You finally got an offer on your house, and the buyer had a home-inspection done.
The inspection report says several items may not be up to standards or are in need of repair or replacing. What do you do next?
You have been informed about items or issues in your home that you did not know about. Maybe you knew about them but didn’t have the time or know-how to fix them. Do you really have to replace your old water heater or dishwasher for the buyer?
Most real-estate agents representing buyers recommend having a home inspection before completing a sale. They do it, of course, to protect the buyer from unknown or undisclosed issues and to give them a better understanding of the house they are about to buy.
Joel Schmitz, owner of Sherlock Homes Inspection Service in Phoenix, says sellers — and buyers — should remember the report is based on a “visual inspection of the property as observed at the time of the inspection. It should state what items are in need of immediate major repair and any recommendations to correct, monitor or evaluate by appropriate persons.”
A report might say something like, “The water-heater tank is heavily rusted, or the roofing is brittle and may be at the end of its useful life.” It may also advise that the issues be further reviewed by a qualified and licensed contractor.
If you as the seller don’t agree with what a home inspector found, you can have your own inspector come in to give a second opinion. Remember to have a licensed Arizona home inspector do that. Uncle Bill or your handy neighbor will not carry any weight on these issues.
“You also have to separate the significant structural problems mentioned in the report from the aesthetic issues,” Schmitz says. “OK, the door lock on the bathroom doesn’t work. It’s not a big issue to most buyers, and they will not mandate that it be repaired.”
The report may mention appliances or operating components in the house that may need replacing. But what is much more important is that the inspector has not found really big problems, such as cracks in foundations.
“Generally, little cracks in a wall mean that there has been some settling — a very typical situation,” Schmitz says. “But when all the doors in the hallway stick or don’t latch, or the door frames are out of square, that could mean a more significant and troubling foundation problem.”
Another issue might be remodeling that may not measure up to the building code or workmanship standards. That’s why it’s always important before starting a big project in your house to get permits when the work involves structural modifications, electricity, gas lines or changes in water lines, as well as additions to the floor plan. And always use a licensed and qualified contractor. Sometimes a home inspector may question those types of situations, and if you don’t have the proper documentation on who did the work, you may be saying goodbye to a buyer.
“We’re not doing code inspections,” Schmitz says. “After all, codes change all the time, and it’s sometimes difficult to know what the code was when the work was done. Different cities adopt the codes at different times. But a report can talk about whether some situations don’t meet general building and safety standards. It’s usually best to upgrade those areas. That often becomes the buyer’s responsibility.”
Remember, as the seller, you don’t have to fix anything but the warranted items; generally, those are considered to be certain items that are necessary in order to live in the home, such as air-conditioning, electricity and plumbing.
Only the city or jurisdiction where the house is located can inspect and enforce adopted building codes.
If you disagree with a Realtor or prospective buyer about possible code violations, you can call the city to discuss them. You can even have a city building-department inspector come out to see who is correct.
Other problems that may arise in an inspection:
• Appliances.Installers don’t always use best practices while connecting them. Dishwashers are a prime example. The appliance worker hooks up the dishwasher but fails to set the hose loop high enough under the sink to stop draining water from backing up into the dishwasher — thus potentially contaminating dishes.
Most recently, Schmitz says, he has found that installers fail to set up anti-tip devices to keep your oven from tipping over on you — or worse, on a small child.
• Insufficient attic insulation. Homes in Arizona need from R30 to R38 in their attics. If you have an older house that doesn’t meet those standards, an inspection may determine that.
• Improper outlets.GFIC outlets (ground fault interceptor circuits) protect against electrocution by faulty appliances in the kitchen and bath.
If the report states that there are missing devices, install them. You don’t want to be liable if someone is injured because you did not take care of it.
John Gluch of HomeSmart Realty in Phoenix also advises homeowners to repair these three common problems before putting their homes on the market or having an inspection:
• Peeling exterior paint. “It’s not uncommon in Arizona to have peeling paint because of our climate. But if you do, it will always be nailed by appraisers and the home inspector. If your home is selling for under $300,000, the buyer may be thinking about an FHA loan. If that house has peeling paint, that’s often a red flag for the FHA.”
• Any evidence of roof leaks. “Maybe you had a leak in the roof once upon a time, and you had it fixed and it didn’t leak since. That’s great. But if you failed to repaint the dining-room ceiling after that and the drywall has brown rings, no one is going to believe your story.”
• Signs of termites. “Do a little visual inspection before you sell your home to see if you have termite trails on the foundations. Then have your house treated before listing it. It won’t cost you that much and it will save a lot of trouble.”
Generally speaking, no house is perfect, and the home inspector’s report is not a work list for the buyer. If the inspection turns up problems, most buyers and sellers end up getting them fixed before escrow or by including money in the final settlement of the sale to pay for the new roof or rusty water heater.
When buyers ask for repairs, remember you will soon be in their shoes. If you are selling, you may also be buying. If you say, “I’m not going to fix anything,” you may be saying goodbye to this buyer. And now because you’ve been told about all the problems in your home, you need to disclose those issues to the next buyer who comes around.
Of course, you can always hire a home inspector to look over your house before a buyer comes along, but as Schmitz says: “That almost never happens.”
Rosie Romero, Special for The Republic