People shopping for homes, with the idea of finding the perfect home, sometimes learn looks can be deceiving once they receive the results of a home inspection.
Realtor James Laurens, with Compass360 Realty Inc. in Brunswick, said an inspector looks at both the interior and exterior of a home for signs of wear and tear or structural issues, the electrical, plumbing and heating and cooling systems, crawl space and kitchen appliances.
But an inspector can only inspect what he or she can physically access. Walls aren’t torn down and toilets aren’t removed, but any issues discovered will be noted in a report with a recommendation for a licensed contractor to evaluate further.
“In my 16 years of selling real estate in the Golden Isles, I have never had a ‘perfect’ home inspection,” Laurens said. “No matter how diligent a homeowner is in taking care of their property, there will always be something that pops up. I have definitely had inspections that were only two or three small items, and I’ve had the opposite end of the spectrum where the buyer’s were very overwhelmed with the issues and backed out of the sale immediately.”
People can always ask for a second inspection, but Laurens said an inspector is not a contractor.
“They come in to test systems, check that systems are up to code, and visually inspect for things that are obviously wrong or may potentially be wrong,” Laurens said. “Having a contractor come in with the inspection list and actually open up that wall, then they can give a much more detailed assessment of the issue and can get you a price to repair, or let you know that it’s a non-issue.”
For example, Laurens said an inspector might note a water stain on the ceiling that turns out to be from a roof leak that has been repaired. The fix is simply a coat of paint over the water stain.
“It’s always a good idea to bring in a contractor after the inspection to further evaluate the inspector’s findings,” he said.
The most common issue is regarding the exterior air conditioning unit, where the insulation around the copper lines is often missing. It’s an easy fix, he said.
“More often than not I’ll see kitchen/bath/exterior outlets that either don’t have a GFCI-protected outlet or the current GFCI is non-functioning,” he said.
Other issues are settling cracks in drywall, stucco, etc., because of the sandy soil.
“It is extremely common to have some settling over time, and all cracks should be noted by the inspector, but they typically will make a determination if they believe it’s normal settling or potentially a structural issue that needs further evaluation from a licensed contractor,” he said.
Laurens said most home inspection issues can be worked out between the buyer and seller.
“At that point, the inspector can be called out to do a re-inspect of the work done, either as part of their original agreement or for a small fee,” he said. “Sometimes the buyer will ask for a reduction in the sales price or for the seller to pay some of their closing costs to offset the cost of the buyer doing the repairs after closing. It all just depends on the situation.”
Home inspections give everyone involved a clear understanding of the home and its systems, including the life expectancy of heating and cooling systems and the roof, which helps buyers prepare for future costs.
Realtor Sherrye Gibbs, with Sea Palms Coastal Realty, said inspectors look at HVAC systems, interior plumbing and electrical systems, the roof, the attic and visible insulation, walls, ceilings, floors, doors, the foundation and structural components.
“Clearly, the inspector isn’t going to tear a house apart to inspect piping and wiring, but the more an inspector can access, the more complete the final report will be,” Gibbs said.
After the inspection report, the buyer will also the seller to replace or repair items of concern.
“Perception of the cost to repair or replace is normally a sticking point and requires careful negotiation especially when the seller is saying ‘no way’ and the buyer is saying ‘fix everything,’” she said.
While there is no such thing as a perfect home inspection, Gibbs said there are some that are minor, especially when sellers get their own home inspection before placing their house on the market.
This provides the seller a chance to identify and address problems before showing it to prospective buyer and when a seller is willing to correct/repair/replace ahead of time, it’s a win-win for the buyer and the seller, she said.
Deal breakers are big ticket items such as requests to install a new HVAC system, a new roof, or when the buyer asks the seller to reduce the price of the house to a price that is no longer acceptable, she said.
“In a real estate transaction with a willing buyer and a willing seller, the inspection concerns are addressed to the satisfaction of both parties,” Gibbs said. “There are times when the buyer will request a follow-up inspection, but because the buyer has the opportunity to perform his/her own walk-through inspection prior to closing, a second inspection is not always necessary.”