I’ve taken the liberty of setting you up with a new career.

I know what you’re thinking.

“Jeff, I’m perfectly happy in my current career.  Well, reasonably happy.  Well, I don’t hate it.  Well, most days, I don’t hate it.  OK…tell me more about this new career of mine.”

Here it is.

New Career Home Inspections
“We look at stuff you don’t like to look at”

We’ll get you some snappy cards, some postcards and I’ll introduce you to all my Realtor friends and even my Realtor enemies.

I see you look a little sceptical.  Maybe you’re thinking you don’t have the skills and background to become a home inspector and you’d never pass the licensing test.

Good news my friend, there is no licensing test!  Home inspection in Canada remains completely unregulated.  Anyone can decide to call themselves a home inspector and no one can say you aren’t one.

If you actually want to be a qualified home inspector, things get a lot tougher of course.  There are voluntary associations that credible home inspectors belong to and the best home inspectors bring a wealth of education and experience to the job.

As you can imagine with no regulation in the home inspection industry, the quality of home inspectors varies tremendously – and this can be a huge problem.

The reason why it can be such a big problem is that one of the most common conditions on a purchase of a home is a home inspection.

The wording for the condition typically looks like this.

This Offer is conditional upon the inspection of the subject property by a home inspector at the Buyer’s own expense, and the obtaining of a report satisfactory to the Buyer in the Buyer’s sole and absolute discretion. Unless the Buyer gives notice in writing delivered to the Seller personally or in accordance with any other provisions for the delivery of notice in this Agreement of Purchase and Sale or any Schedule thereto not later than five (5) business days after acceptance that this condition is fulfilled, this Offer shall be null and void and the deposit shall be returned to the Buyer in full without deduction. The Seller agrees to co-operate in providing access to the property for the purpose of this inspection. This condition is included for the benefit of the Buyer and may be waived at the Buyer’s sole option by notice in writing to the Seller as aforesaid within the time period stated herein.

Pretty exciting stuff right?  The key point in the condition is here.

…obtaining of a report satisfactory to the Buyer in the Buyer’s sole and absolute discretion.

With this condition, home buyers are given a pretty open way to get out of a purchase if they don’t like the result of a home inspection report.

I’ve read hundreds of home inspection reports and I can tell you that they always find something wrong.  It may be minor like missing handrails or a plastic dryer vent tube, but home inspectors will find something wrong with the house.

No house is perfect and the guidelines home inspectors use are often more stringent than a builder or homeowner might consider reasonable.

One of the biggest challenges for a Realtor is when a home inspection goes wrong.

You might think this is only something that listing Realtors have to worry about.  After all, if a home inspector finds a real problem in a house my client is buying, I should be relieved that my clients are able to avoid buying a lemon of a house, right?

The problem with that question is that is assumes that the inspector is right and the client understands the impact of the problem that is identified.

Let’s take a look at those two aspects.

  1. Home inspectors can be wrong.

Just like all of us, a home inspector can have an off day.  I have been present at many home inspections where I saw them miss faults in a home that I had to point out.  That happens and another pair of eyes can make sure nothing gets missed.

Where it becomes more of a problem is when a home inspector mistakenly identifies something as a problem.

Is that mould or discolouration?

Is that outlet near a sink needing a ground fault circuit interrupter, or is it grounded at the electrical panel itself?

Does that new composite material wear better or worse than the traditional type the inspector is used to seeing fail over time?

When a home inspector raises a problem and is wrong, we run into the issue of perceived bias.  If I am the listing agent, the buyer and their agent look at my explanation with some scepticism.  After all, I have a vested interest (as do my clients of course) in there not being a problem that causes the deal to not close.

Even if I am the buying agent, some buyer clients are sceptical as to my allegiance.  While I work hard to show my clients I care about them, not the deal, some cynics would say that buyer agents also want the deal to close and will be inclined to downplay any problems.

When a home inspector raises an issue and is wrong, it almost always requires an outside party to refute the supposed problem.  This means an inspection from an expert in the specific area of the problem.  After all, no home inspector is also a plumber, electrician, architect, roofer, foundation repair specialist, mold remediator, painter and so forth.

They are hopefully generally knowledgeable about all of the different aspects of a home but they are rarely specific experts in more than one of the aspects.  I’ve met many home inspectors who were electricians and I trust their opinion on that topic more than I would on, say, a plumbing issue.

The second aspect of a home inspector raising an issue that can be very difficult is the client’s reaction.  After all, whether a problem is real or not, it becomes real in its consequences.

  1. Clients can overreact.

Now, of course, all my of clients are well informed, calm and reasonable people.  Buying or selling a house is stressful though, and the sudden appearance of a supposed problem can spook even the most level headed of people.

When a home inspector raises a problem, it can result in a sudden shift in mood for clients.

A buyer client who was excited and happy about their purchase can suddenly worry they are buying a massive problem.

A seller client who was fine with the sale price that was negotiated can end up adding in significant dollars to remedy the problem.

One of the biggest challenges with any home inspection that reveals a previously unknown problem is that we start comparing apples and oranges.

If we look at two houses and decide on buying one and then the home inspection reveals a problem, we start to consider whether the other house might be the better buy.  We take the fact that we now know of this problem and look at the other house as if it has no problems.

In reality, we are merely better informed about the problems of the house we have bought conditionally.  We know its strengths and weaknesses now and we only know the strengths (or perceived strengths) of the other house.

Every home has problems and due to the limited nature of a home inspection (no opening up walls, moving items to check for problems) we still don’t know the total condition of all aspects of a home after the home inspection.  We know more but we don’t know everything – because we can’t.

Here is where come to the crux of the matter.  While no one likes buying a home that has a problem, all homes have problems.  Some major, some minor – but all homes have problems.

When a major issue is revealed through a home inspection and it materially changes the value of the home, then walking away from a deal or renegotiating the price makes sense.

When a minor issue that is likely prevalent in many homes is presented poorly by a home inspector as being of significant concern, deals can fall apart when it is not to the benefit of either the seller or buyer.

It is a challenging line for home inspectors to walk.  Doing their job properly and making sure the buyer knows the state of the home, yet not alarming their client with minor issues that many homes possess.

If you or someone you like are considering buying or selling real estate, work with a Realtor who has seen hundreds of home inspections and can sure they are accurate and help you differentiate between small and big problems.  If you need help in real estate, I’d love to be responsible for what comes next.

Regards,

Jeff

JL.COM-Design

POOLS OF LIGHT

Uniform illumination – the sweetheart of the lighting engineers – services no useful purpose whatsoever.  In fact, it destroys the social nature of space, and makes people feel disoriented and unbounded.

This lesson is a fascinating one for me.  We often see grids of potlights in new homes.  The idea is that there is lots of light in a room, spread out evenly.  When I’ve lived in such homes, I find I most often keep those lights off, in favour of other sources of lighting that are more comfortable.

It is very interesting to think of evenly spread lighting as essentially a lazy approach to proper lighting.  Rather than considering where and how light should be brought into a space, we just light it all up.