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The Value of a Home Inspection
Old 08-28-2010, 08:37 PM   #1
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The Value of a Home Inspection

DD bought a house in Feb. It is in a fairly remote area of northern Canada. I encouraged her to pay an inspector even though the cost was about double that charged in a major urban area (think 2 hours travel each way). IIRC, about $650.

She paid, he did it, no problems found. A few weeks ago, I went up to help her do a bathroom reno. It included new tub, fill in window above tub, new floor and remove tile from walls. Not major, but not minor.

Needless to say, during the reno we found major problems. These included a five foot section of exterior wall that was rotten right through to the aluminum siding, pic follows:


This is what we saw when I removed the aluminum siding from the outside, entire wall rotted away.

Anyhow, I fixed this, but I think a competent inspector should have found it. I've suggested that she send pictures and ask for a refund. I might add that if he doesn't want to make the refund, she just might make the pics available to anyone who asks.

After many hours, the bathroom now looks like this (not quite finished):

I suggested we look at the "home inspection " report. Interestingly enough, it doesn't mention a bathroom on the main floor. I keep wondering if there is a claim (beyond the costs of the flawed inspection where he misses the bathroom problems because he misses the bathroom).
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Old 08-28-2010, 08:57 PM   #2
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My BiL has been doing inspections (here in the US) for 13 years now. My take is that one should have an inspection done - but like lawyers (and many other professions) take the time to find out the reputation of who you are hiring.

If things were rotted "right through the aluminum siding" then YES - bring a lawsuit against the negligent inspector. But if even a trained eye could not spot what was uncovered - and I'm not saying this is the case - when you removed the waterproofed drywall (it was that, right?) then it means buyer beware.

From the looks of things it was rotted through the exterior. How did nobody catch that? Looks like even untrained eyes would have seen that walking around the structure.
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Old 08-28-2010, 11:05 PM   #3
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This could also be fraud on the part of the seller if they filed a disclosure form. Consult with a real estate lawyer ASAP and document this throughly.
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Old 08-28-2010, 11:08 PM   #4
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I'll offer an alternate view. If water/moisture either from condensing on the cold window, then ran into wall, or if water from the top edge of the tub worked it's way into the wall, it then rotted the 1X board sheathing.
On the outside, the aluminum siding may not show the damage.

Aluminum siding is nailed through the slots at the siding's top edge, into the sheathing. The best nailing job puts as many nails as possible through the sheathing and into a stud, rather than just through the sheathing out between studs. And each piece of aluminum siding interlocks over the one below. So... it is possible for the wall sheathing to go squidgy and lose it's nail-holding and structural strength over a limited area, and still have the siding look OK. The siding just bridges across the damaged sheathing. Standard length aluminum siding is 12' 6" long, and end joints are staggered. That and the interlocking means it could bridge over and look OK even though a small area is no longer solidly fastened down.

I guess if one could get a good hold on an area of siding, not easy, no real hand holds, and pull, then it could bubble outwards some in the damaged area. But one would have to suspect that, and grabbing a couple feet over it would be OK. So unless something obviously doesn't look right from the outside, I think it would be missed.

Back on the inside... If I saw a tub with the caulking on the top dirty and looking like crap, with mildew behind, I think at least that should have been flagged.

In the end, I think there isn't anything much you can do, other than fix it , which you did. Home inspections are more the obvious kind of things, and test heating/cooling etc. They really don't know what is going on inside a wall. Even termite inspections have an out, they can't inspect inside walls. When one tears into a wall, you never know what you will find.

The new work looks good!
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Old 08-29-2010, 01:19 AM   #5
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You more or less nailed it. Nothing obvious from either side, aluminum siding supported itself on the outside, plastic surround on inside.

My questions is more like "why am I paying an inspector, if he can't tell there are problems?".
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Originally Posted by dfdski View Post

If things were rotted "right through the aluminum siding" then YES - bring a lawsuit against the negligent inspector. But if even a trained eye could not spot what was uncovered - and I'm not saying this is the case - when you removed the waterproofed drywall (it was that, right?) then it means buyer beware.

From the looks of things it was rotted through the exterior. How did nobody catch that? Looks like even untrained eyes would have seen that walking around the structure.
The siding covered it up, no obvious problem to an untrained person like me. And no, it wasn't "waterproofed drywall", it was two layers of water-logged drywall. However, it couldn't be removed (or even seen) until the purchase was complete.

I'm just PO'd about the cost of the apparently worthless inspection. Other than my labour, the fix was not that expensive.
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Old 08-29-2010, 01:35 PM   #6
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I would call the inspector, ask him to come look at something that you hope he wouldn't miss the next time.
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Inspector blues...
Old 08-29-2010, 02:29 PM   #7
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Inspector blues...

If the damage wasn't visible from either the inside or the outside, how could you expect the inspector to see it? Inspectors aren't paid to dismantle the house and look for anything that might possibly be hidden between the walls. I was a realtor for several years in the US. The basic home inspection is typically what's known as a "systems" inspection, where the inspector tests the heating, cooling, plumbing, electrical, appliances, faucets, etc. They usually check the fireplace to make sure it's going to draw like it should. They also go around & test all of the electrical outlets, the GFI's etc. They do look for any obvious problems but they really aren't there to do a comprehensive structural inspection. UNLESS that was what they described to you in thier printed brochure, contract etc, or told you verbally. I'd be willing to bet that's not what they represented to you though. I understand that many people think that's what they're getting when they hire a home inspector, but a "systems inspection" and a complete "building" or structural" inspection are two different animals, and as such are priced a lot differently. To have an inspection that includes all structural (foundation, roof etc) items, and for the inspector to certify in writing that all these items are in good condition, will cost you considerably more than what you paid for a basic systems inspection. I never had a customer/client who was willing to pay for a full inspection on a property, and some of them didn't even want to part with the $150-$250 for the "systems inspection". I always encouraged them to get the systems inspection at a minimum. Sometimes it did turn up discrepancies that the buyer could use for a bargaining tool with the seller. Also...even a systems inspection varies between individual inspectors. Most of the inspectors I've dealt with had a disclaimer on their contract forms that stated that it was specifically a "systems" inspection and therefore not a guarantee of the structural soundness of the home....aka...if the house falls down, not his problem...but he promises the faucets and elec sockets and diswasher are good...lol!
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Old 08-29-2010, 04:36 PM   #8
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As MartyB says, home inspection seems to be of greatest use as a bargaining tool. The inspection reports I've seen have so much CYA language in them they seem pretty useless EXCEPT as a third party imprimatur of authority document to beat a seller up with. That said, if the sheathing was rotted but hidden from view by aluminum siding the inspector would have been hard pressed to discover it - he might have commented on wet drywall if it was evident at inspection time. Might also note that an inspector DID comment on some foundation cracks in a house Sis and BIL were looking at recently and talk about good (no ongoing problem) vs bad cracks in foundation walls - that was something that made that inspection well worthwhile to them. For the risk and amount of money being spent and the bargaining tool inspections are worthwhile for most.
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Old 08-29-2010, 05:53 PM   #9
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Systems inspection (within reason) and noticeable structural inspection.

(1) I say "within reason" because my BiL was sued for a faulty AC in a house that he inspected in early January when the temps were below 20 degrees. (I think he won his end of things, meaning the buyer sued 4 different parties.) He cannot - nor should not - be held liable for a system he simply cannot test.

(2) Noticeable structures. Many home buyers are focused on everything from neighborhoods to floor plans to schooling to, well, anything BUT the house itself. They don't notice - or shrug off - evidence of basement flooding, roof leaks, or shifting in the structure.

To the OP - I really do know what you were saying and apologize for sounding flippant in my earlier post. I'm not sure what the going rate is anymore for a inspection (~$250?) but IIRC it is an elective expense. I really meant to point out that if you thought the inspector missed something obvious (and really, from your pictures I thought he/she did) than bring a legal action against the inspector.

Not to hijack this thread (hoping it isn't) but what about the required inspections? I remember some radio advertisement in the 80s/90s about all these "additional costs.... bug inspection, mold inspection, and most of all Radon inspection.

Well guess what? When I bought my home in 1998 that last one had a reading of 40 when 4 was the threshold. I had to negotiate with the contractor (he put in the mitigation system, I'd deal with the finishing the landscaping) and the result was a reading of 0.04. That system is running perfectly to this day.

I still don't know how I feel about it all. I cost me a bit under $2000 for the landscaping and I got a fair deal in the negotiations. But - Radon? Is it really that big a deal? Nowadays I'm curious if having a mitigation system is a selling point. I mean, they told me that 40 reading was one of the highest they had ever seen in the area....
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Old 08-30-2010, 12:27 PM   #10
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Interesting posts from different perspectives...

I paid for a house structural inspection for my house... the guy did check all systems and also the structure... I was surprised on the amount of detail I got in the report.

However, he had enough legal boilerplate language in there that something that was hidden like the OP states would not be something you could probably win... but he did find enough items that we had to negotiate some fixes before we would move in... one that I would not have known was an electrical panal that was not good and was actually a fire hazard..

Since moving in... I have found a leak around the tub in the master and I am sure we have some problems with the hidden parts... but I caulked it up and we will live with it until we redo the bath and then fix everything...


As someone mentioned... termite inspections are tough... I was a licensed exterminator many many years ago... and the house I sold had termites in it!!! I did not know it until we tore out the bath... they had come up through a pipe through the slab and had gone up one stud to the upstairs floor joints where there was a closet... no evidence in any wood you could test, no outside appearance etc. etc.. If I had inspected MY house, I would have said there were NO signs of termites.... wonder if I could sue myself
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Old 08-30-2010, 01:14 PM   #11
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I had an inspection done late 2008 on my current house. I was told it's meant to inform the buyer on the condition of the house and to teach you about the house and how thing work and about potential costs of repairs to expect within 5 -10 years or less. I believe this was done, but would be most helpful to buyers who don't have much or any experience with homes. The biggest positive for me was bargaining for the items found in the report, leaking gutters, poor/old flat roof and mold in the attic. Of course I had to pay $300 more for a mold specialist to say it's mold in the attic, but I was able to get $2500 for the mold and $3000 for the flat roof and $500 for a faulty sump pump from the seller. Obviously, they wouldn't just take my word on these problems, it had to come from the inspector's report to get these credits. The gutter leaks weren't even caught by the inspector, I had to tell him about the leaks he missed (more than 5-6). Also, he used a moisture meter on a drywall repair (3" circle) in the garage, said there was a high reading. As soon as I bought the house, I smashed it with a hammer and found this "wet" spot was just putty that never hardened...everything behind and around it were dry as a bone.
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Old 08-30-2010, 01:28 PM   #12
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You more or less nailed it. Nothing obvious from either side, aluminum siding supported itself on the outside, plastic surround on inside.
My questions is more like "why am I paying an inspector, if he can't tell there are problems?".
The siding covered it up, no obvious problem to an untrained person like me. And no, it wasn't "waterproofed drywall", it was two layers of water-logged drywall. However, it couldn't be removed (or even seen) until the purchase was complete.
I'm just PO'd about the cost of the apparently worthless inspection. Other than my labour, the fix was not that expensive.
I guess another view of the situation would be how many other problems he helped her avoid or at least negotiate. After all the wall did manage to fulfill its purpose until you guys discovered the damage during another project.

Home inspections are like "wasting" money on insurance premiums.

I learned a tremendous amount walking around with our home inspector. There were several places where he explicitly warned us that he wasn't going to look for damage even though it could be hidden behind walls. There were also places that weren't in trouble but needed some work to avoid further deterioration.

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But - Radon? Is it really that big a deal? Nowadays I'm curious if having a mitigation system is a selling point. I mean, they told me that 40 reading was one of the highest they had ever seen in the area....
If it's any consolation: yes, radon is a big deal.

When I was a 1980s nuclear-engineer-in-training, we were told that science's knowledge of radiation effects was based on horrible incidents like Hiroshima and reactor accidents... detailed data was scarce and of course the results were not considered reproducible by further experimentation.

10 years later the World Health Organization decided they finally had enough data to make all the radiation factors 3x more dangerous. I could understand a revision of 10-20%, perhaps even 50%, but c'mon-- 200%?!?

Your house's radon emissions are analogous to cigarette smoke. Maybe they're inherently harmful but your genotype is resistant to the damage. Maybe you don't spend enough time exposed to the radiation but maybe kids spending a lot of time in the basement would accumulate a lifetime of physical/genetic damage in a few years. And maybe it would take years for the radon exposure to show up in your system as cancer, just like 1970s Navy asbestos exposure is just now beginning to show up as mesothelioma in that generation of veterans.
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Old 08-30-2010, 01:56 PM   #13
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Seems like a latent defect that an inspector would not have caught on a typical 1-2 hour "inspection" that most houses undergo (at least in my part of the SE US). Like others describe - a "systems check". Electrical (do all outlets work? are they around 120 v, are GFCI's installed in the right places), plumbing (leaks? toilets run, bolted down correctly?, faucets drip?, is the water hot on the hot faucet, cold on the cold, etc), HVAC (does it blow through all vents, does it suck at the returns, is it hot/cold (depending on season), does the internal temperature and humidity "feel" or measure to what it should be or the thermostat indicates), doors, windows, obvious issues like sagging floor, water stains on walls/ceiling, crawl through crawlspace and in attic, inspect basement. Get on roof, check condition of shingles, look for damage, problem spots in flashing, slope of roof, gutters, etc. All basic stuff that a competent DIY guy (or gal) could do with a decent checklist.

I didn't go for one on my current house, but instead let my construction worker father in law give it a once over, and I also did a thorough walk thru. I found a fair amount of stuff and made the seller fix it or give me an allowance (around $5000 worth or so IIRC).

My stereotype of an average know-nothing house buyer is that they are focused on what color the trim paint is going to be after they buy the house, not on whether all the house systems work correctly. And they aren't necessary willing (or able) to crawl in the crawl space, or up on the roof and in the attic to inspect everything. Most wouldn't know what they are seeing even if they did get into every nook and cranny.
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Old 08-30-2010, 08:09 PM   #14
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as an owner trying to sell... i hate inspections... with all the lawsuits going on they will mention anything they remotely think will be a problem and thus cost a seller many potential buyers... i mean afterall it is a used home... can you imagine having an inspector check out a ten year old car you want to buy and what the report would say?

... however, if i was a buyer i would definitely have a home inspection done...
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Old 08-31-2010, 11:11 AM   #15
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as an owner trying to sell... i hate inspections... with all the lawsuits going on they will mention anything they remotely think will be a problem and thus cost a seller many potential buyers... i mean afterall it is a used home... can you imagine having an inspector check out a ten year old car you want to buy and what the report would say?

... however, if i was a buyer i would definitely have a home inspection done...

When I sold my home, the inspection came up with a good number of 'problems'... and they were mostly real for the new homeowner... at least something that they should know...

The purchaser only wanted me to do a couple of things... if they had asked for more the deal would have fallen through... as you say, it is a used home...
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Old 08-31-2010, 11:47 AM   #16
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I think a new home should be inspected too. Many builders have taken shortcuts and some construction employees didn't have the necessary skills.

For example: when the home next to us was built the siding contractor installed the lap siding backwards because he thought the back looked nicer. Husband (who knows his stuff) told the purchaser when an issue surfaced. Husband had taken pictures as the work progressed and shared them with the new owner... both flashing and moisture retarder were a concern. A home inspector would have caught the fact that the siding drip edge was on the wrong side, that it was installed wrong. Unfortunately the builder didn't want to deal will all of my husband's concerns and the purchaser didn't insist that all was corrected. When we moved I noticed that there are signs of trouble down the road with that house.
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Old 08-31-2010, 02:31 PM   #17
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We did our own inspections on the 1939 built house we bought. Knew enough to know what we were getting--a very used house but sturdy in its own way.
Did pay a grand for an inspection of the boat, though. That is very worthwhile and valuable, both for insurance purposes and for knowing what you are getting. And still they miss stuff that isn't visible without dismantling the boat.
I'd probably not pay for a home inspector ever, but that's just because I grew up in with the ultimate handyman Dad who taught me everything he knew about construction defects. I was the GC when we built our current home.
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Old 08-31-2010, 02:46 PM   #18
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It amazes me that many buy a boat without a survey!

It also stuns me that yacht owners don't maintain their bottoms or zincs.
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Old 08-31-2010, 03:05 PM   #19
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It amazes me that many buy a boat without a survey!
The U.S. Navy won't even buy a boat without the dreaded Inspection & Survey (INSURV).
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Old 08-31-2010, 03:09 PM   #20
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On Bainbridge Island, as a seller, we had the home inspector from hell (survived but then it was a house made in heaven). Now in Portland, there is a boat surveyor with comparable skills and loyalty to the buyer.
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