Thursday, August 28, 2008

Home Inspections

This is not what I had planned to write about, so please forgive me if I theorize and cogitate while I'm writing. I honestly don't know where it will come out.

A few years ago I sold a house and we had a pre-inspection done on it. The inspector found a couple safety issues - critical safety issues - and the owner fixed them plus followed his recommendations up to a certain point. We ended up with an offer that accepted the inspection and the repair details - basically full price, too. No surprises because there was no inspection.

Also a few years ago my buyers brought in an offer on a property but the owner did not accept it and my buyers walked away. Several months later it still hadn't sold and the wood stove caused a major fire. It was taken off the market, repaired, and again listed. Unfortunately it is still on the market. The fire was not disclosed - the repairs were made and the wood stove deleted - but there have been a few offers that somehow don't materialize. The price is considerably less of course than what my buyers had offered. I have always wondered: if there had been a home inspection would the problem have been found and the fire avoided?

I do believe in pre-inspections for many reasons. I think it's important for buyers and sellers to feel comfortable with their "product." You receive assurances that the used car you want to buy actually does run and you ask about problems, then hopefully you take it to a mechanic who tells you that it is sound. Cars that are pre-inspected by a dealership are worth more than cars that don't have that seal of approval - it's a marketing tool, as well as a "sleep-at-night" guarantee.

Cars can be returned to the dealership - once homes are purchased they can't, except under very special circumstances.

As an agent, I like to know what I'm selling. The more information I have the better I can talk about the home. "The house is structurally sound." Music to my ears! "There is only one layer of shingles." Great! "No evidence of pests or mold." And they sign off on that - it's not just me!

Of course a picky inspector - the only ones worth paying - will find a ton of issues in an older home. Sometimes in a new home, too. The question is - will these issues impact the sale? In an older home, the buyer expects there to be issues. He/she is not buying a builder's perfect creation, but a home, a place that's been lived in, where memories were made. The ding in the windowsill probably has a story connected to it, the hot water heater has serviced countless dinner dishes and bath times. There's nothing wrong with that.

The inspector does the best he can to root out problems. When I bought my first house in Skaneateles, I was told the ceiling in the family room would probably fall in soon. It's been 18 years now. The boiler was very, very old - and I think it still is!

I loved the house - an 1840 cottage on two acres. I had come to town and asked my neighbor at the lake, Dave Schoeneck who had just started working for McShane RealEstate, to show me the 5 cheapest houses in the Skaneateles School District. I loved it and bought it. The great garden turned out to be great because it was planted over an inoperative septic system. Oops! That was inspected and new leach lines were laid prior to closing. I missed the garden.

I sold my pretty house for slightly more than I paid for it. The boiler was old, the ceiling might cave in, and the rest of the septic system had been replaced over the years. But the new owner loves it and has turned it into a very upscale cottage. She knew there would be issues, but falling in love with an older home was worth the issues. The inspector, to his credit, said "It's an old home." He told her what to expect and she has been there for six years now.

Inspections are important - I've learned that over the years. They give you the information to make informed decisions. And that's what I want for my clients - buyers and sellers.