Home inspection findings by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck, Professional Real Estate Inspector TREC# 9073

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A Seller’s Response to a Buyer’s Home Inspection Report

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The home inspector was nitpicking; he was completely wrong in that statement; and he was complaining that a house built forty-five years ago does not meet up to current code. Sound familiar? Each inspector has his own style in phrasing his findings, and I might not fully agree with the different styles, but I only have an issue when an inspector is reaching to find a problem where there is none. A home seller confronted with a home inspection report has to realize a few things about the reporting process in order to make a more appropriate response to the buyer.

 

How do you deal with a buyer who is upset with the findings? I have become frustrated by some reports, and I would love to tell the home inspector what he did wrong, but this does not help the situation. You are still in the negotiating phase, and you need to work with the buyer to reach the goal which you both desire: the real estate sale. Here are steps in dealing with the inspection which concerns the buyer:

 

Situation One: the inspector points out a problem which you know he was incorrect about: let’s say that he says the oven is not working, but it is a new oven. The best option is to have a technician come out to look at the oven, and write a report as to its condition. However, it is an oven, and you may not want to spend that money. Buy an oven thermometer, and set the oven to a specific temperature to check the temperature with the thermometer. See for yourself if it is truly different. Now, on an air conditioning or electrical system would be better examined by a technician than by yourself.

 

 

 

Situation Two: the inspector mentions something which is easy to repair : my favorite example of this is the anti-siphon device on hose bibs. This is around six dollar part, which you can just screw onto the bib. Many repairs may be on your level, or may be handled by a local handyman. If they are a concern for the buyer, these repairs may not be too expensive, although if you look at prices inspectors list on their reports you could believe it may cost thousands ( a pet peeve of mine). Write a list of all of the repairs done to improve the house for the sale, and the repairs done due to the inspection report.

 

 

 

Situation Three: a major problem has been discovered which may incur huge costs to the buyer to repair. First is the problem immediate, or something that might happen? Immediate would be an issue like the foundation has been damaged in some way, and it needs a repair. In this case, you may need to negotiate a price reduction to help the buyer cover the expense, or have this done yourself. If it is a comment like the air conditioning may not last for the next year, then offer to pay for a home warranty for a year.

 

 

 

You have to remember that on many occasions that you will not know exactly what the inspector said, so do not argue directly. Show that there is another opinion if you feel that he was wrong, but other issues may not be major expenses; however, they are a concern for the buyer. Repair costs can be greatly inflated, so look at what the cost actually is through your own quote, or just handle the repairs on your own. If you want to sell the home, find a way to keep the negotiation going, and you may have a deal.


Another concern which comes up in home inspection reports revolves around statements of this is not the way we build homes now. A good example of this kind of statement would be concerning the electrical outlets. Electrical safety is improving, and we have outlets that address some of these issues (TR and WR outlets). Unless your home was built after 2009, you would not have this type of outlet. I would have to state this fact in my report, due to current regulations regarding what is required in my report. A buyer may decide this is important to have, so they could insist on having these installed. As the seller, you should realize that any home in your area will have the same issue, so the buyer will always face this problem, unless buying a newly built home. In this case, you may wish to point out to the buyer this would be the fact, and you do not agree to make those repairs. Replacing all of the outlets in your home can be expensive. When it comes to being up to current building standards, we have a balancing act. I had a situation where the inspector pointed out that the framing of a house built in 1964 was not up to current building codes. He did mention that he saw no problems with it. The buyer insisted that the seller have the framing meet current code. This was a silly request, because the buyer was asking the seller to rebuild the house. In another instance, I found an electrical panel installation that was not particularly safe. It may have been built to the code of the time, but the current situation could have led to a fire or injury if someone was not being careful. The seller agreed to update to a panel which met current practices. (The seller was buying a house with the same situation, so they asked the homeowner who was selling that house to make the same updates). As the seller, you have to be the judge as to what repairs you may agree to do. Maybe you are already offering the home at below market value, because you know repairs have to be made. When it comes to safety, I would be less willing not to make a repair.

 

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17 Responses to “A Seller’s Response to a Buyer’s Home Inspection Report”

  1. I am Founder of InterNACHI, the world’s largest inspection trade association operating in 9 languages and 48 countries.

    Here is a little article I use:

    Buying a home? The process can be stressful. A home inspection is supposed to give you peace of mind, but often has the opposite effect. You will be asked to absorb a lot of information in a short time. This often includes a written report, checklist, photographs, environmental reports and what the inspector himself says during the inspection. All this combined with the seller’s disclosure and what you notice yourself makes the experience even more overwhelming. What should you do?

    Relax. Most of your inspection will be maintenance recommendations, life expectancies and minor imperfections. These are nice to know about. However, the issues that really matter will fall into four categories:

    Major defects. An example of this would be a structural failure.
    Things that lead to major defects. A small roof-flashing leak, for example.
    Things that may hinder your ability to finance, legally occupy or insure the home.
    Safety hazards, such as an exposed, live buss bar at the electric panel.
    Anything in these categories should be addressed. Often a serious problem can be corrected inexpensively to protect both life and property (especially in categories 2 and 4).

    Most sellers are honest and are often surprised to learn of defects uncovered during an inspection. Realize that sellers are under no obligation to repair everything mentioned in the report. No home is perfect. Keep things in perspective. Do not kill your deal over things that do not matter. It is inappropriate to demand that a seller address deferred maintenance, conditions already listed on the seller’s disclosure or nit-picky items.

    Nick Gromicko
    Founder
    InterNACHI
    non-profit
    http://www.nachi.org


  2. Also, you may just want to have the seller get the inspection done first.

    http://www.MoveInCertified.com

    This has these advantages to the listing agent:

    Agents can recommend certified InterNACHI inspectors to inspect the home properly before the buyer’s inspector arrives.
    Sellers can schedule the inspections at seller’s convenience with little effort on the part of agents.
    Sellers can assist inspectors during the inspections, something normally not done during buyer’s inspections.
    Sellers can have inspectors correct any misstatements in the reports before they are generated.
    Reports help sellers see their homes through the eyes of a critical, third-party, thus making sellers more realistic about asking price.
    Agents are alerted to any immediate safety issues found, before other agents and potential buyers tour the home.
    Repairs made ahead of time might make homes show better.
    Move In Certified yard signs attract potential buyers.
    The reports hosted on http://www.FetchReport.com entice potential buyers to tour MoveInCertified homes.
    The reports provide third-party, unbiased opinions to offer to potential buyers.
    MoveInCertified reports can be used as marketing tools to help sell the homes.
    Reports might relieve prospective buyer’s unfounded suspicions, before they walk away.
    Seller inspections eliminate buyer’s remorse that sometimes occurs just after an inspection.
    Seller inspections reduce the need for negotiations and 11th-hour renegotiations.
    Seller inspections relieve the agent of having to hurriedly procure repair estimates or schedule repairs.
    The reports might encourage buyers to waive their inspection contingencies.
    Deals are less likely to fall apart the way they often do when buyer’s inspections unexpectedly reveal problems, last minute.
    Reports provide full-disclosure protection from future legal claims.


  3. Nick, it is an honor to have you come in and comment; thank you. This post was written, because I had a homeowner ask me to look over another inspector’s report. Although, it would be great for seller’s to realize that having their own inspection is a great way to head off issues before the buyer discovers them, this is not always the case.

    I was hoping to find a way for sellers to realize that this situation should not end the deal. They should remain calm to proceed well. My desire is that these steps would provide a means for them to accomplish their wish.


  4. Jack Says:

    I find it interesting that so many people have trouble with maintaining their homes enough to pass an inspector’s report. Perhaps people feel that they don’t have time or energy to make improvements or do basic maintenance. In many cases I think most people simply arn’t aware of what needs to be done in order to keep home appliances running smoothly, let alone the structure of the house itself.

    Perhaps someone here will find this site to be helpful: http://homewarrantyresource.com/maintenance_library/

    They have many maintenance tips, and even automatic reminders that you can set up to help you maintain your house and pass inspections. Hopefully this is useful to someone.


  5. Thank you for dropping in. The maintenance library there is a useful resource, so thank you for pointing it out. Simple steps can save much grief later, and prevention is less costly than repair.


  6. Les Le Gear Says:

    Do you have to list a buyer’s inspector’s
    findings on the seller’s disclosure form?
    Deal fell through due to report. I’m told that
    I have to list the defect (which I’m disputing)
    on my seller’s disclosure. Please advise.


  7. You are required to inform buyers of issues that you are aware of on the seller’s disclosure. The key is that you are aware of. If you are disputing the home inspector’s report, then it may not be required to write down that finding on your disclosure form; however, it would be in your best interest to hire a specialist to discover if there is a real issue. If you do have a problem, then you can plan a course of action, such as having it repaired or lowering your asking price or whatever else you and your Realtor determine as a good action.

    I was recently asked to estimate the cost of repairs on some items on my report. I hate that, because I do not spend the time determining exact causes. In this case, a valve was leaking, and it could have been a simple fix, but if there was further interior damage to the valve, we may have been speaking of a major repair. Foundations are also tricky. Just because the foundation may have problems does not always mean a repair is needed. Really, find out from a qualified professional what may be the issue, and what the solution is.


  8. Thanks for the information and this is really gonna help one who is going to buy the house.


  9. mari Says:

    Why would a buyer wait so long to respond to an inspection report when the deficiencies were few and very minor?


  10. I cannot say why buyers will wait long. Sometimes, when they are working without a Realtor, they do not know how to proceed well. With a Realtor, they may be in discussions to find the best way to respond. Obviously, the quicker the response, the better for negotiations.


  11. Donna Says:

    In my case, the home inspector made statements that were not true, pointing out places where he believed water had entered, but it never has. The discoloration on the wall was from shoe scuffs. He also made statements such as the siding appeared to have been installed by an amateur…it was a major home builder company who installed it. He also implied there could be major structural issues but probably weren’t in other cases. It scared the buyers away and I lost the sale. The house was inspected by the builder because it is still under warranty and they found no structural issues at all. He pointed out superficial cracks in brick veneer as being indication of possible structural problems, though they are only superficial siding…not part of the house structure at all. I am angry but have no recourse to this terrible report. Both Realtors agreed the report was badly written and derogatory. I wish there was something I could do to counteract this inaccurate report.


  12. I cannot speak to the accuracy of his report, but I do wish to point out one item: the cracks in the bricks. You are correct that bricks are not structural; however, depending upon the nature of the cracks, this can indicate a structural issue. If the weight from the roof or the upwards pressure from the foundation are not going through the structural elements as they should, they can go through the veneer siding, in your case the brick. The cracks can denote a structural issue, but these could also denote movement in the home. Movement is common to all homes; the concern would be if the movement is effecting the structure. This is why the inspector reported on those cracks; however, not all cracks are created equal: some brick designs include cracks on the surface.

    A real estate attorney would be able to answer if you have some case against the inspector, but I feel that may be hard to prove (this is only a guess without all of the facts on my part, so you should seek further consultation to see if there is a case). From what you describe, the home inspector did not investigate properly, so you may have recourse to file a complaint with the authority overseeing his business. In Texas, this would be the Texas Real Estate Commission. For other states, you will have to look at my info on inspectors page. By filing a complaint, the authority will evaluate the situation to decide upon a course of action. Severe transgressions can lead to the loss of his license in Texas; other transgressions can cause him a fine.


  13. great article….thanks Frank.


  14. cathy hatch Says:

    ok im the seller. the inspector found a leak in the furnace valve and turned my furnace off. He never told anyone. I found out 4 days later when I went to the house with the gas company and it was freezing inside in december and below 0 out. My pipes could have froze! I sent the inspector a letter telling him how upset I was and he was a real jerk about it, never apoplogized and said he did the right thing and didnt have to comtact me.


  15. He did not inform the buyers either? That seems strange. I had a situation when I did have to turn off the water to a home due to the failure of some equipment when tested. Once I realized that this would be a bad leak, I turned off the water. I then wrote a note for the homeowner, and I left my business card. I then contacted the Realtor representing the buyers who had hired me to let him know about the situation. The buyers were out of town, but I did let them know in the report. That was the best way I could find to ensure that everyone would find out. Although there is no rule stating that I should have taken these steps, this is simple courtesy. In your case, you may wish to check to see if there is a body governing home inspectors to let them know what occurred to see if he followed their rules. Otherwise, writing a review on a site like Google Places can let others know of bad service.


  16. Laura Says:

    My buyer’s home inspector made several comments about things that were original to the house and would not (and have not) caused any problems in the 61 years since the home was built. For example, a floor joist was cut away to allow placement of a toilet in the only bathroom the house had originally. That was pretty standard back then. He said there was wetness under the toilet I had just had installed 2 weeks ago, so I called my plumber back out, he pulled the toilet and found no source of a leak, but relealed the entire thing, added a flange (which makes the toilet more likely to get clogged but will keep it from leaking – which is worse?) He also raised questions as to some discoloration on my attic ceiling, and asked “is this mold” which scared my buyer and she immediately backed out of the sale. He also said there was no electricity running to a GFCI outlet in my bathroom. If he had turned on the light in the room, he would have been able to see that there was indeed electricity running to the radio that was plugged in that outlet, as well as being able to test that the GFCI actually worked. He also said that a safety switch had been removed from my furnace, when in reality there was never a switch to begin with. He questioned the lacement of support piers in two area of the crawl – which I had disclosed!!! – and said they were inadequate and wondered why they were there. The floor joist was sagging (61 year old house) and so I had it resupported. He questioned why the water heater was in a closet in the bedroom, and said it was a carbon monoxide risk and speculated that I had removed that bedroom’s second door because I knew about the “risk>” My water heater has been changed twice in the time I’ve lived in the house, both times by licensed plumbers. The gas company has also inspected the house and found no deficiencies. The water heater is vented to the attic and there is a 2 inch gap under the door for additional ventilation. He recommended a carbon monoxide monitor. Did he not see the one I already had? Actually, I have two, because I have a fireplace, which he also had problems with because the gas line was not done to current code (again, the house is 61 years old). I am so incredibly angry I am ready to sue him. There were a couple of items on the report that were genuinely wrong, and I addressed those the next day (they scared me too – like uninsulated wiring and an open junction box in my crawlspace), but my buyer was long gone by then. What recourse do I have? What do I have to disclose? Why should I disclose something that was a “might?”


  17. I cannot speak as to why the home inspector reported what he did. Different states have different standards, but in principal, the home inspector is to report the condition as he finds it on that day of the inspection. In general, he should provide information to help the buyer make a better decision. This may mean suggesting that a mold test be performed, when the inspector has a concern. I sometimes have to report on possibilities, because there is a chance that something may happen; however, I state the facts of the situation first. With older homes, it is easy to say that the framing does not meet current standards (since it was not built to that standard), but I would have to report on the chance of a future problem due to what I see (a crack in a framing piece, for example).

    If you feel that this inspector did not fairly represent the facts, there is the chance for recourse. In states where a license or certification is required to perform home inspections, the agency which oversees that process will have some means to file a complaint. Otherwise, an attorney specializing in the field of real estate will have answers for you.

    Most lawsuits over the sale of a home stem from the Seller’s Disclosure. It is best to disclose what you know. As for the report, if you have a copy, you may wish to discuss this with your real estate agent. It may be better to mention this in the disclosure, and then write your own notes on the report to state your side. Then again, the agent may state a better course of dealing with this report.


© Frank Schulte-Ladbeck Professional Home Inspector Houston, Texas
Frank Theodor Schulte-Ladbeck
home inspector, TREC# 9073
Houston , Texas , 77063 United States
713.781.6090

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