When things go wrong...
There will come a time when you discover something wrong with your house. You may wonder if your home inspector let you down. There are a few things to consider:
1. Intermittent or concealed problems:
Some problems can only be discovered by living in a house. They may not have been discovered during the few hours of a home inspection. For example, some shower stalls leak when water bounces off someone in the shower, but not when you simple turn on the tap. Some roofs and basements only leak when rain is very heavy or when there is also a strong wind from a specific direction. Some things are only discovered after you lift carpets, remove furniture and storages, or when finishes are removed.
2. No clues:
These problems may have existed at the time of inspection but there were no clues as to their existence. Lawyers call these latent defects. Our inspections are based on the past performance of the house. If there are no clues of a past problem, it is unfair to assume we should foresee a future problem. Home inspectors do not identify latent defects.
3. We always miss some minor things:
Some say we are inconsistent because our reports identify some minor problems but not others. Any minor problem noted were discovered while looking for significant problems that would affect the typical person`s decision to purchase a home. We note them simply as a courtesy.
4. Sampling Exercise:
A home inspection is a sampling exercise with respect to components that are numerous, such as bricks, windows, and electrical receptacles. As a result, some conditions that are visible may go unreported. This is not a failing of the inspector but a result of sampling.
5. Contractor advice:
A common source of concern with home inspectors comes from comments made by contractors. Contractor opinions often differ from ours. Don`t be surprised that three roofers all say the roof needs replacement when we said that, with some minor repairs, the roof will last a few more years.
While our advice represents the most prudent action in our professional opinion, many contractors are reluctant to undertake the advised action. This is because of the `Last Man In Theory`. The contractor fears that if he is the last person to work on the roof, he won`t want to get blamed if the roof leaks, whether or not the leak is his fault. Consequently, he won`t want to do a minor repair with high liability when he could re-roof the entire house for more money and reduce the likelihood of a callback. Most understand this logic.
There is more to the `Last Man In Theory`. It is human nature for homeowners to believe the last `expert` advice they receive, even if it is contrary to previous advice. As home inspectors, we unfortunately find ourselves in the position of `First Man In` and consequently find our advice is often dis-believed.
6. Why didn`t we see it:
Contractors and others may say `I can`t believe you had this house inspected, and they didn`t find this problem`. There are several reasons for these apparent oversights:
a) Conditions during the inspection.
It is difficult for homeowners to remember the circumstances in the house at the time of the inspection. It`s easy to forget that it was snowing, there was storage everywhere in the basement, or that the furnace could not be turned on because the air conditioning was operating, et cetera. It`s impossible for contractors to know what the circumstances were when the inspection was performed.
b) The wisdom of hindsight.
When the problem manifests itself, it is very easy to have `20/20`hindsight. Anybody can say that the basement leaks when there is a flooded basement. Predicting the problem is a different story.
c) A long look.
If we spent 30 minutes under the kitchen sink, or 2 hours removing every electrical switch plate and cover plate, we`d find more problems too. Unfortunately, the inspection would take several days and would cost considerably more.
d) We are generalists.
We are generalists; we are no specialists. The heating contractor may indeed have more heating expertise than we do. This is because we are expected to have heating expertise and plumbing expertise, roofing expertise, electrical expertise, et cetera. A home inspection is a generalist, the same way a family doctor is a generalist. They have wonderfully broad knowledge, but are not cardiologists or respirologists, for example.
e) An invasive look.
Problems often become apparent when carpets or plaster are removed, when fixtures or cabinets are pulled out, and so on. Many issues appear once work begins on a home. A home inspection is a visual examination. We don`t perform any invasive or destructive tests.
7. Home inspection is not insurance:
In conclusion, a home inspection is designed to better your odds. It is not designed to eliminate all risk. For that reason, a home inspection should not be considered an insurance policy. The premium that an insurance company would have to charge for a policy with no deductible, no exclusions, no limits and an indefinite policy period would be a multiple of the fee we charge. It would also not include the knowledge added by the inspection.
We hope you take this as `food for thought`.