Home Inspections: home inspectors make mistakes

A reader wants to know if home inspectors make mistakes when doing home inspections. 

Q: My home inspector did an inspection of my home before I purchased it. The home inspector made mistakes:

  1. The inspector missed that there was a hidden water line problem.
  2. He also missed a false vent.
  3. Under the false vent we later found the plumbing line that was full of plaster preventing the flow of water to the backyard.

We could have negotiated with the seller over these issues but didn’t have an opportunity because the inspector missed them. What can we do about the mistakes made in this home inspection?

Understand that home inspectors make mistakes

A: You’re right that if the inspector would have told you about these items, you could have addressed them with the seller. Your problem is believing your home inspector can catch all the problems with a home.

There are some excellent home inspectors who catch almost every problem with a home. Then there are others that aren’t as knowledgeable or as good. They often fail to identify many issues.

Home inspection mistakes are different from issues being hidden by sellers.

But if you have problems that are hidden by the seller, they may not be able to be uncovered during a normal home inspection. For example, if the sellers paint the basement to cover up a mold problem, how would the inspector uncover that? He probably wouldn’t. Instead, the buyer would find it when they start living in the home and suddenly see mold appear through the paint.

Back to your specific issues. A good home inspector should check each water valve in the home to make sure that water flows to that valve. Did your home inspector fail to check the outdoor valve? If so, he may have missed that water did not flow there.

Choose a home inspector who is licensed and insured

Many states regulate and license home inspectors. Those same inspectors may be members of national trade associations or nonprofit organizations that promote home inspections. And those same national organizations have guidelines for home inspectors to follow when performing home inspections.

Here’s what you need to answer: Should your inspector have looked for these issues? Were these issues evident at the time of the home inspection? In other words, could they be easily discovered? Were there other factors that caused the home inspector to miss the issue?

Home inspectors can’t find problems that the seller is hiding

Sometimes home sellers hide problems. Sometimes they simply don’t know there is a problem. Let’s assume the outdoor water valve was hidden behind gardening equipment and the inspector couldn’t see the water valve and didn’t know it was there. It would be hard for the home inspector to evaluate the valve if there was no access to it. Home inspectors can’t, and won’t, move the seller’s personal belongings during a home inspection. From this perspective, the home inspector might have done a good home inspection but should note in his inspection report areas of the home that were not accessible to inspect.

Address Home Inspection Mistakes Immediately

Now, if we assume the inspector performed a sloppy inspection and simply missed your issues, then you can go back to the home inspector and talk about it. Some home inspectors will return the fee that you paid for the home inspection if you’re not satisfied with the home inspection. Others may do more. And then there are those who simply say that they performed the home inspection and don’t guarantee that they will find all issues with the home. At that point, the homeowner is out of luck if a problem emerges later.

What will it cost to fix the vent and water line problems? If it’s expensive, then you might want to consult with an attorney with experience in seller disclosure issues and home inspector problems and discuss the issue further with them. But, we suggest you start by calling the home inspector. Talk through the problems, and see how they respond. If you and the inspector agree that he should have caught these problems, then you can kindly suggest he consider paying for the repair.

Read more about home inspections:

Your home inspector missed something

Home Inspector Missed Problems

Do I really need a home inspector before buying a home?

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©2023 by Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.