As real estate attorneys, we have fielded numerous calls from a recent buyer of a home that go something like this “I just bought a house and now I find out that the window sill is falling apart, the crawl space has mold in it and the attic door does not work!” The first question that we will ask is whether or not you had an inspection completed on the house before closing. The answer is almost always “yes.” Next question that we will ask: “did you attend that inspection?” This answer is almost always “no.”
Before making one of the biggest investments of your life, it is important to find the time to travel to the home that you are looking to purchase to meet with the inspector and be present for the inspection. The reason we suggest that you be present for the inspection is two-fold. Firstly, the inspector can point out to you in person any and all of the issues that he sees with home. This allows you to be in a better position to negotiate any reduction in purchase price or a repair allowance with the seller. Secondly, and most importantly, you can ask the inspector to look in all the hidden spaces, nooks and crannies that you happen to see while you are on site. In the above example, if the buyer would have been present for the inspection, chances are he or she would have a) checked the crawl space or asked the inspector to do it and b) checked to see if there was access to the attic (at which time the buyer would have discovered that the attic door was broken).
A big misconception that buyers have about inspectors and inspections is that any little problem with the house will be discovered during the inspection. The fact of the matter is, it takes time living in the home to be able to actually identify all of the little problems with it. Buyers would be better served attending the inspections, asking questions of the inspector at that time and also going into the purchase of a home with the attitude that not all issues will be discovered by the inspector. Perhaps some of the issues you will deal with as the owner of the home were not present at the time of inspection. Either way, buyers need to be aware of the limits of a home inspection. It would also be in the buyer’s best interest to thoroughly read what is covered in the agreement between the buyer and the inspector. If there is something in particular that the buyer wants the inspector to inspect, the buyer should make sure it is stated in the agreement. In our example above, it was in the inspector’s agreement that he was not responsible for looking in the crawl space or the attic if access to either was closed off. Therefore, the buyer had no recourse against the inspector and was personally responsible for remedying the issues.