The Property Inspection – You had to be there (revisited)

It was three years ago this month that I wrote about the importance of being present at your property inspection.

The idea is that things tend to get lost in translation. More specifically, when an inspector’s findings are translated to paper, even the must mundane observations tend to take on a DEFCON 1 level of urgency. This is because paper by its very nature is quite portable, so that it can be delivered to the judge with speed by even the frailest bailiff.

First, if you are a little rusty on property inspection protocol, here is how it typically goes. The buyer’s inspector, accompanied by the buyer’s agent, will arrive at the home at 10:00 a.m. to perform an investigation of the property that will take “oh, an hour and a half or so.”  He will finish at about noon – in November. This is because it is the inspector’s job to be thorough and to make sure the buyer get’s his money’s worth.

Usually, the buyer and the seller’s agent will arrive “oh, an hour and a half or so” after the inspection began so that they can hear the summary of findings. They will all stand around the kitchen and swap stories about their children and domestic pets until November, at which point the inspector will announce that he should be wrapping things up in “oh, an hour and a half or so.” Five hours later, he will be ready to deliver the tablets unto the anxious audience.

This is where the fun starts. First I should clarify that not all property inspectors are created equal. And I am not talking about all inspectors here, but just the ones I have encountered most recently. And it’s not their fault; we live in California, where our motto is “E Pluribus Lawsuit.” Better to err on the side of caution.

But, back to the “lost in translation” part. Sure, everything may sound just ducky when you hear the inspector say it, but twenty-four hours later when the report arrives, memories may have faded. And what you are left with is a written summary of findings that suggests moving your family into this particular home would be negligent on par with running with scissors barefoot over hot coals through the zoo’s Bengal tiger exhibit at feeding time.

To quote myself from my previous post (and to save me the trouble of having to write brand new words this morning), here is how it might go.

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.

Lately, I have seen even the most minor cosmetic issues written up in a way that might cause concern.

Inspector at the home: There is a small red stain in the hall carpet. Someone probably spilled something – like cranberry juice. Or, if it was my house, a Bloody Mary. Ha, ha, ha!

Inspector in the report: Soiled flooring present in the hallway, one meter southwest of the linen closet. Source unknown. Recommend further investigation. Suggested reference materials: In Cold Blood, 1967, Truman Capote; Hoffa, 1992, directed by Danny DeVito. (The latter is available for instant download on Netflix.) Identifying locations of ancient burial grounds is beyond the scope of this inspection.

Every time I attend an inspection these days I am reminded that we have lost touch with the reason for the property inspection – to confirm that there are no serious structural or health and safety concerns that any reasonable person would expect to be addressed prior to commencing habitation. Instead, so many now see it as an opportunity to remodel and upgrade as a condition of sale. They are looking for new construction when what they initially offered to purchase was a used product.

I am not planning on selling my home any time soon, but I may some day. With that in mind, I think it is only fair to disclose the following so that my future would-be buyers can make an informed decision.

  • All of my appliances currently function, but I’m pretty sure they will all cease functioning at some point in the future. That’s what appliances do.
  • The faucet in my laundry room leaks a little at the base, but this only happens when I turn it on. My advice is that you not turn it on.
  • The master bedroom window screen frame is bent from that time I accidentally locked Steve out on the balcony and went to a termite inspection. It is still functional. And Steve got over it.
  • In the kitchen, there is a small chip in granite counter top that bugs the heck out of me. I am not sure how it got there, but my money is on the time I bonked it with an empty wine bottle on my way to the recycling bin. (Note: At my house, using “empty” and “wine bottle” in the same sentence is beyond redundant.)
  • When it rains, our patio gets wet.
  • My refrigerator is 12 years old, and my washer and dryer are one year new. If you buy my house, I may give you all three so I don’t have to move them. But if you have any issues with the way they operate or look, I will not fix or replace them. Because it’s my stuff, and I think it’s kind of nice that I’m willing to give you my stuff. (Speaking of stuff, the Betta fish that my daughter brought home from college two years ago, the one intent on making a mockery of published fresh water fish actuarial tables, will convey. This is not negotiable.)
  • My garage has more cobwebs than the set of The Amityville Horror. We keep meaning to clean it out, but we may not get around to it.
  • I have never been in my crawl space, and I have no intention of going there. Unless you find something clearly not indigenous – like a pack of rabid wolverines or Jimmy Hoffa – know that everything you see is as was delivered by the builder. Blame them.
  • While we are on the subject, “delivered by the builder” applies to pretty much everything in my house. Let me go on record as saying I did not marry Steve for his do-it-yourself skill set. Power tools were long ago banned at our home. We own a hammer and a couple of screwdrivers that we sometimes commission to change a light bulb or open a wine bottle, but that’s about it. So, if you see any code violations, you can sleep nights knowing it didn’t happen on my watch.
  • The master bedroom door makes this annoying jiggling sound. For the jiggling sound to present itself, several things must occur: The door must be closed, the window must be opened, there must be wind, and you must be trying to take a nap. I suspect this is due to natural settlement, but I am no expert. What I do know is that this condition is easily remedied by wedging several sheets of Kleenex between the door and the jamb when closing. (Other brands, like Puffs, may work as well, but I haven’t tested the theory. In any event, I would avoid generics to be safe.)
  • Periodically, our fire alarm goes off. This only happens at two in the morning, with the median duration of deafening blaring documented as approximately 93 minutes. Spreadsheets are available on request. I should clarify that we have never had a fire — at least, not to our knowledge. (As I mentioned, I have never actually been in my crawl space.) The important point here is that the men and women of Fire Station 37 are always responsive and courteous. You will really enjoy their company.

You’ve been warned.


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