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When Flips Can Flop

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It wasn’t that long ago that the term “flip” didn’t exist in the real estate industry. They were called remodels and most were done by homeowners on their own properties. Nowadays everyone knows that the term means that the property was purchased by an investor who is trying to make the most amount of money with the least investment in the shortest amount of time.  Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the quality of the job, does it?

In our area, flips are a very mixed bag. We’ve seen the good, the bad and the downright ugly! Sadly, the good ones have been rare. There have been some and the point of this post is NOT to try to convince the public that buying a flip is always a mistake. There are responsible people who genuinely try to put out a good product. But in our experience, more often than not, the people involved may have been well intentioned, but did not have the knowledge necessary to do the job right. Following are some of the most common mistakes that flipper make.

Not Having an Inspection Before They Invested

THIL_BigMistakeMany investors pay cash for a property. While this can help speed the closing process along, there are certain safeguards that can get bypassed. Such as a home inspection. Even one major repair that was not accounted for in the sales price can have a disastrous affect on their profits.

We recently did an inspection on a flipped property that was very well done on the inside, but the roof was toast. Additionally, this was not mentioned on the Seller’s Disclosure form. This means that either the investor did not know about the condition of the roof (bad news for the seller), or the condition was known and intentionally left off the form (bad news for the potential buyer).

Other commonly overlooked, but costly repairs can include a sewer line in need of replacement, foundation issues, electrical issues both outside and inside the home and slab leaks or other major plumbing repairs. Not to mention optional systems like a well or a septic tank. And have I mentioned termites?

Not Using Licensed Professionals

THIL_QualityControlThe most obvious signs of substandard work can be apparent. Inexperienced DIY warriors usually leave similar telltale indications. Crooked grout lines or floor tiles that are not level are some of these signs. Obvious drywall patches or poor quality paint jobs can be others. Wood laminate floor installations are often pretty rough.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I had tested a tub or shower that had a leak that was running back down a plumbing fixture and into the wall behind it. Or when I’ve found a water heater in a garage that was not on a platform at least 18 inches high, to avoid combustion of any fumes from combustible materials stored in the garage. Two words: Ka Boom.

I wish I had a dollar for every time we have gone into an attic to see electrical connections that have simply been wire taped together, outside of a junction box. At worst, it can indicate that an unlicensed person performed the work.  At best it means that a licensed professional was used, but neither that professional or the owner ensured that the next common mistake was avoided…

Not Pulling Permits 

THIL_Frustrated3There are many reasons for permits to be pulled with your local municipality. For example, did you know that part of the cost of the permit pays for an inspector to come to the property to ensure that the work that was done meets the building code? Additionally, if there is a problem with the work that was done by a licensed professional, their insurance will not pay unless local codes were followed, and that includes pulling a permit! No permit = no payout.

Lastly, being able to show that all permits were pulled and all inspections were passed tells prospective buyers that the seller cares about quality and safety, and cares that the work that was done meets the building code, which in reality are minimum safety standards.

This is not to say that every aspect of a flipped home is required to meet the most current building code. Here’s how it works: Once a system has been touched, it has to be brought up to the most current code that has been adopted by the city in which it is located. But a home that has an updated electrical system may not meet the most modern framing requirements. A house that has updated plumbing may have bedroom windows that do not meet current emergency exit requirements.

THIL_ConfidentSo, don’t necessarily fear the flip. Just know what to look for, know what questions to ask and definitely get a home inspection!

Thanks again for stopping by. I’m always happy to have my readers Pin, Like and Share in their favorite social media. You’re always welcome to send my any questions you may have using the contact form below. Thanks for your time and I wish you a safe and happy home!

Background Check? Check!

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If you’re still living in your home when you list it for sale, it can feel a bit like your privacy is diminished. There’s a good reason for that. It is! You’re essentially inviting the public into your home, although ideally, it should be small bits of the public at a time and they should either  be accompanied by a Realtor or be a licensed real estate professional. From initial showings to the open house, from the home inspection and the termite inspection to the appraisal, once that key box is installed, your home will not be as private as it once was.

Many people have concerns not just about the number of people who have access to their home, but about the character of those people as well. And you know what? I don’t blame them! The people involved in the selling process are strangers to the seller, and in this day and age, no one can afford to be naive, especially if children are still in the home.

The good news for sellers in the State of Texas is that the Texas Real Estate Commission has some safeguards in place to help ensure that the people entrusted with access to your home are trustworthy. No system is perfect of course, and common sense should always be used. Following are some common hurdles that Texas Realtors and Inspectors are required to clear before they are allowed to work in these industries.

THIL_BackgroundCheckTo become a TREC licensed Realtor in Texas, education hours are just the beginning. In addition to the 180 classroom hours, the applicants must meet the guidelines for honesty, trustworthiness and integrity. Also required are a background check and submission of fingerprints. The applicants must also pass the State agency’s test and have a licensed Realtor sponsor them.

It’s much the same for TREC licensed Home Inspectors. The requirements that pertain to character, background check and fingerprints are all also required, even for an Apprentice Inspector. There are differing levels of licensing for Home Inspectors in Texas, however, unlike the Texas Realtor, the Home Inspector must carry errors and omissions insurance, the process for which also scrutinizes the Home Inspector’s past performance and/or any pending or past lawsuits pertaining to their work.

If you live in a state that does not oversee home inspector licenses, you may still have some options. The major home inspection professional associations have some strict ethics requirements for their members. Try to find out if the Inspector you’ll be dealing with is a member of any professional home inspection associations. You can usually find this information on the Inspector’s website. Then you can call that association to ask about the standing of that Inspector.THIL_SafetyFirst

These protections do not guarantee that you will only come into contact with respectable people, however, they do help to weed out folks that have been less than upstanding in their past business dealings.
Any time someone is asking to have access to your home, never hesitate to insist on identification, particularly if you were not told in advance of their arrival. Rob and I would never insist on entering a home if the home owner or person representing them were in the least bit uncomfortable with our presence. You have every right to be notified in advance, not just of  showings, inspections and appraisals, but to insist on knowing all parties names and license numbers as well, so you can call the licensing agencies and ensure that the person holds a valid license and is in good standing.

THIL_StopOne more thing to keep in mind: Any Home Inspector will likely refuse to perform an inspection on a property with unattended minors in the home. If there will be anyone in attendance, there should be someone at least 18 years of age present for the inspection to proceed. Many Home Inspectors will ask for the property to be vacated by all parties to restrict distractions, and while this is completely understandable, I personally never ask a seller to leave their home if they want to stay.

The takeaway here is this: If you’ve listed your home for sale, make peace with the temporary loss of some of your privacy, but don’t feel that you need to admit anyone who knocks on your door, particularly if you are not certain of their identity or background. Any Home Inspector that is a real professional will understand a sellers need to take a few minutes to ensure their safety and the safety of their families. If they balk at your request to have a moment check them out, reschedule!

Thanks again for stopping by! Please remember to Pin, Like and share on your favorite social media and please feel free to email me any home inspection related questions, whether the questions are technical or procedural. You can send emails using the contact form below or at thehomeinspectorlady@yahoo.com . Have a great day and I wish you a safe and happy home!

 

The Reality of the Dream

THIL_PileOfCashSome people dream of having a big pile of cash so they could go out and purchase income properties without all the hassles and red tape. But there are perils that come along with this dream! Some of those “hassles” can sometimes keep people out of a bad situation.

For example, no financing means no inspection required. No heart pounding wait for the inspection report. No nail biting interlude while you wait for your lender to drop the hammer and refuse funding on a house that’s less than perfect (even though you knew that from the beginning). However, we recently performed and inspection on a house that had been purchased as a flip. The seller paid cash. The inside was very well done. It takes a lot for a flip to impress Rob and I but this house did it… until Rob got on the roof.

THIL_DisappointedIt was completely hailed out. And in this area, a new roof for a house that size would cost between $6,000 and $8,000. And that wasn’t all. We had to say the words so many Realtors hate to hear, “Federal Pacific electrical panel”. These electrical panels have been known to have breakers that don’t trip when they should which can lead to fires. Also, some home owner’s insurance companies have refused to cover homes with these panels. Something for you house hunters to keep in mind. So, the seller may have saved a few hundred dollars on an inspection, but in the end, it cost her thousands. It made me wonder if she ended up making any money at all.

Which brings me to another thing not required when buying with cash: Insurance. I’ll keep this simple: Don’t be a fool!! Get the insurance!!

Another service that is required for financing is an appraisal. This may be the one slightly less dreaded process than the home inspection. While you may think it would be a dream to be able to forgo that little piece of heaven, let me try to convince you otherwise. An appraisal is a real estate professional’s opinion of whether or not the house you want to buy is worth what you’re paying for it. Is that REALLY information you want to turn down?!

A friend of mine was in the last stages of her home buying process when the appraisal came back over ten thousand dollars below the sales price. When you think about how much more that would have cost them with interest over 15 years, that is a load of cash my friend!THIL_Shocked

I won’t lie, the hurdles people have to clear when they finance a home are no fun! There is red tape and a bazillion places to sign and stress and pressure… Wait, I’m hoping you’ll BUY a house, right? Maybe I should shut up. But no! I’m going to tell you the truth. There are parts of the system that are frustrating. Sometimes infuriating. But some of the criteria are so, at the end of the day, everyone has a good investment. Remember, until you pay off your mortgage, you and the bank own your property, and the bank has to protect it’s investment.  Some of that protection will end up protecting you, too.THIL_Protection

I would love to hear your take on this or any related subject. Feel free to comment below or email me your comments or home inspection questions to thehomeinspectorlady@yahoo.com .Please also do me the honor of remembering to Pin, Like, Share or Tweet this article. The social media buttons are around here somewhere… Oh! They’re at the bottom of the article. Thanks again and I wish you a safe and happy home!

Pre-Market Inspections: A Seller’s Friend

THIL_ProactiveHaving been in the home inspection industry, I have had to become familiar with some things that most people don’t deal with but a few times in their lives. I have had to get used to quickly making myself comfortable in someone else’s home. I have had to learn the art of tactfulness, which I’m told is the art of making a point without making an enemy. I have had to learn to deal with difficult, even volatile people. So it’s safe to say that I have become comfortable with most aspects of this business. That’s why it sometimes takes me by surprise when people get stressed out about their home inspection.

If you find yourself in this category, let me assure you, you are certainly not alone! Most people, especially owners of older homes, are concerned about the results of their home inspection, and the impact that those results may have on their sale. They fear, in particular, a home inspector who may “pick their house apart” and try to impose an unrealistic expectation on the person purchasing their home.

One way to counter this fear is to have a pre-market home inspection. This is simply THIL_Preventhiring a home inspector to perform a home inspection before the house goes on the market. Some people argue, “When the buyer has the inspection done, I’ll get a copy of it then, and can do the repairs then.” Not so fast my real estate selling friend! In Texas, since the buyer is the party that paid for it, the inspection report is considered the buyer’s property. Whether or not they share for free the information that cost them hundreds of dollars, is entirely up to them. Also, the buyer may see a list of deficient items as a potential list of problems and decide to move on to the next house.

Some people say, “Well, the buyer is just going to hire their own inspector, so why should I pay for one, too?” A valid point, if you are unconcerned about the findings. There are some good arguments to the contrary, however.

It Shows You Care About Your Home

A home owner who has a pre-market inspection, and then shows the buyer the issues that were found and the proof of correction, shows the buyer that the owner cares about his home, which likely means he or she has maintained the property well. Maintenance is HUGE in property ownership, as regular readers of my blog will know. Okay, regular readers of my blog are probably rolling their eyes and doing a head slap and saying, “Okay! Okay! We get it! Move on, Home Inspector Lady!” My constant harping on this subject may be considered a viable alternative to Chinese water torture, but I digress.

It Shows Trustworthiness

THIL_TrustThe “cards on the table” approach to home selling, where the seller is honest about the fact that the property was not entirely without issues (no home is), tends to make the buyer see the seller as honest and someone they can trust. Getting caught in a cover up is a sure fire deal killer, for good reason!

It Cuts Down on Stress During a Stressful Process

Can we just say it? Moving sucks. Showing your home, negotiations, packing up EVERYTHING you own. It just blows. If you enjoy it, I’m sorry but you’re just weird. My mother told me something during the purchase of our first home that I have never forgotten and found to be absolutely true: No real estate deal ever happened without some last minute heart attack. She’s a very sharp lady, my mom. Hi Mom!

THIL_StressFreeDo yourself a favor and circumvent any stressful situation that you can, and one thing you can do is have a pre-market inspection, so you know what a home inspector is likely to find. I have to say that most home owners are surprised when we find an item that needs attention. We look at their home completely differently than they do, so often times they aren’t even aware of the problems we uncover.

Truthfully, whether you are selling your home or you just need a list of items that need maintenance or repair, a pre-market home inspection is smart money. Here’s an example: Did the Inspector find chipped or peeling paint? It may cost some money to paint your house, but replacing rotten soffit and fascia and then painting is a good deal more expensive, I promise you.

So, give it some thought. A pre-market home inspection can only benefit you, whether as a home owner or a home seller. Knowledge is power. Be a freakin’ super hero!

I would love, love, love for you to comment below with your thoughts or experiences. Pin, like, share and all that good stuff. I’m always happy to answer any home inspection related questions, so email them to thehomeinspectorlady@yahoo.com .  Thanks ya’ll and I wish you a happy home!

Assumptions That Can Cost You

 

 

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There’s an ironic duality to assumptions. They are free, but they can really cost you.

A lot of people who are buying a new home (meaning new construction, not just new to them) assume that they don’t need a home inspection. Especially if they are buying a home that has had phase inspections by a city’s building inspection department throughout the construction of the home. Or, they make the mistake of not paying attention to the really important things and instead only see the finishes: granite, wood floors and barn doors. This can be a very expensive mistake.

For example, we were recently called to do an inspection on a new construction home in a neighboring town. This town had a building inspector. The builder had his green tags for all the inspections required by the municipality. The home was decent, but was far from issue-free.

Among the issues we uncovered was the fact that there was almost no slope to the drain  on the master bathroom shower floor. The water was building up by the shower entrance. If not addressed, the owner would have to manually push the water to the drain in the center of the shower after every use, or the water would pool and sit and eventually start to smell, mildew or both. Not exactly something earth shaking but definitely a pain in the neck for the owners. Who would expect that of a house with a higher price tag? You’re supposed to get what you pay for, right?

In another new construction home, we were hired by a builder to come in and inspect the home before the buyer moved in. Sort of a punch list of potential problems. He was glad he called us! There was no hot water at the master bathroom shower. I’m pretty sure the buyer would want that! Rob tested the two exterior outlets at the back porch and the electrical boxes pulled right out of the wall! Rob found that they had never been attached to anything. The brick masons just bricked right around them.

THIL_Cheap_ExpensiveIn another new home in one exclusive neighborhood with full acre lots and homes in the $400,000 range (FYI, that’s kind of a lot for our area) we found an emergency drain pan in the attic that was completely full and minutes away from overflowing. With the closing date just days away, that’s a bad time to have to replace ceilings and possibly cabinets and flooring due to water damage. Even worse if it had happened after the buyers had moved in all their belongings!

While it’s true that most new construction homes come with at least a one year warranty, it’s more advantageous for the buyer if these items are discovered before you sign on the dotted line. Why? Because the builder will have much more incentive to get the items in question corrected. He or she wants that payday at the closing date. So it’s to your benefit to be able to use that payday to ensure timely action on the part of your builder.

I’m not, by any means, advocating any unfair or unreasonable practices on the part of the buyer, but being able to use the delay of closing or termination of the contract to get someone off dead center is sometimes the only tool a buyer has to get the agreed upon repairs done before the deal is done. And let’s face it, if a builder won’t get things in gear to ensure his own financial enrichment, how likely is he or she to show up for warranty work after the check is cashed? And ALL homes have warranty work, my friends!

 

THIL_FocusThe purpose of this post isn’t to try to scare you away from newly built homes. Just keep in mind that a home inspection is intended to help protect you, the buyer. The Inspector doesn’t care if the granite goes with the back splash. He or she is trained to focus on more important factors. The Inspector may not find much, if anything, but not having a home inspection could end up being a very expensive gamble. One of those free assumptions that can really cost you.

As always, I would love to field any questions you may have in regards to home inspections! Just comment below or email your question or comment to thehomeinspectorlady@yahoo.com . And please remember to Pin, Like, and share on any social media of your choice. Thanks and have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The Art of the Unemotional Deal

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Home. Few words evoke so many emotions, whether good or, let’s be honest, stomach churning. This fact may make what I am about to propose seem contradictory, but trust me, this is good advice: When it comes to buying your next home, leave emotion out of the equation.

Time after time, we have seen people go into real estate transactions with love goggles on causing them to completely ignore any and all warning signs. They see the house online, then in person and fall head over heels. They then rush headlong into their “forever home” becoming a real nightmare.

Todd Vaughn, owner of Swat Pest Control here in Lubbock once told me about an experience he had with some love struck buyers. The house was eaten up with termites. One of the worst infestations he’d ever seen. From the foundation to the interior walls there was pervasive structural damage. Todd said, “I told the buyers the results of the inspection and they asked me, “Well, should we buy it?”  What else but love could cause someone to potentially ignore tens of thousands of dollars in termite damage?

THIL_LoveHomeOne of the bad parts of home inspection is that sometimes you have to crush someones hopes and dreams. Inspections can, and sometimes do uncover problems that the buyer is unwilling or financially unable to remedy. And when that person has allowed emotion to cloud their judgement, they can easily talk themselves or their spouse into a situation that can take not only a financial toll on the relationship, but an emotional one, as well.

We recently performed an inspection on a home that was extremely well decorated. I mean, this lady must have had a PhD in Magnolia from Joanna Gaines University. The thing that struck me, though, was that this was a very common floor plan from a very popular builder, and although it was a perfectly nice house in good condition, I knew once the buyers saw it without all the decor, they were bound to be let down. Without all the decorations, it was just like many of the other homes in that neighborhood. I couldn’t help but wonder if the decoration of the home had affected the sales price.

THIL_InvestmentHere’s the thing; First and foremost your house is an investment. Be prepared to walk away if that’s what you have to do. The inspection may go smoothly or it may throw an unexpected wrench in the works. The appraisal may come back without a hitch, or it may not. One of my friends was buying a home and the process was going very well. Till a week or so before closing when the appraisal came back $11,000 below the sales price! They may have become attached to the house at that point, but they were objective enough to know that they shouldn’t pay eleven thousand dollars over market value. They stuck to their guns even to the point of sending the seller’s Realtor a termination notice. The buyer then agreed to drop the price.

When looking for a home, don’t let the current decor and finishes be what holds sway with your decision making, whether they are good or outdated. Much of the decor will leave with the seller and finishes can be changed or updated. And if the house needs minor or cosmetic work, all the better! With a little work and a modest investment, you could have much more equity in your home very quickly. And if you can’t love equity, you scare me. Seriously. We can’t be friends anymore.

THIL_WinningTo recap, let’s hit the high points: reign in the emotions, look at the facts and the numbers and remember that you are making what may be one of the largest investments you will ever make, so keep your head in the game!

Thanks for reading this installment! If you haven’t signed up to follow The Home Inspector Lady, let me encourage you to do so now. If you are reading this on a phone and don’t see the email sign up, you can find in when you click on the “About” page. And please remember to Pin, Like, Share and comment below. And as always, email any home inspection related questions or comments and experiences to thehomeinspectorlady@yahoo.com . Have a great day!

Just the Facts: When Inspector Opinions Don’t Matter

THIL_FactsI have a recurring nightmare. Well, I have more than one, but just one about work. I have a home buyer asking me any or all of the following questions:

  • Am I paying too much for this house?
  • Would you buy this house?
  • Is this home’s value likely to increase or decrease?
  • Is this a decent neighborhood?

There are more, but you get the picture. Sometimes I wake up screaming. Think I’m over reacting? Read on.

Just like sea shells and finger prints, no two Home Inspectors are alike. Some may have a higher level of education in structure, while others have more experience with electrical systems. Some may be able to do appraisals, while some others have training in mold or asbestos testing. Right now you may be asking yourself, “What’s your point, Inspector Lady?”

My point is this, before you ask your Home Inspector about listing prices or the prospective return on your investment, you should first be asking if they have any specialized licenses or certifications. Asking someone who isn’t qualified to do real estate appraisals whether or not you’re paying a fair price is kind of like asking your mechanic to look at a suspicious mole.

THIL_ConfusedWhile it may seem puzzling, there are differing levels of education and certifications for Home Inspectors, even Home Inspectors working in the same state. Here’s how it goes: Even if (and yes, I do mean IF) a state governs the licenses of Home Inspectors, they likely will have a minimum number of requirements to qualify for this license, but these professionals can, and often do, choose to exceed that minimum. Depending on the area of focus, this gives Home Inspectors a wide range of services they can offer and you should definitely inquire about any specialized knowledge that is important to you.

THIL_RelievedBut even if you don’t feel the need for any specialized services for your particular transaction, this is something to keep in mind when talking with your Inspector. I and most Inspectors I know absolutely refuse to answer questions like, “Would you buy this house?” It’s not my job to make judgement calls like that. It’s my job to help give you as much information as I can about the condition of your prospective home at that time, so that you can then combine that knowledge with all the other variables and make that decision for yourself.

Believe me, there are few things that Realtors hate more than offhand comments about something outside an Inspector’s wheel house that can unduly influence a buyer and tank a deal. So before your inspection, get some background on your Inspector so you know the areas in which they are qualified to speak. Knowing whether or not the Inspector has the expertise to offer that opinion or advice can help you determine how much weight the comment should carry.  Also, don’t be afraid to ask your Inspector or Realtor for referrals for people properly qualified to give you the information you require.

Thanks for stopping by! Please feel free to use the box at the top to sign up to follow this blog and please remember to Pin, Like, Tweet and/or comment below and please email any home inspection questions or experiences you’d like to share to thehomeinspectorlady@yahoo.com. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

Home Inspectors and Realtors – Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Soooo… Let’s talk turkey! Sorry, too close to Thanksgiving to resist! But seriously, did you know that one of the most controversial and heatedly debated relationships in real estate is that of the Home Inspector and the Realtor? It’s true! I can’t speak for Realtor online forums and message boards, but the ones for Home Inspectors are frequently abuzz with debate, both about referrals from and complaints about Realtors. I can only assume it’s the other way around on Realtor message boards. And the reasons are understandable when you look at it from either side.

THIL_Frustrated

Realtors work to hammer out a deal on a property based on price, comps, amenities, upgrades, school districts, taxes, budgets, location, (did I mention upgrades?) and many other factors. They work long hours, often times for zero pay, they deal with emotionally charged parties on both sides and try to come up with a deal that comes as close as possible to making all parties happy, or at least non violent.

Then, once a contract is signed and the earnest money is in hand, here comes a Home Inspector (or as some Realtors affectionately refer to us, “the deal killer”) to obliterate everyone’s hopes with terms like “foundation settling,” “Federal Panel” or “Kitec plumbing”. Or worse, they meet with the buyers and fail to convey which items are important and which are minor and end up scaring the living daylights out of a buyer of a perfectly acceptable property. Understandable, wouldn’t you say?

THIL_Frustrated2From the other side of the fence, however, there are just as many reasonable grievances. We take hundreds of classroom hours of education, pass tests, pass back ground checks, carry insurance (oh and let’s not forget all the hours of continuing education), all so we can try to help people understand the condition of the house they want to buy. We meet with anxious buyers, hostile and suspicious sellers, fend off overly friendly pets (if we’re lucky) and show up at vacant homes to find that the utilities are shut off. Then, when we discover an issue, or issues that our client finds unacceptable, we’re slapped with the blame for the contract termination and get bad mouthed in the Realtor community.

This is not to say that there aren’t Home Inspectors out there that go overboard. There certainly are! Inspectors that are not adequately educated or are afraid of litigation can be needlessly damaging to a perfectly acceptable real estate transaction. Just as there are unethical Realtors that only want to use a Home Inspector with a reputation for rubber stamping the inspection report and clearing the way to the closing table every time.

Fortunately, these extremes do not represent the majority of real estate professionals on both sides of this issue. Rob and I are extremely fortunate to work with a core group of absolutely spot-on professionals that give the Lubbock real estate market a sterling reputation! And the Texas Real Estate Commission does a great job of making the education requirements and inspection process for Home Inspectors uniform for the entire state.

THIL_Getting_AlongThe takeaway here is this: Home Inspectors and Realtors are undeniably linked in the home buying process. They each should have a professional and respectful attitude toward the other. If either your Realtor or Home Inspector shows animosity for the other’s profession, that may be a red flag. Realtors should want all issues regarding the home inspection out on the table to be dealt with, and Home Inspectors should be professional in their attitude toward, and dealings with, Realtors. Can’t we all just get along? I say, “Yes!” We can and we should, for the benefit of the clients we share.

Please feel free to leave feedback with your views and/or experiences. Also, I’d be happy to answer your home inspection questions! Just email them to thehomeinspectorlady@yahoo.com .

Home Inspections: Should the Home Owner Always Leave?

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So we recently encountered an issue that comes up infrequently for us, but it does come up: We arrive at a home inspection and the home owner makes it clear that they’re not going anywhere.

If you’re not in the real estate game and not familiar with the home inspection process, let me catch you up: it is customary for the home owner to be elsewhere while the home is being inspected. It’s not a law or written in stone or anything, but it is routine and most Realtors explain to their sellers that they will need make plans to leave the property and let the Home Inspector do his or her work.

Doesn’t always happen.

In an example from our own experience, we arrived at a property and were met by the very eager young home buyer and her father. Her dad had traveled seven hours to be there for the inspection. After introductions, I told them I would knock on the door and see if anyone was home. Boy, was she ever home. After I introduced myself, the owner, a nice looking older lady, said, “Well… YOU can come in, but they can’t,” pointing at the buyer and her father.

I stood there, open mouthed and staring. I had never had this happen before. Ever.

THIL_Unwelcome

I was stunned. My mind was spinning. How was I going to tell this lovely, hopeful young woman that she was unwelcome in her prospective first home? I guess my dilemma was evident on my face because the owner followed up the previous verbal slap with, “They can come in when you’re done, but I don’t need to babysit total strangers for two hours.” I think I may have managed some succinct, clever retort like, “I see.” Then I reluctantly returned to the buyer and her dad as if I were addressing my own firing squad.

“Um… I’m not sure what to say here, but the owner says you can’t come in till we’re done.” Blank, uncomprehending stares, much like my own when given the news. Needless to say (people say that when they’re about to say it anyway) the Realtors sprang into action and although the seller apparently paid no attention to her own Realtor, the buyer’s representative arrived at the property right away and accompanied the poor, bewildered pair into the house to take measurements and do the usual looking around while awaiting their inspection results.

Happily, the opposite experience is more prevalent. Sometimes the buyer and seller get along famously and even become friends afterward (shout-out, Hillary! Hillary bought my house from me four years ago.)

Overall, we’ve had more positive experiences with home sellers than negative ones, but the result of my original example was that the buyer was so turned off by the terse and uncivil experience, it soured her on the whole transaction and she terminated the contract at the first opportunity.

Whether the owner stays or leaves is a multifaceted question, but luckily for me, the Realtors have usually addressed this long before our arrival because Rob and I could never dream of asking someone to leave us alone in their home. After all, they don’t know us. On more than one occasion, the owner has had personal issues that made their leaving home an impossibility (sick kids, recent surgery, a parent with dementia). Fortunately, in these situations, everyone was quite polite and all was well.

My point and my professional opinion is this: Listing Agents: This one is on you. You know your client. If they’re not exactly a “people person” do your best to get them out while the inspection is going on, but if you can’t, either give all parties a heads-up or try to be there during the inspection to smooth any ruffled feathers and/or keep them otherwise occupied. A good time for paperwork, perhaps?

I would love to hear your feedback, so feel free to use the form below or email me with your comments or questions at thehomeinspectorlady@yahoo.com . Social media buttons are provided, so please Pin and share on your preferred platform. Thanks, and be sure to sign up with your email address to be notified (or forewarned) of future posts, depending on whether or not you’re a fan. Thanks, and happy house hunting!

New Construction vs. Older Homes: Which is Better?

 

THIL_Scales

Favorites have always been tricky for me. I feel way too much self imposed pressure to get it right. Want to see me pass out? Ask me to name my all-time favorite song.

Any time the word “better” is used in a question, you know the answer is most likely a matter of opinion. So it is with housing. So it is with this post. If we are comparing a new- build to and older home, the answer not only depends on the builder’s standards and post-sale diligence, but also on the care and maintenance demonstrated by the owner over the years.

“Do you have any real life examples?” you ask?  Clearly you have not read my other posts. (They’re all still here. Just scroll down. And Pin them. And share them!)

We all know the lure of the newly built home. Updated designs, all the latest finishes, much better energy efficiency in the windows, doors and insulation. What’s not to love? After 14 years in this business, I would have to say that the major factor in buyer satisfaction with new construction rests on one factor and one factor alone: Will the builder come back and address the issues that arise in a timely manner?

If you think that buying a new home means that you won’t have any problems come up, think again, my friend. ALL builders have what’s called “warranty work”. Those are the items that come up in the first year or two after the buyer purchases the home, that the builder is responsible for addressing. Leaking drains, cracked caulking, HVAC break downs, roof leaks, doors that won’t latch and the list goes on. My husband Rob put it best, “All builders have issues come up after the sale of the home. The difference between a good builder and a bad builder is how well he or she handles those issues.” Well said!

Not long ago we were called out to inspect a home that was 6 years old. Sadly, foreclosure proceedings had begun and the bank wanted to know the condition of the home that was about to become their responsibility.  It was in a respectable family neighborhood that was about one step up from a typical, average-income first time home buyer neighborhood. The home shouldn’t have had many issues to report, and wouldn’t have, if the owner had shown the slightest interest in any aspect of property maintenance, inside or out.

It was atrocious. There were holes in the walls, broken windows, trash everywhere and the cherry on this particular disgusting sundae… Dog poop all over the master bedroom carpet. There had been no maintenance on the exterior, which led to water damaged soffit and fascia as well as chipped and peeling paint and water damage to the exterior door trim. Cracked caulking on the exterior window trim had allowed moisture to seep inside of the window casings, causing swollen wood trim and who knows what inside the wall cavity.

Granted, this is a worst case scenario, but I wanted to make a point about home maintenance. Just because a house is new, that doesn’t exempt it from deterioration, even in the first few years. Exposure to the elements causes caulking to crack, paint to chip and peel and it can even wash mortar out from between the brick and stone on exterior walls. It is vital to inspect your home at least once a year to ensure that your home’s maintenance needs are met before costly damage can occur.

Cut to a home inspection we performed on a house built in the 1950’s. The house had one owner since construction and the maintenance had been meticulous. Were there some deficiencies? Sure. There almost always are some items in red ink, but this home had been well cared for and was able to return the favor to the owner twofold:

  • There were no expensive repairs requested by the buyer during the sale process.
  • The new owners knew they were getting a home that had stood the test of time and would likely continue, if the same standards were met in the future.

So, back to our original question: Which is better? A new home or an older home? The answer is, it depends. New homes have their advantages in terms of updated design,  newer (and maybe better materials in some cases) and a builder’s warranty, however, I’ll take a home that was built 50 years ago and been well maintained, versus a home 5 years old that’s had no maintenance.  But that’s me. Please feel free to comment below with your thoughts and experiences and, as always, submit any home inspection or maintenance questions to me at thehomeinspectorlady@yahoo.com .