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Are home inspections becoming irrelevant?

for sale sign outside houseI have heard an increasing voice of discontent over home inspections. Not just from home sellers and their agents, but from home buyers too! Home sellers often complain about the incorrect flagging of working components as being defective. Listing agents usually gripe that home inspectors scare buyers and interfere with their sale. But many home buyers are also growing dissatisfied with inspections and the property reports they are given. 

The home inspection, as we know it, began in the 1980s. As the profession became standardized, it became a necessary part of the home buying process. The inspection used to be a straight forward examination of observable systems and components. But the home inspection has morphed from a once-over by a trained professional to the concept of getting a home perfect through remedying all of the home’s defects. The home inspection has also become a tool of negotiation by some agents, trying to provide proof the home is worth less than the contract price. 

But all things considered, home buyers expect a thorough and exhaustive inspection. They are relying on the inspector to identify concealed and latent defects. They are relying on the inspection and report to help them determine the condition of the home and its systems/components before they move forward with their purchase. 

According to Maryland’s home inspector licensing law, the home inspection is intended to “provide a client with objective information regarding the condition of the systems and components of a home at the time of the home inspection;” and provides an opinion of “visible defects and conditions that adversely affect the function or integrity of the items, components, and systems inspected, including those items or components near the end of their serviceable life.” However, there are limitations (COMAR 09.36.07.03). According to COMAR, a home inspection is “not technically exhaustive,” and it may not identify a concealed condition or a latent defect. Among the list of items that the home inspector is not required to ascertain, includes the condition of systems that are not accessible, and the remaining life of any system or component. 

Furthermore, an article that appeared in RealtorMag last year suggests that home inspectors are generalists and don’t know everything about a home (4 Things Home Inspectors Don’t Often Check; realtormag.realtor.org; July 05, 2017). Inspectors often defer to experts on foundations, fireplaces, chimneys, well/septic systems, and roofs. This is done because those components are not easily inspected and also requires specialized knowledge that is usually outside the scope of the inspection. 

However, in today’s real estate environment, home buyers are wanting and expecting more from the professionals they hire as well as the homes they buy. Buyers anticipate their home inspection with programmed expectations about the inspector’s opinion and conclusions. So, it’s not a surprise that many home buyers are voicing displeasure with their inspectors. Some complaints are about items that were not inspected. Additional complaints are about the inspection reports, which some feel are lacking in detail and information. 

Has the home inspection become irrelevant? Or is it just a case of having to educate the public? Home inspections are essential for most home buyers. But home buyers need to understand that inspectors are not the authoritative voice on all home systems and components. Instead, home inspectors bridge the knowledge gap between what the home buyer knows and what they should know about a home, especially the home they are buying.

Dan Krell is a Realtor® with RE/MAX Success in Potomac, MD. You can access more information at DanKrell.com.  @dankrell

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