One of the most stressful parts of the buying process for a first time buyer is the inspection. Everyone is afraid that the house they have fallen in love with has some sort of hidden Major Problem that will either kill the deal or create a long-term money pit. Obviously it is critically important to have an inspection done to uncover precisely those situations. That being said, the vast majority of the time the sellers have done their due diligence before putting their home on the market and addressed any truly serious items.
It is just as important to make sure you have a great inspector, one who goes the extra mile and doesn’t miss a thing. However, hand in hand with a great inspector is the fact that they are going to find stuff. A lot of stuff. If an inspector is doing his job properly, he is going to come away from your inspection with a substantial list of items, regardless of how great of shape the house is in. My best example of this is when my (amazingly thorough) inspector did an inspection on a new construction home for one of my clients. The home was brand new, had never been lived in, and had just received the Certificate of Occupancy from the City inspectors. He still came away with a list of about 30 items that the City and builder had not caught.
What I try to prepare my buyers for is this: the inspector is going to come away with a list of items, anywhere from 30 to 130 things, and that is 100% normal and not a reason to panic. Included in the inspection reports are items that do not meet today’s building code (the building code changes every year or so, so 99% of homes on the market will have a bunch of items that don’t meet today’s code, nor are they required to), items that simply need clarification or possibly future maintenance, and a long laundry list of very typical and minor items that come up in every inspection.
My job is to lend my knowledge and experience to filter through the report and discern which are the normal, typical, minor items – and which are not. There are literally dozens of items that come up in 99% of the inspections I do. They are completely normal. Just about any home you were interested in purchasing would have these same items.
Then there is the group of items which are not quite as typical but still very minor. Items that either a homeowner could fix themselves or pay someone else to do relatively inexpensively. Often these are things that are good to know about but do not need to be repaired in order to live safely in the home.
Finally, there is the group of items which are out of the ordinary, could be big-ticket repairs, or are vital to making the home safe to live in. These are the things we are looking for. Normally there are very few of these (if any) that come up, but it is critical that we identify them and determine if it is something that is reasonable to ask the seller to repair, or something so major that it is a deal-breaker. In my experience, there are only a few deal-breakers: serious structural problems and extensive interior water damage (which typically goes hand in hand with structural issues), or completely non-functional systems come to mind.
My job is to help the buyer determine what those issues are, and what makes sense to ask the seller to repair. Almost all of my inspections have a laundry list of electrical items, a lack of insulation based on today’s standards, some exterior water damage, minor mold, structural settling, and evidence of past termite damage. These are normal and not deal-breakers.
All this being said, I know it freaks buyers out when they get that loooong report from the inspector and leads them to panic and fear the worst. Don’t worry!!! This is normal, I promise. We will work with you to figure out what is *really* a problem and what is totally typical. No house is perfect, especially if it is an older home. They all have issues, even if they are brand new. It’s our job to help you determine if those issues are serious and what to do about them. I promise we will do our absolute best to make sure you don’t buy a money pit. =)
I do have a caveat: there are, of course, things that can get missed. By having a great inspector, you are drastically decreasing your chances of that happening. However, part of home ownership is that eventually stuff breaks. And it may be that when you have your inspection done, all the plumbing & drains are functioning perfectly. And then a week after you close, a pipe bursts. There is nothing an inspection can do to predict that kind of thing. It is just bad luck, and it is part of owning a home. But by covering all your bases and truly doing your due diligence, you are putting yourself in the best possible situation to succeed.