Home Inspections Gone Wild

2010  Mexico 164 Temple of Venus--another look
Creative Commons License photo credit: jjjj56cp

Here’s the deal. Property inspections are out of control. There. I said it.

If you are purchasing a home, be it new or gently used, of course you should have a property inspection. It would be irresponsible not to. Homes are big, expensive things, and no one wants to buy a big, expensive thing that is going to fall down or otherwise implode during the housewarming party.

Tomorrow (“tomorrow” being some day after today, in blog speak), I will present my own list of dos and don’ts when requesting seller repairs. Still stinging from a week spent in Silly Land trying to help a selling client negotiate their way through a list of buyer demands on a pristine,12-year-old home that suggested it was in only slightly better condition than the Mayan ruins (because the Mayans didn’t replace their furnace filters, like, EVER!), it’s an overdue public service announcement.

In the meantime, here is a rerun from 2007.  Sadly, it’s all still relevant.

It was 9:00 AM on a Saturday. The setting was idyllic, an ordinary residential street in an ordinary suburban neighborhood. Later, when the story of the day was retold, those who survived the ordeal would recognize that this day’s overcast skies and the threat of rain were in fact omens of the impending ugliness. Yet, on this morning, the unsuspecting families in this otherwise orderly community had not fully shaken the comforting bathrobe of a peaceful night’s slumber and were blissfully unaware of what was to come.

And come, they did. The insurgent troops appeared seemingly out of nowhere, the tanks and Hummers and traditional vehicles of aggression replaced by their modern-day counterparts: Lexuses (Lexi?), BMWs, and one lone pick-up truck. The soldiers converged, but stealth was not necessary this day. This would be a battle of hand-to-hand combat. And, as in most contests for sovereignty, there would be no victors.

“Good morning. I am Earl from What Were You Thinking? Property Inspections. Let’s take a look at this deathtrap, shall we?”

Over the course of the next three days, I will have the honor of attending three property inspections. The homes under assault will range from the 45-year-old property to the 10-year-new. I can guarantee that the reports for each will be indistinguishable save the buyer name on the attached personal check.

Inspection reports and inspectors are funny this way. The foundation slab split entirely in two with evidence of past civilizations wedged in the gap and the tub that might benefit from a little recaulking will be presented as having the same DEFCON 1 level of urgency. Tricky things are inspections. The inspector is charged with finding fault, the buyer and their agent are charged with sorting through the list of horrors to differentiate the truly important deal-breaking items from the ordinary, cosmetic, wear-and-tear issues, and the seller is almost always left feeling offended and defensive.

It is all negotiable, of course, but negotiations directly between principals most often regress to conversations involving hot glue guns, potato peelers, pinking shears and other commonly found and readily available weapons of everyday home life. This is why it is essential that the real estate agent accompany clients to the property inspection. Left unattended, the agents would only return later to find the buyers and sellers beating the crap out of each other with rusty lead-based paint cans and Fiesta Ware to determine who will be paying to have the back door rescreened.

Now, as I gear up for the first of my inspections this morning and prepare to don my big girl Realtor uniform and pile into my shamefully under-armored VW Bug-Mobile, I take a moment to glance around my own homestead and wonder, “What if I were the target today?” At my home, where there is no ruling government, where anarchy reigns and where the rebel factions (15 and 17 year’s old respectively) have methodically set about destroying the very society in which they must coexist for the foreseeable future, the final inspection report summary would probably look something like this.

“House utterly sucks. For the love of man, run!”

My home just had only its seventh birthday, but where inspections are concerned, this is immaterial.

  • Bathroom #2 – Fossilized arachnids in shower stall pose health risks. (They are pets, stupid. They have been there so long, I have named them.) Toilet flushing mechanism needs replacing. (Does not! Just lift the tank cover and pull on the chain attached to the little floaty-thing.)
  • Kitchen – Chips in granite counter tops noted. (Yes, I know. After years of repeatedly whacking the corner with empty wine bottles as I whisk them off to the recycling bin, that is considered ”normal wear and tear”. At least I recycle!) Kitchen faucet leaks. (Only when you turn it on REALLY BIG.) Microwave makes unusual noise when operated. (Does the coffee get hot or not? I would submit, yes.) Oven, when heated to 350 degrees, registers only 342 degrees. Recommend service. (We have a, what did you call it, oven?)
  • Presence of pets suggested by stains on floor covering over there (five-spice chicken), there (squirrel parts), and there (we prefer not to speculate). Recommend cleaning carpets if sensitive to dander. (Hey, buddy! Don’t touch that dog hair! I am saving up to make a new dog some day.)
  • Laundry – Accumulated lint in dryer vent poses fire risk. (Where is this laundry room of which you speak?)
  • Garage – Many areas inaccessible and not inspected. (Items to convey: Two Barbie Dream Houses, three bikes with flat tires, one “All About Me” poster from Mr. Ferguson’s 1995 Kindergarten class, and assorted rollerblades which only fit Gary Coleman. Items not to convey: Gary Coleman.)
  • Exterior – Areas of dead or dying landscaping noted. Recommend testing/adjusting irrigation. (Recommend not owning a 95 pound male dog who eats five-spice chicken, furry rodents, and a largish rock on at least one known occasion, and squats like a girl.)
  • Bathroom #3 (children’s bath) – Water damage to drywall noted next to tub/shower enclosure. (Duh. At least they bathe.) Plumbing at sinks could not be inspected due to under-cabinet storage. (And, where would you like them to store their empty hair-product bottles, the entire line of Tammy Faye Bakker Make Me Pretty products, and Tiger Beat magazines and returned homework assignments dating back to the British Invasion? Wait a minute – So that’s where my Cuisinart went!)

I could go on, but I’m already depressed. I am off to invade someone else’s previously safe-haven. Time to go to war.

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