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Buying a New Home – Inspections

Buying a new home

Are you considering hiring an independent contractor to inspect major home systems such as electrical, plumbing, HVAC?? I would recommend having a qualified roofer inspect the roof. Depending on the age, or if there is any evidence of structural cracking, that an engineer be consulted for a professional opinion. This will add to the expense of purchasing, but will give a much better assurance that all is in good condition.

A whole lot of things can be wrong, or go wrong, with a house. Many of them we as potential purchasers or renters would not discover before we had the place bought and paid for—we would not even know where to look! Very few of us are experts in such things. That is why, when we find a house we think we’d like to buy, we go to the trouble and expense of employing inspectors who do have professional expertise to uncover the failures and defects that could mean serious structural problems and expensive repairs. We hold them responsible for doing what we can’t do.

There is a problem here, however. Those inspectors are not “responsible”. They have no liability for any mistakes, oversights, or misjudgments they may make. Let me give you an illustration. A couple for whom I recently did an estimate had just bought a house in this area; they had had it inspected before they bought it, but the house turned out to have serious structural issues that the inspector either didn’t discover or didn’t reveal to the couple.

Is the inspector “responsible” for his negligence? Of course. Is he liable? No—only to the extent of the cost of the inspection; he doesn’t have to pay a penny toward the cost of putting right the problems that he overlooked. This is the rough equivalent of a surgeon who has performed a successful operation—but is not liable for the fact that he accidentally left a scalpel in the incision, or for the cost of the additional surgery to remove it!

What can be done? Very little, is the likely answer. So if you are at present in the business of buying a home, be very, very careful who you hire as an inspector; ask your Better Business Bureau, go to reputable firms and get recommendations from friends and neighbors. Take the trouble to inform yourself about possible problems and ask the inspector specific questions while the inspection is taking place. And be aware that you have a very great deal at stake here, while he has almost nothing at all…!

~John Freeman – Cutting Edge Painting, Inc.

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