When things go wrong with your home inspection

by Jun 15, 2020Uncategorized

There will come a time when you discover something wrong with the house, and you may be upset with your home inspection.  There are some things we’d like you to keep in mind. The intent of the inspection is not to find minor problems; it is to find the major, expensive and/or safety problems.  These are the things that affect people’s decisions to purchase.

We are not perfect

We will likely “miss” something” while spending just a few hours in the house. 

We might be wrong

Just because a contractor has a different opinion does not make us wrong. He/she is just as human as we are.

Intermittent or concealed problems

Some problems cannot be discovered during the few hours of a home inspection.  For example, some shower stalls leak when people are in the shower, but do not leak when you simply turn on the tap.  Some roofs only leak when specific conditions exist.  Some problems will only be discovered when carpets are lifted, furniture is moved or finishes are removed.

No clues

Some problems may have existed at the time of the inspection, but there were no clues as to their existence.  Our inspections are based on the past performance of the house.  If there are no clues of a past problem, it is unfair to assume we should foresee a future problem.  As a matter of fact defects can exist without symptoms for years without discovery until that system is stressed and fails.

Contractors’ advice

A common source of dissatisfaction with home inspectors comes from comments made by contractors.  Don’t be surprised when three roofers all say the roof needs replacement, when we said that the roof may last a few more years with some repairs.  While our advice may be the most prudent thing to do in your situation, many contractors are reluctant to undertake these repairs.  This is because of the “last man in” theory.  The contractor fears that if he is the last person to work on the roof, he will get blamed if the roof leaks, regardless of whether or not the roof leak is his fault.  Consequently, he won’t want to do a minor repair with high liability, when he could re-roof the entire house for more money and reduce the likelihood of a callback.  This is understandable.  There is more to the “last man in” theory.  It suggests that it is human nature for homeowners to believe the last bit of expert advice they receive, even if it is contrary to previous advice.  As home inspectors, we unfortunately find ourselves in the position of “first man in” and consequently it is our advice that is often disbelieved.

Why didn’t we see it

Contractors may say, “I can’t believe you had this house inspected, and they didn’t find this problem.”  There are several reasons for these apparent oversights:

Conditions during inspection

It is difficult for homeowners to remember the circumstances in the house at the time of the inspection.  Homeowners seldom remember there was storage everywhere or that the air conditioning could not be turned on because it was too cold outside.  It’s impossible for contractors to know what the circumstances were when the inspection was performed.

The wisdom of hindsight

When the problem manifests itself, it is very easy to have 20/20 hindsight.  Anybody can say that the dishwasher leaks when there is water on the floor.  Predicting the problem is a different story.

A long look

If we spent half an hour under the kitchen sink or 45 minutes disassembling the furnace, we’d find more problems too.  Unfortunately, the inspection would take several days and would cost considerably more.

We’re generalists

We are generalists; we are not specialists.  The heating contractor should have more heating expertise than we do.  This is because we are expected to have heating expertise and plumbing expertise, structural expertise, electrical expertise, et cetera.  Problems often become apparent when carpets or wall coverings are removed, when fixtures or cabinets are pulled out, and so on.  A home inspection is a visual examination.  We do not  perform invasive or destructive tests

Not insurance

A home inspection is designed to better your odds.  It is not designed to eliminate all risk.  For that reason, a home inspection should not be considered an insurance policy.  The premium that an insurance company would have to charge for a policy with a no/low deductible, no limit and an indefinite policy period would be considerably more than the fee we charge!