Property Inspections – You had to be there.

Creative Commons License photo credit: bribriTO

In case you missed it, March is National Property Inspection month. Well, it isn’t really, at least not in the strictest “Hallmark” sense, but it has felt like it.

I think all of our escrows got together one night and decided to synchronize their watches. The result is that the points in each where it was time for the buyers to perform their property investigations collided, and every day has seemed like one long series of kicking the tires.

I have written about the joys of the home inspection before (I have written about everything before). Every time I find myself listening to the inspector’s summary of findings, I drop to my knees and give thanks that it is not my home we are investigating. If the inspector was in fact able to locate my kitchen beyond the trail of random shoes mourning the loss of a mate, abandoned outer (and, in some cases, inner) wear, dog hair sufficient to make a new dog, and Ikea catalogues dating back to the original settlement of the Scandanavian Penninsula, I would be toast.

Property inspections are a necessary and critical part of every transaction to be sure. Every buyer needs to know that they aren’t about to purchase an unsound or unsafe property, but inspections have become so much more than a process for identifying the big, scary issues. These days they are more like three-hour exercises in rebuilding the home. And this is why it is essential that the buyer and his agent be present at the inspection, at least during the final hour in order to get the CliffsNotes.

I don’t blame the inspectors for the fact that our inspections tend to run wild these days. I chock it up to our litigious society, and I respect that inspectors worry about liability just like the rest of us. The result, however, is that this is the kind of thing you can expect from your inspector at the home and later in the written report.

Inspector at the home: “You can see here that there is some ponding of water on the back patio. They probably ran their sprinklers just before we arrived.

Inspector in the report: “Evidence of improper drainage. Potential for water accumulating near the foundation and, over time, causing home to hydroplane into adjacent structures or fall down entirely. Recommend contacting Army Corps of Engineers for complete analysis of surrounding water shed (minimum 42 mile circumference) assuming 100-year-flood and an Elvis sighting.

Inspector at the home: “This outlet has reversed polarity.”

Buyer at the home: “What is reversed polarity?”

Inspector at the home: “It is (speaking loudly and slowly) when the polarity is reversed. I’ll note it in the report.”

Inspector in the report: “Electrical outlets at various locations show evidence of improper and/or faulty wiring and/or gross negligence on the part of the contractor who had no personal stake in the safety of future owners or their families. Recommend a complete toxic mold investigation and remediation by a licensed HVAC/OPEC/FDIC/Structural Engineering specialist as well as immediate relocation of any remaining, living occupants to high ground in a neighboring county.

And so it goes. Yet, on occassion we encounter issues which indisputably fall into the “kind of important” category. One of our agents this week attended one such inspection. The attic it turns out has been doubling as a Motel 6 for birds — a lot of them. Without being too graphic, imagine what birds do after they eat. Imagine twelve, yes twelve, pounds of it and the perpetrators, apparently quite proud of their handy work, still in residence.  Her report will likely consist of screen shots of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

In other words, this is one case where the gravity of the message delivered in person will be consistent with the written report. Even big issues can be fixed, though. In this case the solution involves a little over $4,000 and a lot of men wearing HazMat suits, all finally convinced that they made poor career choices. But I digress. Most of the time, you had to be there.

We have encountered many “kind of important” items over the years ranging from cracked slabs to gas leaks to trusses that looked like swiss cheese, but the bird story is a more fun read. The point (there sort of is one) is that the inspection is really intended to uncover the big, health and safety or major systems issues. If the hose bib drips a little, the house will not fall down; if the truss has been reconfigured with a power saw, it might.

In any event, if you are buying a home and it is time for the inspection, you really have to be there to know the difference. Unless, of course, there are birds involved.

(Note to those who dare to follow the links to past articles: Due to my recent  Worpress update, archived posts have been infected with a bunch of capital ‘A’s which appear to be wearing halos and serve to distract and completely destroy any flow which the posts previously enjoyed. I will Google my way through the formatting issue when I have time. Maybe.)

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