only makes sense that everyone involved is there, including the buyer, the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent. Yet, every home inspector will say that frequently it is just the home inspector and the buyer running through the home with no real estate agent anywhere to be found.

A real estate agent’s job is to be an advocate for their client, and therefore, I recommend that they should be at the inspection to represent their client. Some realtors will follow the inspector every step of the way, and others may sit silently in the background waiting for the exit briefing to answer any questions their client may have – both approaches are all right and are up to the agent, but they should be there. This opinion applies to both the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent.

Consider that most real estate transactions fall apart for some sort of issue. Sellers should do whatever it takes to prepare the home for inspection before the inspection taking place.

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