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HOME INSPECTION HYPE or the Useless Information and Sometimes Harmful Information Inspectors Fill Reports With
Okay homebuyer, a home inspection is nothing more than a visual inventory of what is in the house, a visual and sometimes operational check on things like electric outlets, lights, running water, flushing toilets and whether the kitchen appliances and HVAC systems work.
It is not, as may expect that it is, a thorough review of the house to determine defects. If the defects are visible, then they may be discovered. If the operational problems fail at the time the inspector is there, then he or she may find those and report them. But it is not, as most expect, an opinion of whether the house should be bought or not.
So home inspections have become increasingly more expensive and correspondingly, they have become more wordy and filled with information. Most of that information is useless. Just filler to make the report seem to be significant. Frequently, the reports are filled with boilerplate information about maintenance and care and what happens to a house if you don't do those things. But of course, there may be no signs at all of a lack of maintenance or care but it will still be in the report.
And this causes problems. Home buyers assume that the inspection is a valid review of the house they are buying. However, if you had a car inspection done in the same fashion, the inspector would tell you the car has power windows, keyless entry, and dozens of other features. Then he would point out a crack in the leather upholstery, a missing make up mirror light and then fill the report with information about caring for the transmission and following the manufacturer's maintenance plans.
In a house, buyer's want to avoid future costs and expenses. Some element of future cost and expenses must be expected for any used home. However, when a report comes back with useless boilerplate information and sometimes worse, it can kill a sale.
Here are some excerpts from an inspector in Puyallup, Washington. The seller contacted me and discussed the issues. The sale fell through after this inspection. The seller had each of his concerns inspected and addressed and paid a total of $68 in materials to repair and minimal labor costs less than a $300. The buyers wanted a $15,000 concession because of all of the "problems".
The biggest false finding by the inspector was a suggestion that the attic had mold. There was no mold. Not a sign of it at all. There was discoloration in the attic on wood that turned out to be roofing tile dust from a repair. Yet, here is what the inspector wrote:
• Roof/Attic: Roughly 20-30% of the attic decking was noted to be covered in dark stains / mold-like substances - see north side of attic. This indicates the attic has experienced condensation problems. This can be caused by many different factors including: inadequate insulation or ventilation in the attic, high relative humidity inside the house, crawl space moisture problems, inadequate bath fan ventilation, inadequate air sealing at ceiling penetrations such as fans, can lights and attic access points. I recommend hiring a mold remediation specialist to further evaluate this condition and implement repairs as recommended to control relative humidity and insure adequate air barriers and roof cavity ventilation. As a general rule standards recommend keeping indoor relative humidity below 55% in cold weather to prevent condensing surfaces. During inspection today I noted a very poor mechanical ventilation system and some blocked soffit vents and leaky bath fans.
Since there was no mold at all, the representation by this inspector that there was 20-30% of the attic decking covered in it was an egregious error and completely false. Moreover, the discolored areas were dust and wiped off easily. Had the inspector either known what he was doing or had he bothered to cross the attic to observe the dust up close, he could have avoided a seriously exaggerated and unfounded statement.
But again, like many home inspectors, he wanted to demonstrate his fee was worth it or to show how smart he is and included speculation and inflamatory information. Consider what he wrote about the siding on the house:
• Exterior/Garage: The siding on this home appears to be an OSB product made by Louisiana Pacific siding. Based on the age of the installation, it is likely the newer version of this siding called, Smart System. The previous version of this siding, Inner Seal, was the subject of a class action law suit regarding premature failure. Which is a completely different product that is not present now and not at issue here. This siding is not implicated in that suit and some improvements have been made to this product.
Seriously, what is the point of this information. He is bootstrapping this product, which has no known probems even to him, and connecting it to major litigation on another product by the same manufacturer. Having read and reviewed hundreds of inspection reports, I am aware that most home buyers skim these reports and don't read the fine print but this is too much. The siding was functioning and needed no repair and yet, this is gratuitously offered.
Clearly, the buyers may have had buyers' remorse without this report but there is no doubt this report was gross overkill for the actual conditions. The house will sell and the numerous minor issues won't be issues in the future. No thanks to the meddlesome and unnecessary commentary by the inspector.