Inspections Keep Buyers Out of Fix


Over The Mountain Journal

March 10, 2005

By Cara Clark Morrison


Buying a home is a momentous decision, and the last thing the homebuyer wants or expects, is to find flaws and shortcomings after taking possession of a property. To prevent the pitfalls accompanying the discovery of a money pit in place of a dream home, the potential buyer, and seller, should consider a thorough inspection.


According to Andrew Griffith of Griffith Home Analysis, a 12 year veteran of the inspection business who has poked and prodded woodwork and wiring of 10,000 or more homes, the business of home inspection is in the midst of change.


“Home inspections are evolving,” he said. “When we started more than a decade ago, people wanted a home inspection to be sure they were not making a mistake in buying a house. Then, there were not widely accepted standards in the industry as they are now. Today, an inspector is looking for a wide set of problems. A good home inspector can identify a lot of problems. It’s a way to reduce your risk in buying a home.”


Griffith said it would behoove the potential homebuyer to be present during an inspection, because many times the inspector can inform the buyer of maintenance aspects and potential issues that may not be itemized in the inspection report.


“It’s very important for first time homebuyers, particularly, to be there and to learn from the home inspector,” he said. “It can be very educational. You can learn things like where the filter is located for the air conditioner or how to light a pilot light.


He says those are some fairly straightforward things that are helpful, but obviously not mandatory, when purchasing a home. More essential information may also be unveiled during the inspection.


“When you do an inspection, you hope the home will be clean and have no problems, but the reality is, you do find things you need to bring to the attention of a prospective buyer,” he said. “It’s a good idea for the buyer to be there so they can see the scope of a problem, rather than reading about it.


Griffith says no set code exist across the board for home inspections, with the standards of what brings a home “up to code” varying depending upon the county it’s in and even the municipality.


Shelby County has one code, and Jefferson County has another,” he said. “Hoover may interpret things one way, while Vestavia may interpret things another. All of these municipalities and civil governments will have different interpretations; so home inspectors will not try to bring the home up to any universal code. There really is none.”


Griffith says inspectors are particularly diligent regarding safety issues, such as wiring. He cautions that no inspection is an absolute, because like the industry, a home is continuously evolving, or perhaps devolving, which returns the issue to the importance of having an inspection.


“An inspection is like a photograph or a window in the life of a house at the moment,” Griffith said. “A good home inspector is looking at the home independent of the issue of who is buying or selling. We’re there to look at deficiencies in the home without being a party to the real estate transaction. We’re not there to look at whether it is being bought or sold.


Griffith says a report is entirely subjective, with different people placing varying levels of importance on the issues revealed in an inspection. He finds both tension and tolerance in surprising places.


“I find that people are sometimes defensive about things that may be relatively minor, and other times, they may be very forgiving for what one would see as a major defect,” Griffith said. “Occasionally a subtle crack means a lot and is a significant defect.”


Griffith says as home inspections have become more of an emphasis over the past two decades, the homes he inspects tend to have fewer problems. He sees that as an indication that many already have been inspected and any flaws fixed.


“Either a problem has been seen and fixed, or homebuilders are more aware of what we are looking for, and the problems don’t occur in the first place,” Griffith said.


Griffith said when an inspector arrives, roofs are being examined for the status of the shingles and overhangs while siding and millwork are being studied and the substructure of the house inspected. Inside, attics, ventilation, insulation and wiring are under the microscope, as well as ceilings, walls, floors electrical panel and crawlspace.


“We pull covers off heaters and air conditioners and inspect plumbing,” he said. “I get a lot of calls from people wanting to know how to prepare for the home inspection. It’s a very hard thing to answer. These things are very intensive.


Griffith does share a few tips, pointing out that as a seller, “you want to make sure you don’t show up a lot of deferred maintenance, which will cause problems for the buyer later. It’s important to have gutters cleaned and minor leaks fixed. Caulking, particularly outside, is easily done before an inspector gets there. That will save you comments on the inspection and limit the appearance of deferred maintenance.


“There are lots of show stoppers that buyers may want to negotiate up front. Some problems are difficult for a homeowner to know they have, but if they know, they may want to go ahead and get it repaired.”


Griffith said a big problem like a leaking shower pan that may damage sub floors needs to be fixed immediately. Defective heaters are a common discovery and are expensive to repair. He says it may be a good idea to have a specialist look at something like that before the inspector comes. For instance, a HVAC contractor can give the homeowner a headsup about problems, which can be fixed ahead of the inspection.


Before even listing a house, some homeowners might want to hire an inspector to alert them to issues that will come to light in a sale. It allows the seller to be fully prepared for any problems the potential buyer may have with the sale.”


“If it is performed before the seller puts the house on the market, it can adequately prepare them for the home inspection process once it occurs,” he said. “That allows them to address any concerns. If the homeowner doesn’t want to repair or address them, then at least they can be prepared for the expense and negotiate that in the sale price of the house.”


Griffith says the price of an inspection is commensurate wit how complicated the home inspection turns out to be, as well as how extensive it is.


Griffith says two Web sites with helpful information are and which list what home inspectors are aiming to detect.