What is a nitpicky home inspection report? A Realtor's view.

By
Real Estate Agent with HomeSmart Realty West CalBRE #01458572

I just read a home inspector's blog asking "What is nitpicky?" and thought the answer deserves a blog entry of its own:

  • Being nitpicky has nothing to do with the actual documentation of the condition of the property—it is what it is. it has more to do with how that condition is reported in writing, and the bedside manner of the home inspector.

I use my home inspector because he's educational and extremely knowledgeable yet has a great bedside manner, which is very important to first-time home buyers (FTHB). Even the FTHB will think that a missing screw or a pointed screw at the electric panel is too nitpicky until one educates them about the possible ramifications relating to one of the four D's: disability, death, damage, or destruction. One of the inspectors for the buyers on one of my listings produced a report that went like that:

  1. crack in window in living room
  2. drawer stops missing in kitchen
  3. door knob loose at front entrance
  4. Zinsco electric panel present
  5. sink clogged in bathroom one
  6. stopper missing in bathtub in bathroom two and at all sinks
  7. stucco cracks in exterior walls
  8. trees too close to roof and siding
  9. negative grading at rear

That's all well and good, but I'm a Realtor and don't want to pretend to be a home inspector by interpreting home inspection reports. I understand documenting the condition of the property, but I would have liked it if he could have educated those buyers about what those conditions meant. When that particular home inspector gave a report to the buyers with 72 items like that, they moved on to a different house. I, of course, knew what all of those meant, but is the buyer going to listen to the listing agent? Probably not.

I have access to over 100 home inspection reports from different companies, although half of them are no longer in business. When a Client wants to use someone other than my recommendation, I simply pull out a copy of the reports for my preferred inspector and for their choice. Invariably they thank me for my guidance and choose my preferred inspector.

See my blog entry from a couple of weeks ago about why I refer one inspector only, and only one.

In conclusion, I'll repeat

  • Being nitpicky has nothing to do with the actual documentation of the condition of the property-it is what it is. it has more to do with how that condition is reported in writing, and the bedside manner of the home inspector.

There's only so much land on Earth, so even if the property is a haunted house, there will be someone willing to buy it.

Haunted house

Home inspectors should refrain from commenting, "Why are you buying this?" or "You should run from this house" and similar comments. There is just no way that a home inspector, after spending just a few hours with the buyer, could possibly know why they are buying a property.

I'll come to home inspectors defense with that same statement, though. There is just no way that a home inspector, after spending just a few hours with the buyer, could possibly know enough about the buyer to know exactly what to put into a home inspection report that would cause the buyer to cancel the transaction. Only the buyer knows why s/he is canceling the transaction, and sometimes it's not even related to the home inspection report.

I have met many home inspectors who believe that they are God's gift to the real estate transaction, and they act that way, too. Fortunately, in this market, about 75% of them are already out of business. No wonder.

Fortunately for all concerned, the quality and choices of home inspection software for home inspectors is getting much better, but there are still those home inspectors here in my area who use the checklist carbon report, and sometimes it is virtual he!! to try to decipher their handwriting, especially if one is "lucky enough" to get that fourth carbon copy and needs to read something off of it six months down the road (enter sarcasm emoticon-we need emoticons, ActiveRain!).

Visit my other helpful blogs (you can get all your daily comments in right here, right now!). You can find quick links to all of them by using the widget just under my picture at the upper right.

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Show All Comments
Rainer
8,332
John Coker
Family Home Inspection LLC - Virginia Beach, VA
Virginia Beach Home Inspector

Eric,

   I'm sorry but I must disagree with one of your points. I will NEVER tell a client how much something costs to fix it. Fist off there could be damage you can't see yet. That alone could cause the price to sky rocket. Also, we all know well that Contractor A will quote $1000 and contractor B will quote $2000. Or even worse, you say $500 to fix something, they buy the house, go to get it fixed and discover the actual price is $5000. You can now be on the hook for the difference.

Nevermind the fact that giving a price quote to fix something is against the SOP's of most associations and against the law in several states that required HI licences, I think it's just a plain dumb move that adds nothing to the inspection.

As for the anti-tip bracket, I mention it everytime. Especially when the appliances are new and SUPER especially when they were installed by Sears. I let the clinet know all they have to do is call Sears and tell them they forgot the anti-tip bracket. You'll probably hear a knock at the door before you hang up.

 

 

But again, as the discussion went above, it's not what you report, it's how it's reported.

 

If I said, My God, your kids are going to die because there is no anti-tip bracket, then yes I qualify as a Drama Queen,

 

If I mentioned the bracket and told them the story of how Sears got sued for HUGE money because of a $1.95 part, they understand the potential dangers but also get a chuckle out of it.

 

September 19, 2008 03:09 PM #55
Rainer
7,085
Eric Van De Ven
Magnum Inspections Inc - Coconut Creek, FL

John,

Here, in South Florida, if you don't give estimates, you won't get inspections. It is expected. I know of no organizations SoPs that says you can't give estimates. I am fairly certain it says the inspector is not required to give cost estimates, or something along those lines.

As for being on the "hook" for the difference, an estimate is just that, an estimate. It is not a cost of repair. I make sure to inform everyone present of that fact.

Regarding the statement about estimates not adding to the inspection, I will disagree with you on that. Without estimates, all you have is a list, like the one above. To the average home buyer,they are no better off with a list of things wrong than they were before the inspection. The estimate for repair, albeit, ballpark estimates, will give them an idea of what they are buying.

The Drama Queen reference took place as follows:

Eric to Client: The anti-tip bracket was not installed at the range.

Client: What is the anti-tip bracket and what does it do?

Realtor: "You don"t need it unless you have kids".

Eric, to my client: It is required and prevents the range from tipping over in the event that something heavy is placed on the door when opened. There have been some instances where this has happened and serious injury has resulted. Including one instance where a home inspector was sued. Most companies will mail you the bracket for free.

Realtor: You are a Drama Queen......and she stormed out.

September 19, 2008 03:53 PM #56
Rainmaker
1,108,114
Jim Frimmer
HomeSmart Realty West - San Diego, CA
Realtor & CDPE, Mission Valley specialist

I believe repair estimates are part of home inspections in Oklahoma, too.

Out this way, the various contractors provide estimates since they are the ones who will be doing the work. I think home inspectors do enough as it is, and already take on enough liability, without trying to provide repair estimates since they don't repair stuff, or at least aren't supposed to repair stuff on properties that they have inspected.

Sometimes my Clients will ask the home inspector or me how much something costs, and I'll defend the inspector I use quite readily from being expected to provide such estimates: "You'll have to call around and get three estimates. Then pretend like you're an Olympics judge and throw out the high and the low and take the one in the middle." I require the same from buyers of my listings when they come back and say that the doohickey will cost $5,000 to repace so they want either $5,000 in cash or a $5,000 reduction. "Just get me three quotes, signed and dated on the repair company's letterhead, and I'll be happy to recommend that my Client consider the middle one."

September 19, 2008 04:48 PM #57
Anonymous
Anonymous
guess who looses the gold medal?

John -

I've been inspecting homes for 19 years and gladly give "cost estimates" (Not repair estimates). It has everything to do with an inspection. After all, one of the core objectives of a home inspection is to identify things that can have an impact on a homes value. If you tell them they need a repair, you should be prepared and qualified to quantify your findings. They're going to want to have a measure of how much this can impact their true purchase price. Contractor repair estimates are another matter and should be sought after from contractors.

By the way, I'm a member of ASHI and NAHI and I'm not aware of any launguage in the "standards of practice" or "code of ethics"  of either association that phohibits an inspector from providing cost estimate. If an inspector want to go the extra mile, that their perogotive. SOP's are a minimum standard, A guidline to assure the client they'll at least get thus and so. Coversely, these standards are designed to minimize an inspectors obligations and liabilities. But they don't in any way limit the scope of the inspection or the magnitude of the inspectors qualifications and abilities.

 

Jim - If a buyer feels a 5K doohickey fee will make the boo-boo all better, then the seller should be presented this counter offer and accept or deny. Your not an Olympic judge, but if you act like one and disqualify your buyer with your rules of play, guess who looses the gold medal? Nope it's not the buyer.

September 19, 2008 08:19 PM #58
Rainmaker
1,108,114
Jim Frimmer
HomeSmart Realty West - San Diego, CA
Realtor & CDPE, Mission Valley specialist

You misunderstood my report.

As a buyer's agent, I tell my Clients to get three quotes and to choose the middle one. The low one is probably low quality, and the high one is probably trying to screw you. It's been my experience, and my Partner's, that the middle one, the great supermajority of the time, provides good quality, good parts, and good service.

As a seller's agent, I tell my Clients that when the buyer comes along and requests money, we need justification. One quote is not justification, so there's usually re-negotiation involved.

Realtors almost by definition are negotiators for our Clients. We do what's best for them. My sellers want to sell a property, but not at any cost. My buyers want to buy a property, but also not at any cost. That's where I come in.

September 19, 2008 09:05 PM #59
Rainer
8,332
John Coker
Family Home Inspection LLC - Virginia Beach, VA
Virginia Beach Home Inspector

You gentlemen are correct, I looked at it again and it indeed says not required to give cost estimates, not forbidden to do so.

 

But I stand by my opinion. I believe there are just to many possibilities to give a proper cost estimate on some repairs considering the limitations of our inspection. I also believe in either all or nothing. I won't give price quotes for plumbing but not roofs.

 

As for the added service to the client. Unless your 100% sure that your correct is it worth saying? Will you put that quote in writing on the report? I won't. If you won't put it in the written report, why are you saying it.

 

Again, I know many of you don't agree with me. There is no right or wrong (except for anyone who thinks the Buccaneers aren't the greatest team ever). But that is how I feel and that is how I will proceed.

September 19, 2008 09:11 PM #60
Rainmaker
659,774
Sharon Paxson
HÔM Sotheby's International Realty, BRE License 01501912 - Newport Beach, CA
Newport Beach Real Estate - HOM Sotheby's Int'l Re

Jim - I used an inspector once that actually was arguiing with the buyer. It was a mess, and I would not use him again because the buyer did not feel the inspector was in their court.

September 21, 2008 11:22 AM #61
Rainer
7,085
Eric Van De Ven
Magnum Inspections Inc - Coconut Creek, FL

John,

How you choose to run your business is your decision. I certainly wouldn't jump on an inspector because he didn't give estimates.

As for being accurate, estimates are just that, estimates. Fortunately for my Clients, I have done the work and on occasion, perform work for friends and family. Since I do, I know how much something is going to cost. If there are other circumstances, I note those in the report and put in writing that the issue may cost more than estimated and that it should be addressed prior to purchase.

I have argued with my Clients on a few occasions. One wanted me to dismantle the home I was inspecting! Cutting walls, tearing out carpets in bedrooms, etc. I told him that if he wasn't comfortable with me doing an inspection that was not evasive and destructive, he should call someone else.

Others wanted me to write up coloring on walls, broken blinds, things of that nature. Which are clearly out of the scope of inspections, not to mention frivolous.

September 21, 2008 01:36 PM #62
Rainmaker
284,358
Sandy Nelson
Riley Jackson Real Estate Inc. - Olympia, WA
your Olympia area Realtor

A good quality for a home inspector to have is to be able to put things into proper pespective. Clearly, a slow draining sink is not the same as a leaky water pipe inside the wall.

Sandy

September 21, 2008 02:21 PM #63
Rainmaker
1,108,114
Jim Frimmer
HomeSmart Realty West - San Diego, CA
Realtor & CDPE, Mission Valley specialist

Hey, Eric. I don't necessarily think that coloring on walls, broken blinds, and things of that nature are necessarily frivolous. I know that the are often outside of the scope of inspections, but as you and John have already decided, those scopes and standards are minimums, right?

If a home has 40 windows, with nice oak wood blinds on all 40 windows, and all 40 blinds are broken, that can be a significant expense to replace or repair them. I'm fortunate that I refer a home inspector who doesn't subscribe to minimum standards and will go above and beyond to help his Clients and me. He actually works as a property consultant, though, so that he can definitely go above those minimum standards.

September 21, 2008 03:14 PM #64
Rainer
13,342
Dave Culbertson
Real Living Home Team - Mount Vernon, OH

It's so important to set the right expectations with the buyer before the inspection. I always tell them that we mainly want to look at safety issues and the home inspector will add a lot of other things to help justify his check and cover his butt. After the safety and structural issues, I tell them the rest are your "honey do" list for the next few years.

But in no way, should an inspector editorialize with comments such as, "run away from this house fast", as they have no idea what the buyer's reasoning, thought process or fix up skills. They should be non-biased and objective, just like the national media covering politics ...  lol.

Dave Culbertson, Broker/Owner, Real Living Home Team, Mount Vernon, OH

September 21, 2008 03:22 PM #65
Rainer
7,085
Eric Van De Ven
Magnum Inspections Inc - Coconut Creek, FL

Jim,

I was using that as an example. Most people paint the home when they move in. One blind was broken in the home I was referring to. Furthermore, here in Florida, window treatments are considered cosmetic, and are not included in the scope of inspections or the real estate contract. They aren't going to get fixed regardless. My Clients are not concerned with minor items. As one of your local inspectors there is famous for saying "Manage your Clients expectations". Of course, I actually go on roofs and in attics, don't hide behind the SoPs, and try to find as many things wrong as possible.;)

If your comment was directed to me in a manner to indicate that I inspect to minimum standards, see here: Sample inspection report

Trust me, I exceed any national or local organizations SoPs on virtually every inspection. I have since I started my own company. I inspect every home as if I were going to buy it. Always have, always will.

September 21, 2008 03:35 PM #66
Rainmaker
1,108,114
Jim Frimmer
HomeSmart Realty West - San Diego, CA
Realtor & CDPE, Mission Valley specialist

Hey, Eric.

Here and in various other states that I'm familiar with, window treatments are attached to the structure, theremaking them part of the real estate, thereby making them part of the real estate contract. We have to be very careful as listing agents in excluding window treatments, light fixtures, custom doorknobs, and other attachments if the seller intends on taking them, even plants in the ground outside. Otherwise, they belong to the buyer as part of the purchase contract.

I can't tell you how many times I've seen plants dug up, chandeliers removed, etc. Nope. Doesn't cut it. If it's attached to the property, it's part of the property.

I don't want to discount what you say, but I would really be surprised if window treatments were not part of the purchase contract in Florida. Doesn't mean you have to inspect them, of course, but I would think that the mere act of inspecting the glass and framing woudl require raising or opening the blinds, so it should be really easy to note if any of them are broken.

September 21, 2008 06:12 PM #67
Rainer
7,085
Eric Van De Ven
Magnum Inspections Inc - Coconut Creek, FL

Window treatments are one thing, light fixtures are another.

As for what the FarBar contract says, here it is: FarBar

On lines 8-10 it says

together with all improvements and attached items, including fixtures, built-in furnishings, built-in appliances, ceiling fans, light

9 fixtures, attached wall-to-wall carpeting, rods, draperies and other window coverings. The only other items included in the

10* purchase are:

Then in line 13 it says this:

13* The following attached items are excluded from the purchase: This is where most of the time, window treatments are excluded, except in the case where they are the expensive ones and not only are they included, but in some instances so are the drapes, valances, etc.

Wandering down to line 115 which is where the inspection part comes in, we find this:

115 working condition of the item, including pitted marcite; missing or torn screens other than missing pool cage or screen

116 room screens; fogged windows; tears, worn spots and discoloration of floor coverings/wallpapers/window treatments;

117 nail holes, scratches, dents, scrapes, chips and caulking in bathroom ceiling/walls/flooring/tile/fixtures/mirrors; and

118 minor cracks in floor tiles/windows/driveways/sidewalks/pool decks/garage and patio floors.

In almost 20 years of doing home inspections, I have had only one Client ask about window treatments.The treatments in question could be replaced cheaper that they could be repairs. $50.00 at home depot.

My clients are not concerned with decorative items and I know this because many have said so. Are they going to argue about $500.00 worth of blinds or the $10,000.00 worth of foundation work? Since 99% of the time my Clients are there during the inspection, they know the condition of the paint and decorative items.

I have offered an "all inclusive" inspection report which to date, no one has wanted. That inspection includes cosmetic items as well as functional items.

September 21, 2008 07:22 PM #68
Rainmaker
1,108,114
Jim Frimmer
HomeSmart Realty West - San Diego, CA
Realtor & CDPE, Mission Valley specialist

As I suspected, FarBar includes window treatments as a standard item included in the purchase, as explicitly stated on line 9: "rods, draperies and other window coverings." Then, if you want to exclude something because it was an anniversary or wedding present, or the only chandelier from grandma's house after it burned down, etc., you go to line 13.

Same thing here. Attached items are automatically included unless specifically excluded.

September 21, 2008 09:05 PM #69
Rainmaker
1,108,114
Jim Frimmer
HomeSmart Realty West - San Diego, CA
Realtor & CDPE, Mission Valley specialist

Hey, Eric.

If there isn't $10,000 worth of foundation work, then they very likely would "argue about $500.00 worth of blinds." The presence of absence of one doesn't preclude the presence or absence of the other, and if the environment is quite sunny all the time, like it is here, and the buyer's dad and four brothers are all structural engineers and foundation repair professionals, they certainly could argue about the blinds rather than the foundation work. I learned not to presume what my Clients are or are not willing to argue about because I don't know everything there is to know about them, their past experience, the experience of friends and family, etc. I just like to have a home inspector who documents as much as possible and doesn't exclude something simply because it's not necessarily standard, or isn't traditionally included in the home inspection, or isn't within standards of practice, or whatever. Provide the Client with what the Client needs or wants and let him decide what he wants to argue about.

In my neck of the woods, window treatments are not considered "paint and decorative items."

The inspector I use offers many different service levels, and he's had all of them taken up by various Clients. It seems people moving here from those states with home inspection laws and licensing like his PREMIUM and TECH inspections.

September 21, 2008 09:12 PM #70
Rainer
7,085
Eric Van De Ven
Magnum Inspections Inc - Coconut Creek, FL

I am well aware of what your "preferred inspector" does and the services he offers. I used to offer the exact same thing,10 years ago. Over the years, I have refined my inspecting to what my Clients want while still exceeding all of the organizations Sops.

In this neck of the woods, I have never seen an inspection report with defective window treatments or event the mention of them.

I was using the foundation issue as an example. As you can see by the sample report, there are very few homes, especially now with the foreclosure issues, where window treatments would be the only thing wrong.

As you said, it would be easy to check them as I have to open them to get to the windows. I may have run into 15 blinds that didn't work in almost 20 years. I can't recall if ANY of them were the expensive ones you referred to. The majority of them were the garden variety or K Mart versions, that were covered with some type of "gook" which would probably necessitate replacement as opposed to cleaning.

I looked at the title of this thread and to me, this very discussion is nit-picking!

September 22, 2008 04:38 AM #71
Rainmaker
1,108,114
Jim Frimmer
HomeSmart Realty West - San Diego, CA
Realtor & CDPE, Mission Valley specialist

Hey, Eric.

What is nitpicky to one is not necessarily nitpicky to another, and what might be considered major to one is not major to another.

I'm familiar with one Realtor buying a home for herself that had, according to her three quotes, either $17,000, $23,000, or $53,000 of foundation repairs needed. That wasn't major to her because her whole immediate family was composed of engineers, contractors, and the like. She, however, did have an issue on what might be considered minor things because she and her family would have to hire someone to repair those items.

I'm familiar with another situation where the only thing "wrong" in the 2-year-old house was that all the screen doors and windows were missing. They canceled the purchase contract based on that. It's a longer story, and they had a legitimate reason for canceling, but nonetheless. I've just learned to get as much information as possible to inform my Clients appropriately and let them decide what is nitpicky, minor, major, etc. I'm fortunate that I refer a home inspector who has the ability and the desire to do that.

September 22, 2008 09:27 AM #72
Anonymous
Anonymous
Danny

Wow, what a great blog and good discussion. I believe most of this, as most anything in life, boils down to the inspector's ability to communicate and connect with the individuals involved.

Sandy said, A good quality for a home inspector to have is to be able to put things into proper pespective. Clearly, a slow draining sink is not the same as a leaky water pipe inside the wall.

Let me create another scenario. This "slowdrain" is not mentioned because you think it is nitpicky. The sale goes thru, and it is found that a tree root has grown thru the main drain and now the cost to repair is in the thousands. Who is the buyer going to come after? You, the realtor? Probably not. By the way, the "leaky water pipe inside the wall, may be an easier fix!

Pick a good inspector that can communicate well regarding ALL of his findings, protecting the buyer, you the realtor and him/herself as the inspector.

Now everybody go outside and PLAY!

Danny

 

 

June 30, 2009 10:31 PM #73
Rainer
89,164
David Salvato
David Home Inspection Service Home Inspector San Bernardino - Los Angeles, CA

This is the first time I spent 30 min reading a blog. Point, counter point that's what make this great. And why freedom of speech makes me proud to be an AMERICAN! And go USC' lol

September 19, 2009 12:08 PM #74
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Rainmaker
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Jim Frimmer

Realtor & CDPE, Mission Valley specialist
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