How To Look At A House

McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of  

site-built, mobile/manufactured and modular homes

How do devious sellers try to fool the home inspector?

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Just a small minority of home sellers try to conceal their home’s defects from an inspector. Sometimes they are successful, often they are not, and occasionally their attempts at deception are comical. Here’s our “Top 10” list of devious seller’s tactics:  

  1. Creaky spots in a wood floor? Have loud music or a TV playing during the inspection. We will ask you to turn it off.
  2. Damaged area in the floor? Put a little throw rug over it. A small rug at an odd location always makes us suspicious and we lift it up to look below.
  3. Musty smells? - Put too many air fresheners around the house and light scented candles during the inspection. A heavily scented house means there is likely a moisture problem somewhere, and we have to work harder to locate it. 
  4. Old roof? - Have it pressure washed to look newer. Roof washing, even by professionals, is painfully obvious to an inspector and reduces the tab adhesion at the front edge of the shingles, which shortens the rated remaining life of the roof.
  5. Hole in the wall? Put a poster over it or hang a rug on the wall. We can’t look behind everything hung on the walls or pushed up against them so, unfortunately, it is typical to find some wall damage that the home inspector couldn’t see after the seller has moved out.   
  6. Ice maker broken? Fill the bin with store-bought ice. We check, and can tell the difference.
  7. Don’t want the inspector examining everything too carefully? Claim not to know that it would take so long, and insist that the inspectors hurry up and leave soon. We will not be rushed, and explain that we have to reschedule to return to the house at another time to complete the inspection if it is necessary to leave early, and there is a reinspection fee that the seller will have to pay.
  8. Want to distract the inspector? Follow us around and ask lots of questions. Insist on giving a tour of the house. We will ask you to go away and let us do our work. 
  9. Dishwasher broken? Tell the inspector that the repairman is coming later today, so don’t put it in the report. We still put it in the report.
  10. Don’t want the inspector looking around in the attic or the crawl space? Pile a lot of boxes and heavy items around the opening. We will ask you to move them or request permission to move them ourselves.

   Most home inspections go smoothly and, ideally, the seller is not even present. We always say we have “seen it all” when it comes to a seller’s concealment of defects, but every so often we discover a new trick to add to the list. Also, see our blog post Should I trust the Seller's Property Disclosure Statement?

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  To learn more strategies for getting the best possible home inspection, here’s a few of our other blog posts:

How can I make sure I don't get screwed on my home inspection? 

How thorough is a home inspector required to be when inspecting a house?

Can I do my own home inspection?

How can homebuyers protect themselves against buying a house over a sinkhole? 

The seller gave me a report from a previous home inspection. Should I use it or get my own inspector? 

    To read about issues related to homes of particular type or one built in a specific decade, visit one of these blog posts:

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1940s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1950s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1960s house?

• What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1970s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1980s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1990s house?

What problems should I look for when buying a country house or rural property? 

What problems should I look for when buying a house that has been moved?

What problems should I look for when buying a house that has been vacant or abandoned?

What are the most common problems with older mobile homes?

What do I need to know about a condo inspection?

What are the "Aging In Place" features to look for when buying a retirement home?

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