The home inspection is back!
Yes, the home inspection contingency is back. Seattle home sellers are no longer expecting offers without any contingencies. Where markets never reached the Northwest fever pitch, inspections remained part of most contracts.
Such was the case with the purchase of our home in Houston. We had not one but four inspections, a general and three others for pests, the pool, and the stucco finish.
The general inspection revealed nothing too problematic. One of the other inspections did.
I tell my Seattle home buyers that it is the inspector’s job to find all deficiencies, however small. First-time buyers often are taken aback by the sheer number of findings.
Mind the unsafe and the expensive.
My advice is to concentrate on safety and big-ticket items. For example, electrical outlets near water sources must provide ground-fault circuitry interruption (GFCI) to protect from potentially deadly shock. It’s significant but an easy fix.
In contrast, remedying a poorly insulated attic takes more time and money. Sadly, such big-ticket items, should the buyer refuse to correct them and the buyer proceeds with the purchase, are often forgotten after closing the transaction.
My point here is that a home inspection is more than a tool to get concessions from the seller. Remember that you can terminate the transaction by simply disapproving of the inspection results without giving any reason.
However, once you have agreed with the seller on the inspection’s outcome, the report remains valuable. Remember, you paid for it.
While the monthly electric bill may be an occasional reminder, the inadequate attic insulation is out of sight. Like the poor drainage along one of the walls, many buyers will likely ignore it in favor of home improvements with more visible value.
Home inspections: watch the exterior.
Back to the Houston home, most of the exterior was stucco. It was the real thing and not a substitute product prone to water intrusion, especially in the moisture-laden Pacific Northwest. In the early years of this century, construction companies wrapped several Eastside condos in plastic to remove the stucco-like Exterior Insulating Finishing System, better known as EIFS. The buildings reminded me of a 1960s artist who enveloped famous buildings such as, most recently, the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
From Paris, back to Houston: the stucco inspection revealed what looked like serious shortcomings. First, I consulted with our local agent and dove deep into the online universe. Then, based on the report, I asked six stucco specialists for quotes and received four estimates, with the highest doubling the lowest. Ultimately, we asked for a reduction in the purchase price. The seller countered, and we compromised.
We saved the worst for last.
As I write this, the stucco crew is working on a wall where an ugly stain hints at significant damage. There was a crack in the backsplash where the gutter meets the wall. As a result, water intruded past the stucco and damaged plywood and studs. The men replaced all of it. What remains to be done is the final finish which will match the existing stucco color.
I found these stucco experts by asking another tradesman whose work I appreciated. He was a painter who paid attention to the smallest detail. He was part of the team who had added some interior walls to the interior. People who take pride in their work are likely to know others who share the same attitude.
This home was built in 1995 and survived Harvey, the 2017 Houston hurricane. As a result, the first floor is as good as new. Now, with the exterior repaired, we are looking forward to continuing to make this home more and more our own.
Can you find your Seattle home inspection report?
I have not retired.
No, I have not quit real estate. My Washington license is active, and I continue to do business with select clients. Eventually, I will get my Texas license and concentrate on relocations between Seattle and Houston.
For those who expected me to retire, I have to admit that my real estate studies have taken a back seat to a new hobby: golf!
Published originally as the 142nd issue of The View from the Street.
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