I’ve had people ask why they need a home inspector and a pest and fungus inspector. Can’t the home inspector just do both reports? In response, I ask: if you went to the optometrist to get your eyes checked, would you expect him to diagnose the bunion on your big toe? No, you wouldn’t. Same thing applies here: different specialties.
Home inspections are performed by people who know how to build houses, who are competent to inspect things like electrical systems, plumbing, and whether the home meets current building standards. They test the heating and air conditioning system by turning it on and putting a thermometer over the vent. They test the smoke alarms, assure that doorknobs are snug and work properly. They check the polarity of plugs and whether the house is tied to the foundation. They note whether there is insulation in the attic or under the house.
Then they write up a lengthy report with recommendations to make your house safer and more compliant with applicable building regulations. What they won’t do is tell you whether there is fungus growing under the bathroom or evidence of powder post beetles in the crawl space under your house because unless they are licensed to do so, divulging that information would be breaking the law.
Being a pest and fungus inspector requires a special contractor’s license. These are the folks who know how to check for mold, dry rot, termites, beetles, and all sorts of other evidence of problems that you may need to address. Pest inspectors will not tell you whether there’s inadequate insulation, but they will tell you if there is cellulose debris under the house. This refers to scraps of wood, sawdust, or old form board left after construction, which can become a tasty buffet for hungry termites.
In addition to home inspectors and pest and fungus inspectors, there are also inspectors who specialize in roofs, wells, septic systems, and other structural issues. Plus, there are people who inspect public records so you know about any natural hazards that may affect the property, from fires to earthquakes, floods, and proximity to any military ordinances. Your Realtor can provide a list of reputable inspectors.
Inspections are essential, but they are not infallible. Inspectors can only report on what they can see, so if furniture is blocking access to outlets, a home inspector will not rearrange the room to check for reverse polarity. If a homeowner lays linoleum to hide some rot in a bathroom floor, there’s no way for the pest and fungus inspector to know this.
Whether you are a buyer or a seller, it is best for everyone to know as much about problems as possible before the escrow closes. Therefore, as a seller, it is up to you to do what you can to make inspections as thorough as possible. Provide access to every nook and cranny. Share results from your home inspection with other inspectors so they can take a closer look when necessary.
Not only is full disclosure the ethical thing to do, but it is also legally required. Sellers must disclose anything they know or should have reasonably known that might influence a buyer’s decision to purchase the house.
If there’s information that would change a buyer’s mind, you absolutely want them to have it so they can change their mind before the close of escrow, not after.
People don’t complain when prices go up. They don’t care about a bathroom remodel done to code without a permit if someone else is willing to buy the house for more than they bought it for. But when house values drop by 20 percent and their employer says they need to move out of state, the buyer will tell you they would never have purchased the house had they known there was no permit. And the seller will be required to make restitution.
Get inspections. Make them available to all. Offer to allow prospective buyers to get additional inspections. Disclose anything and everything you can think of, no matter how insignificant. Keep receipts for every repair and offer a copy of those receipts to the buyers. It’s the right thing to do, and although more inspections can be more expensive up front, they can save you a bundle of money in the long run.
If you have questions about property management or real estate, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (707) 462-4000. If you have an idea for a future column, share it with me and if I use it, I’ll send you a $25 gift certificate to Schat’s Bakery. To see previous articles, visit www.selzerrealty.com and click on “How’s the Market”. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 45 years.