The home inspection process can be very confusing, and rightly so. There are many components to it, so here's our overview to help you know what to expect.
The first & main thing to remember about a home inspection is that it's known as a "contingency", meaning you have to get it done within a certain number of days, or it expires. This is one of the main mistakes many people who try to buy homes without a Realtor make - they mistakenly let contingencies expire and then are out of luck when it comes to negotiating these items. Just another example of how not having a professional represent you can cost you a lot more than it saves you, especially since you usually don't pay anything to have someone represent your interests! (If you're not sure why that's the case, you should read our FAQ showing how buyer agents get paid.)
OK - back to the home inspection contingency. Another thing most buyers don't realize is that there are actually two types of protections afforded to them under the standard regional contract. The first is commonly called the "walkthrough items" which refers to paragraph 7 of the regional sales contract. Here's what it says:
This means that when a buyer & seller ratify a contract, the seller is certifying that "the existing appliances, heating, cooling, plumbing, electrical systems and equipment, and smoke and heat detectors" will be in "normal working order as of the Possession Date." So, even if you don't do a home inspection (which we suggest you do) the seller still has to ensure the items in the list above are working.
What typically happens is that when a home inspection is performed, the inspector finds a list of items that aren't working. What we do is take his list, and separate out the "walkthrough items" from the "inspection items." The walkthrough items are then submitted to the seller on a separate list as a "notice", meaning "we're giving you notice that these items aren't working - please fix them." The home inspection items are sent on a separate list, called an addendum, because those items will have to be negotiated between the buyer and the seller. You can see the difference between the notice and the addendum here: DROdio - Walkthrough Notice vs Inspection Addendum
Below is an email we sent some clients (names changed to protect privacy!) as we were deciding how to present the issues to the sellers. You can also see a copy of the report I was referencing in the email here: DROdio - Sample Building Inspection Report
From: DROdio Real Estate
Date: July 16, 2007 5:24:31 PM EDT
To: Jack & Jane
Subject: Home inspection list
Here are the items we should be able to say are walkthrough items (i.e., they *have* to be working; no negotiation):
Note: Some of these items may be disputed by the seller. For example, we're saying the clothes washer is "excessively noisy", but all the contract says is that it has to be in "working condition." So the seller may come back to us and say, "regardless of it being noisy, it's in working condition" and then we would have to either come to an agreement on whether "noisy" = "not in working condition", or have a specific inspector come evaluate it and give his professional opinion. Just a head's up that even though we're saying these are walkthrough items, the sellers may not necessarily think so.
- Repair: Abandoned wiring in the furnace room and sun room should be replaced or appropriately terminated.
- Repair: The temperature drop measured across the evaporator coil of the heat pump is greater than normal. This indicates that air flow across the evaporator coil is too low. Low air flow could be the result of a dirty filter, dirty or obstructed evaporator coil fins, or insufficient blower and/or ductwork sizing. This condition can lead to ice build-up on the coil. A qualified heating and cooling technician should be consulted to further evaluate this condition and the remedies available.
- Repair: The installation of smoke detectors is required on each level.
- Repair: The discharge piping serving the Temperature and Pressure Relief (TPR) Valve for the water heater should terminate not less than 6 inches or more than 24 inches above the floor.
- Repair, Safety Issue: The water heater venting system shows evidence of exhaust “spillage”. This is a serious condition that could be a health threat to the occupants of the home. This condition should be addressed promptly.
- Repair: The sink in the lower bathroom should be better secured.
- Repair: The basement shower head is leaking at the fitting.
- Repair: The basement kitchen sprayer is missing a part to work properly.
- Repair: The light in the living room and upper bathroom is inoperative. If the bulbs are not blown, the circuit should be repaired.
- Repair: The ceiling fan was not running at the time of the inspection.
- Repair: A ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet in the basement bathroom did not respond correctly to testing during the inspection. This receptacle should be replaced.
- Repair: Ungrounded 3-prong outlets in the lower kitchen should be repaired. In some cases a ground wire may be present in the electrical box and simply needs to be connected.
- Repair: A burner on the basement gas cook top is inoperative.
- Repair: The refrigerator icemaker is inoperative.
- Repair: The clothes washer is excessively noisy.
- Repair: The clothes dryer exhaust vent pipe should be improved to metal.
- Repair: An outlet has reversed polarity (i.e. it is wired backwards). This outlet and the circuit should be investigated and repaired as necessary.
- Repair: The installation of the distribution wiring serving the outlet hanging on the fence is non-standard. It is suspected that installation was performed by an amateur, rather than a licensed electrician. This wiring and outlet should be properly wired and installed by a licensed electrician.
- Repair: The springs for the dishwasher door require repair.
And here are the items which the seller would have to agree to. After looking the list over, I'd suggest we put all the items in the list, but also say that we're willing to take a credit instead. So, take a look at the list and tell me how much of a credit you think you'd be willing to take instead of having the seller fix the issues. (By the way, it's possible for you to accept a credit for the walkthrough issues above, if you so choose - we could say something like, "Below are the walkthrough and home inspection issues. We're willing to accept $X credit for just the home inspection issues, or $Y credit for both the walkthrough and home inspection issues." Credits are sometimes easier for the seller, and then you can do the work yourself for less money and keep the difference.
- Repair: Loose or damaged downspouts should be repaired promptly.
- Repair: Localized pointing of deteriorated mortar between the bricks of the exterior walls is advisable to prevent further deterioration.
- Repair: Trees and shrubs should be trimmed away from the exterior of the house to reduce the chance of siding or wood trim damage.
- Repair: The exterior wood requires painting and caulking.
- Repair: Localized wood rot is noted on the window and/or door trim. Repairs should be made in conjunction with painting.
- Safety Issue: Today’s support and attachment standards typically call for proper footings, 6X6 posts and ½ bolts securing the deck to the beam and house. Not all of these elements appear to be present. Consider upgrading to current standards.
- Repair, Safety Issue: A railing should be provided for the rear steps.
- Repair, Safety Issue: The openings in the deck railing are large enough to allow a child to fall through. It is recommended that this be corrected for improved child safety.
- Repair: Vines growing on exterior walls should be kept trimmed away from siding, window trims, and the eaves to reduce risk of insect and water damage.
- Repair: Tree branches should be trimmed away from the house.
- Repair: Window hardware will not lock in the sun room.
- Repair, Safety Issue: The height of the stairway railing may not be sufficient to prevent a person from toppling over the railing. It is recommended that this condition be altered for improved safety.
- Repair, Safety Issue: For improved safety, it is recommended that a handrail be provided for the stairway.
So, take a look at this list and let me know when you're ready to discuss via phone.