Piedmont Association of Home Inspectors

When Things Go Wrong After The Inspection

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When Things Go Wrong After The Inspection
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Homes are built with a combination on natural, synthetic, and mechanical components.  Like people and cars, homes need ongoing maintenance to continue to function properly.  Even with ongoing maintenance things will break down.  Failure to address small issues can and often does lead to more costly problems.  Gutters will clog; cleaning them routinely can prevent deterioration at the eaves and water intrusion.  Changes in landscaping can create water intrusion problems.  It is wise to have a bi annual inspection of your HVAC system by a reputable licensed HVAC contractor.  Having a licensed reputable plumbing contractor drain the sediment from you water heater and replace the sacrificial anode can drastically extend the life of your water heater.  Maintaining the paint and caulk on the exterior reduces wood rot and water intrusion.  Replacing one mechanical component can have an effect the way other systems function.


When Things Go Wrong  There may come a time that you discover something wrong with the house, and you may become upset or disappointed with your home inspection.


Intermittent Or Concealed Problems  Some problems can only be discovered by living in a house.  They cannot be discovered during the few hours of a home inspection.  For example, some shower stalls leak when people are in the shower, but do not leak during the inspection because we do not stand in the shower for several minutes while the water is running.  Some roofs and basements only leak when specific conditions exist.  Some problems will only be discovered when carpets were lifted, furniture is moved or finishes are removed.  Unethical sellers will conceal known problems before the inspector comes in an effort to avoid getting asked to pay for repairing the problems.


No Clues   These problems may have existed at the time of the inspection but there were no clues as to their existence.  Our inspections are based on the past performance of the house.  If there are no clues of a past problem, it is unfair to assume we should foresee a future problem.


We May Not Note Some Minor Things  Some say we are inconsistent because our reports identify some minor problems but not others.  The minor problems that are identified were discovered while looking for more significant problems.  In purchasing the home we trust you made an on-site personal examination of the property prior to writing an offer and addressed issues you saw when writing the contract.  The intent of the inspection is to find the larger issues that affect people's decisions to purchase


Contractors' Advice  The main source of dissatisfaction with home inspectors comes from comments made by contractors.  Contractors' opinions often differ from ours.  Don't be surprised when three roofers all say the roof needs replacement when we said that, with some minor repairs, the roof will last a few more years.


Last Man In Theory  While our advice often represents the most prudent thing to do, many contractors are reluctant to undertake these repairs.  This is because of the "Last Man In Theory".  The contractor fears that if he is the last person to work on the roof, he will get blamed if the roof leaks, regardless of whether the roof leak is his fault or not.  Consequently, he won't want to do a minor repair with high liability when he could re-roof the entire house for more money and reduce the likelihood of a callback.  This is understandable.


Most Recent Advice Is Best  There is more to the "Last Man In Theory".  It suggests that it is human nature for homeowners to believe the last bit of "expert" advice they receive, even if it is contrary to previous advice.  As home inspectors, we unfortunately find ourselves in the position of "First Man In" and consequently it is our advice that is often disbelieved.


Why Didn't We See It  Contractors may say "I can't believe you had this house inspected, and they didn't find this problem".  There are several reasons for these apparent oversights:


1. Conditions During Inspection  It is difficult for homeowners to remember the circumstances in the house, at the time of the inspection.  Homeowners seldom remember that it had not rained in days, there was furniture/storage in the area or that the furnace could not be turned on because the air conditioning was operating, et cetera.  It's impossible for contractors to know what the circumstances were when the inspection was performed.


2. The Wisdom Of Hindsight  When the problem manifests itself, it is very easy to have 20/20 hindsight.  Anybody can say that the basement or crawlspace is wet when there is 2 inches of water on the floor.  Predicting the problem is a different story.


3. A Long Look   If we spent 1/2 an hour under the kitchen sink or 45 minutes disassembling the furnace, we'd find more problems too.  Unfortunately, the inspection would take several days and would cost considerably more.


4. We're Generalists  We are generalists; we are not specialists.  The heating contractor may indeed have more heating expertise than we do.


5. An Invasive Look  Problems often become apparent when carpets, walls, ceilings, or insulation are removed, when fixtures or cabinets are pulled out, and so on.  A home inspection is a visual examination.  We don't perform any invasive or destructive tests.


6. Lack of Understanding  Many contractors believe they know the scope of a home inspection even though they have never performed a home inspection.  It is not unusual for a chimney sweep to clean a chimney, run a $5,000.00 pipeline camera up the flue and say I can not believe the home inspector did not see the crack.


7. Other Considerations  Most every profession has some unethical people.  Unethical contractors will quickly blame the inspector, make you believe the inspector is liable, and attempt to talk you into an immediate repair.  They often use fear to motivate you to make repairs right away knowing if they succeed in their efforts no one will be able to determine if the problem really existed or was as extensive as they claim, but they end up getting paid for a repair that may not have been necessary or nearly as expensive to correct.


Not Insurance   In conclusion, a home inspection is designed to better your odds. It is not designed to eliminate all risk. For that reason, a home inspection should not be considered an insurance policy. The premium that an insurance company would have to charge for a policy with no deductible, no limit and an indefinite policy period would be considerably more than the fee we charge. It would also not include the value added by the inspection.

If something went wrong after your home inspection and you believe the inspector should have caught it.  Call the inspector and give them a chance to address the problem before undertaking any repairs.  It can save you in case you have run into an unethical contractor who is out to make a quick dollar.  We are sure you would want to be treated in the same manner. 

PAHI Members: 

2004 Piedmont Association of Home Inspectors / PAHI 
The PAHI website was built as a refrence tool, free information source, and to be one central web site where homebuyers, home sellers, and realtors can obtain answers to almost all questions they may have regarding home inspections.  In order to accomplish this task most of this information is gathered from other web sites and sources including, but not limited to: EPA, CPSC, HUD, NRSB, ALA, IAQA, Code Check, Mike Holt, Inspect-NY (Daniel Frediman), ASHI, etc.  The Piedmont Association of Home Inspectors and its members have not authored any of the opinions on this web site.  Users of this web site agree to hold The Piedmont Association of Home Inspectors and its members harmless and realase all liability for any inforamtion contained on www.pahi.org or any site that www.pahi.org links to including but not limited to: www.inspectorpaul.com www.sherlockcarolinas.com www.arrowhomeinspectionservice.com www.carolina-homepro.com www.schomeinspections.com www.a-prohome.com www.aohomeinspection.com/ www.betterhomeinspection.net www.downunderinspections.com