Buyers propose a do-it-yourself home inspection
Q: We are buying a new home and have decided not to hire a home inspector. When we sold our previous home, my husband accompanied the buyers' home inspector to learn what inspectors do. Next week is the final walk-through with the builder. Our Realtor advised us to hire a home inspector, but my husband says he can do it himself. He plans to go through all the same exercises as our buyers' home inspector and believes he can find any serious defects. Best of all, the builder lives a few doors away and is willing to fix any problems that arise. With a one-year warranty, any defects not spotted during the walk-through will certainly be noticed during that time. Our family and friends agree that a home inspector is unnecessary, but your opinion would be greatly appreciated.
A: Your inclination to forego a home inspection is a common error that invites costly trouble. Here is why:
You say that your husband plans to repeat all the same exercises as your buyers' home inspector. Please understand that these were not exercises. They were the applied disciplines derived from years of home inspection experience and an amassed knowledge of property defects. Your husband observed the inspector's movements only, not the forensic processes that occurred within the inspector's mind while he evaluated your home. It takes at least 1,000 home inspections to become truly qualified as a professional home inspector. There is simply no way for a nonprofessional to discover the defects that would be apparent to a well-seasoned inspector.
You also say that any problems not discovered during the walk-through will certainly be noticed during the one-year warranty period. This is only true of defects that are visible and accessible, such as doors that don't close properly, faucets that leak, lights that flicker, or appliances that stop working. Here are just a few examples of the kinds of problems that would most likely not be discovered on a walk-through inspection or during the first year of occupancy:
• Construction defects inside the attic;
• Faulty wiring inside the breaker panel;
• Improper flashing at roof penetrations;
• Chimneys or flues in contact with combustible construction;
• Firewall violations in the garage;
• Substandard flue pipes at the water heater or furnace;
• Inadequate combustion air supply for the furnace;
• Reversed polarity at wall outlets;
• Lack of ground fault (shock) protection at required outlets;
• Improper vent configurations at drain pipes;
• Unsafe venting of exhaust at the furnace;
• Inadequate height of the chimney above the roof, etc., etc. …
Problems such as these might be discovered when you eventually sell the home: when the next buyers hire a home inspector. By that time, the builders warranty would probably have expired, and the responsibility for repairs would then be yours.
To resolve these details now, while the warranty is in effect, find the most qualified home inspector in your area. A competent inspector will definitely find problems that would otherwise escape discovery.
• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at www.housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.
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