Inspections: Sale Negotiations 2.0

I mentioned in my birthday post, our house is now under contract for the second time, so once again we’re treated to the home inspection.

When people buy new cars they often think that once they finished with the salesman the hard part is over , which they then go to the financing department where half of the dealership’s profit comes from. Usually at this point people are relaxed and lulled into a false sense of security, and are no longer thinking about deals about costs like warranty and certain forms of insurance. I feel like home inspections are becoming the same way. It seems like people look at their reports and think of what “big ticket” item they’ll ask to have fixed, and figure out what else will get them the best deal.

This was our first home, so back when we went through the buying process, we were young, naive and had no idea what to expect.  Our inspector steered us away from doing a radon test, and we thought we were going to make the sellers walk away by asking them to patch a hole in the wall and put screens back on the windows.  Little did we know how much we let them off the hook compared to the grief we’ve gotten.

In our first contract we got as far as the Inspection Objection point, which meant we got a list of things that was wrong with our house and commit to fixing them.  Unfortunately our inspection brought back a high Radon level, which meant we had to drop some pretty pennies to install a radon system.  As much as it sucked to cut that check, it’s a valid safety issue and a justifiable request – we’d ask the same thing.  We also understand that during this process buyers try to weigh the balance of asking for valid repairs without nickel and diming the sellers too much – so we fixed their shortlist of items just in time for the contract to fall through.

After the excitement of going under contract again, our next thought was “I wonder what this inspection will find.”  We figured that after fixing items 1, 2 & 3 in the previous contract, this buyer would come back asking us to fix items 4,5 & 6 on the report.  The objection document came in today, and rather than items 4, 5 & 6 (or even 7, 8 & 9), they brought us a list of entirely new items that weren’t on our radar.  These items included things like not having proper upstairs vents in our HVAC system and our fans not turning in reverse. Missing from this inspectors report was virtually all the issues that the last inspector found. Missing from both reports were things that we predicted the inspector would highlight (as well as some things our inspector found when we were buying the house).

A house is a physically large purchase and I don’t expect that even the most talented inspector would be able to find everything wrong, but I just don’t understand how all of these reports could be so different in the things they’d find. There’s also a fine line between something that is a safety or damage concern, and something that’s simply the condition of what you’re buying. This is the point I start to wonder if the inspection starts to becomes less about fixing damages and more about squeezing more out of your contract.

Here’s what’s not clear to me: What makes a good home inspection and what should warrant a valid demand in your Inspection Objections report? I had always thought that it would be significant safety and functionality defects – especially if it was a direct result of the sellers. I’m not sure if all inspectors see this the same way. In the most recent inspection, they highlighted things like ventilation efficiency, as if the difference of a few degrees between floors is a major safety issue. Really??

The worst part about this process is that now we feel the need to extract the same amount of pain when we’re the buyers.