(A portion reprinted from American Society of Home Inspectors, By Permission of Alan Carson, Carson Dunlop & Assoc.)
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 when you simply turn on the tap. Some roofs may leak when certain weather conditions arise (such as wind driven rain). Some problems will only be discovered when carpets are lifted, furniture is moved or finishes are removed.
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.
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. We note them simply as a courtesy. The intent of the inspection is not to find the $200 problems; it is to find the $1000 problems. These are the things that affect people’s decisions to purchase.
A common 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 the roof would last a few more years with some minor repairs.
While our advice 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 or not the roof leak is his fault. 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.
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.
“I can’t believe you had this house inspected, and they didn’t find this problem.”
There are several reasons for these apparent oversights:
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.