How To Look At A House
McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of
site-built, mobile/manufactured and modular homes
How can a house be inspected by two different home inspectors that come up with different things to be fixed?
Sunday, June 9, 2019
When homeowners decide to get their own inspector to check out the house before they list it for sale—looking to find and fix any defects that may cause a problem after they find a buyer—it often happens that the buyer’s inspector later lists some defects not in the seller’s inspection report. Does that mean the first inspector was a slouch?
Not necessarily. Typically, most of the findings are essentially the same, and the original inspector also probably listed a few things not on the second report. There are several reasons for the disparity between reports:
• Going beyond baseline inspection standards - Most states that have licensing requirements for home inspectors also have published minimum standards for an inspection: things that must be covered, and also ones that are specifically not required. You can read Florida’s standards at our blog post Are there any minimum inspection standards that a Florida licensed home inspector must meet?
For example, using an infrared camera to find moisture intrusion that is not otherwise observable is not required, but some inspectors like us do it. And, of course, it may turn up things missed by an inspector without that tool.
• Wait and see vs. fix it right now - I recently had an injury that caused minor leg and lymph node swelling. My doctor examined me carefully, did blood work, and decided that “it seems to be healing on its own, so let’s wait a week and see how it progresses before doing antibiotics.” Another doctor might have sent me home with a prescription for pills right away, and so it is with home inspectors.
It’s possible for one inspector to look at a crack and say that it appears to be minor, and just keep an eye on it, while another may see it is an ominous sign of settlement that requires immediate action. Further evaluation by a foundation repair contractor could contradict either inspector’s assessment.
• “Signature” defects - All inspectors have them, and it could be called their “pet peeve.” Ours is a buried shut-off valve at the water meter. Water meter boxes have open bottoms and, over time, the soil rises up in them to cover the shut-off valve. Sometimes it’s under six inches dirt, but not every inspector writes this up. Even if a new homeowner knows where it is, we think they shouldn’t have to frantically dig with their hands through a layer of dirt in the dark at one in morning to get at it if a pipe ruptures.
• The inspector’s professional background - Most inspectors had a previous career in the construction industry. There are ex-electricans, ex-plumbers, ex-capenters, and so forth. And, obviously, a former plumber is going to be better at spotting signs of plumbing problems.
• Cosmetic defects - Stains in the carpet and a cracked switch cover plates are considered cosmetic defects and not within the scope of a home inspection. Some inspectors call them out anyway, often at the request of a buyer present at the home inspection. An exception, though, is that all home inspectors call out cosmetic defects on new houses.
• Not readily accessible - Home inspectors essentially do a visual inspection and things that are not readily accessible to examine are not part of the inspection. “Not readily accessible” can mean buried behind boxes stacked to the ceiling in the garage or a cover panel that is nailed in place and not easily removed or replaced without damage. Sometimes the boxes are gone when the second inspector arrives or the cover panel has been taken off by seller at the buyer’s request.
• The inspector simply missed it - This happens. We have been called to inspect the same house for a different buyer a few months later more than once, and usually find a couple of things we didn’t see the first time. Nothing major, but looking at a house with fresh eyes usually turns up something. No inspector is perfect.
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To learn more strategies for getting the best possible home inspection, here’s a few of our other blog posts:
To read about issues related to homes of particular type or one built in a specific decade, visit one of these blog posts:
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