When it came time for Appleton Farms to renovate their farmhouse, they wanted to carry the same principle they use in their farming to the work on their buildings. To do that, one of the first questions they asked themselves was: what is sustainability to me?
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While the market continues to reach new levels of competitiveness and desperation, buyers continue to make compromises to purchase a home. Waiving financing, inspection, and other contingencies, and even using escalation clauses or other measures to secure a home has become the norm. Many people would never dream of waiving an inspection, and others are set on doing so. This article is for all the people in between. Home inspectors have been discussing this phenomenon and why its happening and we all have our own opinions of the cause and potential consequences of this trend. It has always been my opinion that the reason for this trend is from lack of experience. The market is filled with newer buyers, inexperienced agents, and sellers that are in a position of dominance at an all-time high. I work with many experienced agents, some of which have been through hundreds of inspections and can tell you several the reasons a home inspection can go bad. If an agent has only been selling real estate for a few years, there is typically a low number of transactions they have been through and as of late an even lower number of actual inspections. When you put a new buyer in a position where they are desperate for a house, they are likely to consider waiving an inspection and many agents don’t feel it’s appropriate or don’t have the experience to forcibly talk them out of waiving their inspections. The purpose of this article is to bring up some of the reasons to not skip out on your inspection.
Reason One: The house has a huge problem. I start with this, because I think many people see this as the only risk of waiving an inspection, so it makes sense to start with the most obvious. It is no surprise to many that a home can have problems that result in significant expense. A home inspector may identify an issue like a significant foundation problem, history of a fire, active knob and tube throughout a home, indications of an underground oil tank contaminating soil, aluminum wiring throughout a home, polybutylene piping throughout a home, a large-scale termite issue, extensive renovations that are subpar, and so on and so on. I could name many singular problems that I have stories of that result in costs of over 100k in repairs. I would say more commonly found in older homes, but any house could have a problem that is a big deal and is expensive to fix. We all know this happens, but I find myself surprised how frequently it does happens. In any case, it makes the list and can certainly be a game changer for a new buyer.
Reason Two: The house is generally in disrepair. The distinction here is there is no need for any one singular issue. Many old homes may involve an older person passing away or a house that became unaffordable for its owner and in situations like these it seems to take time to hit a breaking point. Many old homes go through years and years of neglect prior to being sold. Many homes are in general disrepair meaning they have a long list of repairs needed, many of them substantial. For example, a typical home that needs a lot of work may need a roof, all new decks, windows and skylights, a new heating system, a new water heater, all new insulation, all new electrical, all new plumbing, new exterior landscaping, a new kitchen, bathroom renovations and so on. These are common problems but will add up to well over 100k worth of expense and when pointed out during an inspection may change a buyer’s view of a property.
Reason Three: There are conditions that are significantly unsafe. Most people don’t really spend much time looking at their home and thinking about safety. If people did have safety in mind, they may also lack the understanding of how all the home’s systems work together and can create unsafe conditions. When I think of safety, I think of the obvious stuff. For example, unsafe electrical work, deck and stair issues, chimney and venting issues, heating or water heating systems, gas leaks and other problems. There are also many less obvious things like mold issues, combustion air issues, high radon levels, or even plumbing related problems that can be just as dangerous but much harder to detect. In a perfect world everyone would have their house fully inspected by a professional annually…but that never happens. The bare minimum in my mind is having a professional inspector in to review your house when you purchase and its pretty horrifying to think about that being skipped entirely. Many inspection reports have 50+ safety concerns that get identified and the good news is even if you waive your inspection, you can at least address this one with a home inspection after you buy.
Reason Four: You need some general home knowledge. Many new buyers know little about their home. As the new generation becomes less and less DIY, the knowledge of maintaining a home by yourself disappears. The trades groups are shrinking, and most millennials understand the importance of hiring a competent contractor and are less likely to fix things themselves. A home inspection can be a fantastic way to get to know your house. This is hugely important in my mind because of several reasons. You should know what systems are in your home and generally a little about how they work. For example, understanding how to shut something off in an emergency can save your life. Additionally, many contractors out there are going to do things substandard. A little knowledge can help you identify someone who is doing things right or wrong even if you’re not an expert. The relationship with a home inspector should be a life long one and it never hurts to have your own expert to reach out to as you tackle homeownership. Getting general knowledge can also be solved with a post purchase inspection even if you can’t get an inspection prior to owning a home.
Reason Five: because some areas of the home will never be otherwise entered. A home inspection that was recently completed uncovered the fact that nobody even knew there was a crawlspace. Part of a home inspection is to document limitations and go where nobody else will go. Opening electrical panel covers, going in crawlspaces, climbing into tight attic spaces, or even saying what we are not doing provides clients with important information. I try and get wherever I can because areas like inside the electrical panel or hard to get into locations tend to be where most of the problems are. Walking through finished rooms and places people spend most of their time gives you very little insight into the condition of a property. Home Inspectors recommending sewer scope inspections, lead inspections, air quality investigations, asbestos testing and other limitations also results in significant insights into a property. Some who make the decision to waive an inspection don’t even realize the depth of what they are not looking into, and a home inspector can help with that.
These are just a few obvious thoughts that came to mind. There are numerous other considerations like negotiation or when you go to sell what repercussions will come up from overlooked items, but we can’t discuss all the potential risks. These are what I consider the most obvious and they are a good starting point for an inexperienced buyer. As always, talking to a home inspector about the potential risks is often the most prudent approach.
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