Tales From a Home Inspector:
The Good, the Bad and the Weird
When buying a home, few items on the checklist are as important as the home inspection. Experienced home inspector Bill, who asked that we not use his real name, warns that a buyer is at risk for winding up in a huge mess when he waives his right to an inspection. Bill doesn't automatically assume the seller is aware of the flaws when he finds problems with a home because, "you live in a home for so many years and you get used to things wrong with your house." However, some sellers aren't simply being absent-minded. They're downright deceptive. He says, "It's too easy for a seller to not say anything about the house. They'll pretend, 'We didn't know anything about that leak.'"
Over the years, Bill has seen some weird conditions. He says, "I don't write up anything cosmetic. One time I saw a place with bright blue carpeting and purple walls. I had to ignore it." On two occasions, he saw peanut butter slathered on leaky pipes. "Once it was chunky peanut butter, and the jar was still there. I don't know where people got the idea that peanut butter will stop a leak." On another home inspection, Bill opened a closet and was shocked to see a huge boa constrictor inside. After his scare, Bill found out the snake was the home owner's pet. And he's seen worse. (Cue scary music.)
Home Horror Stories
Bill says during the worst home inspection he's done, he discovered a dead dog that had been missing from the family. "He had been trapped behind the water heater in the utility room. The living conditions and the stench were horrendous."
Bill describes another inspection of a home that was in the most deplorable condition he had ever seen. He says, "The house was literally in a collapsing situation. But a young, single lady with a small child wanted to move in because she loved the back yard."
The woman's parents accompanied her to the home inspection, and her father was alarmed by the dangerous condition of the house. Bill says her father took him out to the driveway and said, "Do anything you can do to talk her out of this."
Bill says, "I told her, 'You're not going to be out here in the yard most of the time, and the house is dangerous to live in." It had major structural damage. The walls were cracked in half horizontally and the top half of the house had shifted off its frame three inches in every room. This meant the top half was sitting off-kilter from the bottom half of the house. I had never seen anything like it."
Potential for Bad Apples
Bill says that home inspection only emerged as a thriving business in the mid-'80s, so it's a relatively new field. "In many states, there's no licensure required yet, so there's greater potential for bad apples. Anyone with a business card and a telephone could go into business as a home inspector."
Bill recommends finding a home inspector who is a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors. He says, "ASHI.org is the best place to get a home inspector who is trained and educated." He says passing a proctored national exam is required to become a member of ASHI, plus yearly continuing education classes are compulsory for members to remain certified.
Bill cautions home buyers if they don't do their research, they could wind up with a home inspector who is, "a Joe blow on the weekend who does this part time. You don't know what you're going to get." Bill had noticed his neighbor across the street was getting his home inspected. The neighbor told Bill that he had to loan the inspector a flashlight, and he neglected to bring a ladder with him.