Why Inspection Protection is Better than a Spouse in the House

Ladies, I feel your pain. Before you married your spouse, you checked him out. You knew what a great deal you were getting. Then, over years, you discovered that your “great deal” takes entirely too much time in the bathroom, seldom cleans up his space, and drinks like your gas tank. Part of the pain is that there isn’t much you can do about your misjudgment. He might even have had all those faults before you married him.

Guys have their own complaints. They think you changed a bit too. Just saying…

Real estate is different. When you sign a Contract to Buy Real Estate, you have two chances to inspect before you buy. The first says you have a right to inspect, and it invites you to get a professional inspector to do it. You have a time period within which to get that inspection, and the contract tells you that the inspector should prepare a report of what he finds. There are deadlines in the contract about what you do with that report.

There is another inspection privilege in your contract. It is the inspection that occurs usually within 24 hours before closing. That inspection is different, and it has a different purpose. If you don’t know that, or if you are a realtor and you don’t explain that to your client, this contract will cause trouble.

This second inspection is not intended to be a thorough, look-behind-the-paneling, over-the-ceiling inspection, and it’s not to detail again all of the things you should have found wrong the first time. The second inspection is intended only to confirm that the house is in the condition it was in at the time of the contract. If personal property was to be left in the home, to confirm that it is left. If repairs were to have been made, that they have been made, and the home is ready to be turned over to its new buyer.

If the buyer makes a second detailed list of the things he or she should have seen in their original inspection, the buyer (and his realtor) are both misusing this second right to inspect.

Please understand this about your first inspection: no one can tell you that it must take only an hour, or four hours, or any other length of time. You and your inspector should take the time necessary to satisfy yourself about every aspect of the house as allowed by contract and within the scope of the inspection. Your detailed report is something you should keep and use, even years later, because it should tell you things you need to know about your sprinkler system, your HVAC system, your pool, your visible wiring and plumbing, and other things you must know. If you have to pay extra for an engineer, then do it. It is also crucial that you make the buyer aware that a full home inspection only offers commentary about the visible aspects of the structural integrity of the home. The same goes for the electrical system. Structural and electrical engineers are the only folks who will be able to provide specific and reliable details in these areas. Then read and reread the report.

I am aware that when buyers look for an inspector, they find one by asking the Realtor. I am also aware that often the Realtor will give the buyer one or two names that the he or she has used before. That’s a mistake for both of you.

I have many times had buyers complain about the quality of their inspection, usually after closing and after a construction defect has raised its head. Inspection companies are easy to find on the internet. A buyer can go online to websites such as HomeAdvisor, Yelp, Angie’sList, BBB.org, or simply enter “home inspector” in a search engine to get started. You can find ratings at some of those sites. You can start an evaluation of your inspector by asking for a copy of one of their inspection reports. When you get the copy, pay attention to the disclaimers in the report and ask what they mean. Don’t accept a requirement to arbitrate claims. There are no federal or state regulations governing general home inspectors; get referrals and check references. Then get a qualified inspector independent of anyone in your closing.

Sometimes you will keep your house longer than you will keep your spouse. It may also be a better investment. Even though the spousal inspection period may not have worked out the way you intended, you don’t have to make a mistake with the house, and you don’t have to settle.

The point of this article is two-fold. Take your inspection privilege seriously, and understand the distinct purpose for each inspection. Having done that, don’t make a detailed list of new observations on the day before closing and expect a long list of changes to be made, that have never before been revealed. But do assure yourself that all appliances work and that the house is otherwise as you saw it at the time of the first, professional, inspection.

I cannot let the New Year begin without acknowledging the encouragement from those of you who have said they enjoy these articles. Nor can I let the old one end without acknowledging that I am constantly told that the people around me are so wonderful that they must be a miracle. Each one really is. But not by accident. The ladies at Bayou Book Company have been there almost since the beginning, and most customers feel like it’s home. The people at Old South Land Title, and at this law office, have been in place for a long time, and they are all invested in serving you. We are all in this world to help each other. May we all be part of the solution for others.

Thank you to all the Realtors whose comments and guidance lead to this article.