The other day I presented a request to the seller’s agent after a home inspection. The agent said “My home inspector never includes the deficiencies of outbuildings” It reminded me that many home buyers rely on the home inspection, and yet there are many “area norms” that dictate what home inspectors do and do not do. All home inspectors are not the same, and cost of inspection should not be the main criteria when selecting a home inspector. The cost difference from one to another is often within $100…but the manner in which they inspect a home varies greatly.
Common sense does apply, to some degree. Most often the cost of the inspection is determined by the square footage of “the home”. One would think this might be a signal that an inspector who prices on that basis is looking ONLY at “the home”. Often that is appropriate, but sometimes it is not.
There is no hard and fast rule here. A good rule of thumb is “is it an item that adds or decreases value in an appraisal?” A fenced property most often will not appraise higher than a similar home without a fence. A small shed will not likely be noted in an appraisal. But the property in question for me the other day included a HUGE shop building with a roof, heater and electricity. I haven’t seen the appraisal yet, but seems to me that “the outbuiding” in this case was appropriately inspected as to deficiencies. In fact, there have been a couple of times over the last 20 years when my buyer client bought a property where “the outbuilding” was equally important to the decision to purchase as the home itself…sometimes moreso.
My personal opinion is that we should look at the inspection process from the standpoint of future buyer cost, vs. components in and of themselves. What every home buyer wants to and needs to know, is how much might it cost them to maintain this property after they become the owner of “it”. A new fence costs a lot more than a polarized socket or a GFCI, many thousands more. Yet most every home inspection will ignore a rotted fence and include a $15 GFCI.
This is a large topic, and I am on vacation in Florida at the moment, so we will revisit it from time to time. My hope in writing this post is to convey to home buyers that merely relying on “a system in place” to protect you, is just not appropriate. The system values “what you are buying” differently than you, as you should be looking at what costs you may have overall…because the system in place does not do that. There are many large cost items that are not included in the inspection or the seller disclosure.
All too often a buyer chooses a home based on interior features and then relies on the system to do the rest. Rarely does a buyer do a thorough inspection of the home and property (as much as they can) before making an offer. There are two remedies to this problem:
1) We can improve the system to incorporate all that a homebuyer really needs from it
2) Buyers should conduct a thorough inspection themselves either before they make an offer or during the home inspection timeframe (in addition to the home inspection).
Waiting for #1 to happen in the timeframe you need it to, is not likely going to service your immediate needs as well as performing both inspections via #2. Since a buyer is not as well versed on what a home inspector will be looking at, Kim and I often help the buyer look at those things that the inspector will not, prior to offer and continually through “the due diligence timeframe”. It is also possible to expand the scope of the inspection to include things normally not included, but to do that you need to know what is included and what is NOT included…before the home inspection and home inspection timeframe is over.
The system does protect you to a large degree, but area norms and customs limit your protections (vs. contract provisions) and you should be aware of which inspectors will only perform the minimum required, and which will go the extra mile.