Thursday, January 16, 2014

Convenience in Conflict with Carefulness

Recently a realtor called and said he needed an inspection. The first question out of his mouth was, “how long does it take you to do an inspection?” Not having any information about the property, I responded, “four hours.”

I have done inspections in three hours for very small structures all the way to five hours, depending on the structure size, age, and complexity of its components. Four hours was a safe estimate.

The realtor immediately expressed dissatisfaction at the four hour length. “Well that will be an inconvenience for the sellers,” he said as if something was wrong with me. As if I was imposing on his schedule as much as that of the sellers.

I am not ten, twenty, thirty years –experienced as a home inspector. However, what it obvious is this: unless the structure is a two room bungalow, a person of any experience level cannot come into a structure and in an hour and a half inspection do justice to examining the structure with attentive care in its every component. Where to start? Taking the electrical panel off and measure the gauge of every wire coming out of every breaker for proper size. For evidence of proper installation and wiring. For overheating and moisture issues. Examining the heating/cooling system for function, hazards, and sufficiency. Examining the attic space by getting in it and going everywhere that is accessible and checking everything going on. Walking the roof carefully examining the roof membrane but also every area for proper flashing, sponginess and weakness. Getting under the structure and carefully and deliberately looking for nearly microscopic pests, structural integrity, plumbing integrity, electrical issues, and any rot/weakness. Checking every room in the home for proper electrical, structural, moisture, insulation issues. And the list goes on. And on and on.

I would rather err on the side of carefulness with resultant tardiness in the inspection length than in being hasty but convenient. After all, this is a person’s future home – a huge commitment in money. And heart, if the persons purchasing the property care about what they own.

One would think that the realtor who called would be more interested in making sure that the structure he is selling is a structure that the buyer knows all about than worrying about schedule convenience.

The straight-speaking Mike Holmes says,

[The buyer] should expect quality and integrity in a normal home inspection. . . . You can expect a home inspector to give you a thorough assessment of every single part of any home and help you understand what it means. The cost of an inspection like that may be higher, it’s true. But the possible hidden costs of a normal home inspection today – which often isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on – are far too high already: A bad home inspection can lead to surprises that you will pay for over many years. Mike Holmes, The Holmes Inspection: The Essential Guide for Every Homeowner, Buyer, and Seller (New York: Time Home Entertainment, 2012), 2.

I am the victim of bad home inspections that did this very thing. Years later, fixing very significant issues because the builders wanted to save money and because the home inspectors were too slovenly to catch them.

To be worthy of this profession, may I resist the temptation to cut an inspection short just to avoid being an inconvenience.