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June 30, 2010


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I was looking to buy a brick home and I loved the area. I was looking at the mortar in the brick and on a whim had a company come out and look at it. They said walk away, the entire house would need new mortar. The inspector never mentioned it!

Never that stopped me, but when I was buying my condo in 2005 my inspector told me 2 things. First, the a/c was original and therefore from the late 60's, but it was a tank and could go on forever, or could break tomorrow. Good insight on the quality, and the possible reality. I spent $155 to fix it this year, but otherwise no troubles.

Second, in my electrical outlets, the connectors used in the 60's were made of aluminum (at least I think it was aluminum) which was no longer code and at some point would need replaced, but would not be too terribly expensive. In 2007 the condo association required that the outlets be updated with new connectors and it only cost $500.

Admittedly there is much less to look at in a condo for an inspection, but those comments led me to believe that he just didn't "mail it in" on the job because it was a condo.

I personally haven't had an inspection come back with any of these problems, but several friends and family members have had the experience. One friend had a contract on a house in NY that failed inspection because of heating and foundation issues, and he had to sue to recover his deposit when the seller wouldn't agree to make the repairs. My brother-in-law didn't have his first house in NC inspected when he bought it "because it was new." When he sold it, he found out that the drainpipe for his shower had never been connected and the water had gone into the crawlspace for the 5 years he lived there. The builder was still in business and agreed to fix the pipe. Another friend withdrew a contract on a house because of foundation issues(also NC). Most recently, some friends who moved to GA had an inspector discover that one of the HVAC units was non-functioning, and the sellers paid for the replacement.

Five years prior to the sale of our former house, we had the polybutylene plumbing replaced through a class-action lawsuit. We had to replace much of the siding on our house about 3 years before we sold, and that was mostly paid for by funds from another class-action lawsuit. An ice storm damaged the roof about 10 months before we sold, we had the whole roof replaced, and insurance paid for about half the cost. Otherwise, the inspector would have probably said that all of those issues would need to be addressed.

I think that covers 5 of the 9 most common issues.

Our inspector spent almost 3 hours for $275 and produced a report with 8 pages of detailed items. We had a separate inspector for bugs. Most of the issues were small or reflected the fact that it was built to 1950s codes (e.g., most of the wiring wasn't grounded).

A couple things were important enough to deal with before closing. We got money from the sellers towards a new roof. They ripped out a small section of water-damaged drywall to check for mold.

But, the inspector also said the house had good bones and was in pretty good shape overall. So that helped us make the decision to buy it.

Since then, we used the report as a starting point for what to renovate or fix in the house.

The home inspector noted the 2 big problems on the house I bought in 1996: the pressed wood siding was "sponging" and would need to be replaced within a few years, and the deck was rotten. I bought the house anyway because it was a very good price and was otherwise very well maintained and the neighborhood was awesome.

Replaced the siding with soffits and gutters, and put in a new larger redesigned deck in 2001, got a new roof from the insurance company after a hailstorm, and had to replace the 30 year old AC/furnace and hot water heater when they failed. I also had to spend a bit to fix the chimney top masonry. That's it and it was all expected except for the chimney. No other issues.

Replacing things isn't always bad--I liked being able to pick high quality siding, gutters with screens, and a deck that was the size & style I wanted and that would do the most for the house's resale. I also picked an AC/furnace that was high efficiency. If the former owner had done these things instead of me, probably they would have gone with the cheapest option instead. Same if it was a new house.

We bought an old house that was a student rental. The inspector pointed out that there had been a fire sometime in the past. In hindsight, I think we should have looked closer. When we had to open some walls, we ended up doing a lot of sistering. Ironically, the new roof leaked at every vent and the chimney. That wasn't caught.

Everything you listed can (and should be!) easily spotted by anyone with half a brain.

Yea, the banks want the written report but all those things are sooooooooooo obvious.

@ MasterPo:

I disagree that those things are obvious. We had to replace our electrical box before selling because it was a model that had been recalled (this is something the average Joe would not likely discover).

Also, family members (in order to save money) declined the home inspection before purchasing an older home. There is a 'leaning' of the house's facade that is caused by a rotted support beam (past termite damage, I think). The beam is not in plain sight. This means that eventually they will have to replace the beam, which will be a major expense since the house's exterior is stone. The only reason they found out the house was askew was because his interior plaster walls would continue to crack after they were fixed. This was when someone w/more knowledge was called in and pointed out the cause.

Do home inspectors hire home inspectors? Is the real role of a home inspector to be an emotion free reality check on the house quality?

If I were buying another 50s rambler (which is what I have now) I don't think I would get an inspection this time around. I'm a pretty handy guy, and most (90%) of what the inspector checked was blatantly obvious, another 8% of it I probably would've noticed if I had done a 2 hour inspection like he did. The other 2% was mostly just background knowledge of what typically goes wrong in a 60 year old rambler style house.

That said, if I were moving to a different type of house with a different style construction I would consider getting an inspector again since this is the only type of house I'm familiar with.

Our home inspector found that our roof needed to be completely replaced, sheathing and all. Even though the people we had bought it from had just had it redone within the last two years! They paid for the new roof before we closed. Other than that it was little stuff here and there.

I work in the construction defects industry and it never ceases to amaze me what our inspectors find on even new buildings (one home dry rotted completely through 3 years after being built). When I buy a home, I'm going to be hiring a Home Inspector for the interior and a Construction Defects Inspector for the exterior. There's a BIG difference between the two types of inspectors. You may have to sink $10K into the electrical, but that's nothing compared to having to re-clad your home down to the sheathing or deal with massive amounts of dry rot. To me, it's worth it for the extra inspection.

Since I've been working in this industry, I only remember ONE home inspected that we didn't have concerns about. Even the 'good' homes have issues like improperly installed siding. Construction issues are MUCH more common than I realized before entering this industry. It's actually pretty scary because most home inspectors won't catch a lot of the construction issues... it's simply not their focus.

Didn't mean to make this sound like a construction defects commercial... I just feel very strongly about it! Think about it this way... contractors use unskilled or semi-skilled labor and want to get off the job as soon as possible. How often do you think they cut corners?

@ Mel:

I agree and understand exactly where you are coming from! Our house was built in 2000 and we are the third owners. We have cracks in the basement floor and water seeping in from two corners of the foundation.

We wish we were the first buyers. We could have been involved with the building process and hired a "construction defects inspector" as you have mentioned.

We have since discovered that the French drains were built on the outside of the foundation and have since become clogged, thus causing seepage. We are surrounded by wetlands...the excess groundwater is unable to flow properly to the sump pump. We are anticipating that this will be a huge expense to remedy.

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