Home Inspection Misses

Mad that your professional home inspector missed a bunch of items? You’re not alone.

Q: When we bought our house six years ago, we got an inspection with a 55-page illustrated report pointing out lots of typical problems (rusty rail, reversed wiring, cracked cement, etc.). We didn’t find many serious problems that were missed until after we moved in.

Because the inspector was “unable to walk on all steeper parts of the roof,” he didn’t discover the second floor bath ceiling leaked through a fan roof opening that had never been flashed. Sewer gas was escaping into the main level from a stinky toilet unable to be sealed because it was placed on a new higher tile floor that buried the flange. It was not noted there was no access to repair the tub’s faucet and drain, which required cutting through old gypsum board suspected to contain asbestos.

Bad Home Inspection: How do we report him?

The report did not make us aware that the kitchen sink drains into an old grease tank under an outside deck that hadn’t been pumped for years. Worse, without the sellers spraying the mystery cans of Febreeze we’d seen all over the house, the basement stunk. We found this stemmed from the lift pump from the basement bathroom discharging sewage into an unsealed sump pump that was supposed to handle only groundwater. Raw sewage was leaking in the soil underneath the house.

While the report pointed out the temperature on the water heaters was dangerously high, it did not pick up that it was set that way because the second water heater for the whirlpool struggled to fill it with enough hot water. Although the inspector discovered a clogged kitchen drain, he attributed it to back-pitched sink piping, not a nearly completely mineralized drain pipe 10 feet down. Or, that we would have to install an expensive tankless water heater if we wanted to get hot water to the kitchen sink in less than two minutes.

Passing Inspection Before Sale

That first winter we could feel breezes coming through the poorly-installed replacement windows, a situation that could be improved only with 17 full-frame replacement windows. While we understood that it was impossible to inspect insulation directly “due to wall and ceiling finishes,” we thought the inspector should have advised us that the old porch conversion would likely be unusable in cold winters and hot summers because of the impossibility of adequately insulating its 2×4 walls.

All of these fixes have cost us nearly $70,000 in unexpected expenses beyond the cost of a $375,000 house. Shouldn’t we have expected better?

A: You sure did find lots of things wrong with your house. That’s too bad. Could you have expected more from the inspector? Perhaps. But the real question is whether any inspector could have found your issues in an inspection. It’s easy to fault the inspector once you live in a home and spend a considerable amount of time using the appliances and mechanical systems. That’s how you discover the issues with your home.

Home Inspections: home inspectors make mistakes

One thing you do get these days with an inspection is a lengthy inspection report detailing many maintenance items you will need to consider when owning a home, issues to be aware of during your home ownership, and some suggestions on repairs and common issues.

You’re paying the inspector for their time to go through the home and find out what problems the home might have. While inspectors typically can’t find problems if they aren’t visible, Sam has found that a fair number of inspectors simply check off the boxes on their inspection list and leave it at that.

What Does a Home Inspector Do?

Sam tells his buyers to attend the inspection and ask the inspector questions as they go through a home. Loose door handles or other cheap fixes aren’t a big deal. You want a home inspector to catch the big ticket items. These might include problems with:

  • The sewer line to a home or a bad septic system
  • Drains or plumbing supply lines in a home, including lead pipes.
  • Signs of water issues with the roof, windows, siding or basement walls
  • Significant foundation cracks or settling
  • Furnace and air conditioning system issues that require complete replacement of their main components
  • Electrical problems with the main breaker panel or old wiring

But, if an inspector is unable to inspect an item, you should stop and ask them right then and there to discuss with you the issues and why they are unable to inspect the item.

3 Issues Standard Home Inspections Don’t Typically Catch

We’ve seen too many inspectors simply pass the buck on some big ticket items. When it comes to a roof, they’ll tell the buyer they should talk to a roofing company. And for possible furnace issues, the buyer should consult with a heating contractor. Masonry issues? Talk to a masonry professional. For electrical issues, an electrician. Plumbing issues? A plumber. If you encounter this kind of inspector, be on notice that the big ticket items in your home are not getting inspected. And, if something goes wrong with any of these items, you’ll be on the hook for them.

So how do you know if you are working with a good inspector? These days, some inspectors use drones to inspect roofs. They use infrared cameras to look at walls, ceilings and floors of the home. They use moisture meters to check out areas where they may suspect water problems.

Good Home Inspectors Should Use New Tools

Armed with these devices, a good inspector will have a better idea about some less visible problems. Had your inspector used any of these, he might have found some of your issues, but still missed others. The reality is that when a seller works to hide problems with a home, it’s hard to blame the inspector who then misses them.

You expect the inspector to do a good job, but you can’t expect the inspector to find things that no one would find unless they experienced the problems themselves while living there. So, we think your anger might be misdirected. It sounds as though the sellers went out of their way to hide serious issues with the property.

Home Inspection Misses? You Might Have a Seller Disclosure Problem

Did they give you a seller disclosure form? What did it say? We suspect your issues have more to do with your seller hiding problems rather than the inspector missing them. In fact, we doubt any home inspector could have found at least some of the problems you’ve experienced. You may want to think about whether your sellers knew or should have known about the problems and then speak with an attorney who has experience in seller disclosure claims.

We’ll let our readers and other home inspectors chime in and follow up with some of their comments and thoughts.

©2024 by Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency. C1641

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