I’ve had people ask why they need a home inspector and a pest and fungus inspector. Can’t the housing inspector just do both reports? In response, I ask: if you went to an optometrist to check your eyesight, would you expect him to diagnose bursitis in the big toe? No, you wouldn’t. It’s the same here: different specialties.
Home inspections are conducted by people who know how to build houses, are competent in checking things like electrical systems, plumbing, and whether the home complies with current building standards. They test the heating and air conditioning system by turning it on and placing a thermometer on the vent. They check smoke detectors, make sure doorknobs fit snugly and work properly. Check the polarity of the outlets and whether the house is tied to the foundation. Note whether there is insulation in the attic or under the house.
They then write a comprehensive report with recommendations on how to make your home safer and compliant with current building codes. What they won’t do is tell you if there’s fungus growing under the bathtub or powdered bugs in the basement under your house, because if they don’t have a license to do so, it would be against the law to release that information.
To work as a pest and fungus inspector, a special contractor license is required. These are the people who know how to check for mold, dry rot, termites, bugs, and all sorts of other signs of problems you might have to deal with. Pest inspectors won’t tell you if the insulation is bad, but they will tell you if there is cellulose residue under the house. This means wood trimmings, sawdust or old formwork left over from construction, which can be a tasty buffet for hungry termites.
In addition to home inspectors and pest and fungus inspectors, there are also inspectors who specialize in roofs, manholes, septic systems, and other structural matters. In addition, there are people who check public records so that you are aware of any natural disasters that may affect the property, from fires to earthquakes, floods, and proximity to any military regulations. Your realtor can provide a list of reputable inspectors.
Checks are necessary, but they are not infallible. Inspectors can only report what they see, so if furniture is blocking access to outlets, the home inspector won’t rearrange the room to check for reverse polarity. If a homeowner puts down linoleum to hide rot on the bathroom floor, the pest and fungus inspector won’t be able to know.
Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, it’s best for everyone to learn as much as possible about the issues before the escrow closes. Therefore, as a seller, you must do your best to ensure that the checks are as thorough as possible. Provide access to every nook and cranny. Share your home inspection results with other inspectors so they can take a closer look if needed.
Full disclosure is not only ethical, but also required by law. Sellers must disclose anything they know or should have known that could influence a buyer’s decision to buy a home.
If there is information that could change the buyer’s mind, you absolutely want him to get it so he can change his mind before the escrow closes, not after.
People don’t complain when prices go up. They don’t care about a coded bathroom renovation without permission if someone else is willing to buy the house for more than they bought it. But when the value of a house drops 20 percent and their employer says they need to move out of state, the buyer will tell you that he would never have bought the house if he knew he didn’t have a permit. And the seller will be obliged to make restitution.
Get inspections. Make them accessible to everyone. Offer potential buyers the opportunity to go through additional screening. Talk about anything and everything you can think of, even if it’s minor. Keep receipts for each repair and offer buyers copies of these receipts. This is the right thing to do, and while additional checks may be more expensive up front, they can save you a ton of money in the long run.
If you have questions about property or property management, please contact me at [email protected] or call (707) 462-4000. If you have an idea for a future column, please share it with me, and if I use it, I’ll send you a $25 gift certificate to Shat’s Bakery. To view previous articles, please visit www.selzerrealty.com and click “How’s the Market”.
Dick Seltzer is a real estate broker who has been in business for over 45 years.