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Traversing the Pitfalls of Home Inspections

June and Fred Ulloa were diligent about getting their home ready for sale. They ordered a pre-sale termite inspection report. The report revealed that their interior kitchen cabinets and baseboards were infested, so they had the prescribed corrective and preventive treatments performed and replaced the cabinets and baseboards before putting their home on the market.

The Ulloa’s also called a reputable roof contractor to examine the roof and issue a report on its condition. The roof contractor said that the roof had hairline cracks and leaks and that it should be repaired, resurfaced and sealed with waterproofing. The Ulloa’s didn’t want buyers to be put off by a bad roof, so they had the roof job done and the exterior painted before they marketed the home.

The Ulloa’s home was attractive, well-maintained and priced right for the market. It received multiple offers the first week it was listed for sale.

But the buyers’ inspection report indicated that the house was in serious need of plumbing work. According to a plumbing contractor, the job would cost in excess of $5,000. Fred Ulloa was distraught because he’d paid for many plumbing repairs over the years.

First-Time Tip: If you get an alarming inspection report on a home you’re buying or selling, don’t panic. Until you see the whole picture clearly, you’re not in a position to determine whether you have a major problem to deal with or not.

What happened to the Ulloa’s is typical of what can happen over time with older homes. The plumbing work that was completed over the years was probably adequate at the time. But since then, some old water lines have deteriorated enough that they are in need of more permanent and long term replacement.

The Ulloa’s considered calling in other plumbing experts to see if the work could be done for less. After studying the buyers’ inspection report, the contractor’s proposal and the buyers’ offer to split the cost of the plumbing work 50-50 with the sellers, the Ulloa’s concluded that they had a fair deal.

The solution is not always this easy, especially when contractors can’t agree. Keep in mind that there is an element of subjectivity involved in the inspection process. For example, two contractors might disagree on the remedy: one calling for repair and the other for replacement.

Recently, one roof contractor recommended a total roof job at a cost of $6,000. A second roof contractor disagreed. His report said that the roof should be good another three to four years if the owner did $1000 of maintenance work. Based on the two reports, the buyers and sellers were able to negotiate a satisfactory monetary solution to the problem for an amount that was between the two estimates.

It’s problematic when inspectors are wrong. But it happens. Inspectors are only human. Here is another example: A home inspector looked at a house and issued a report condemning the central air conditioning unit, which he said needed to be replaced.

The sellers called in an air conditioning contractor who performed a thorough servicing and declared that the unit was repairable and that it did not need to be replaced.

The buyers were unsure about the unit, given the difference of opinions, so they called in a second air conditioning contractor. The buyers had confidence in their own free independent choice of contractors. He found nothing wrong with the unit except it was in need of normal repairs and maintenance, and the buyers were satisfied.

In Closing: Sometimes finding the right expert to give an opinion on a suspected house problem is the answer, but it is always good to get two opinions.

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