So Mike walks on to a car lot and endures some painful small talk with the salesman so he can “earn” the right to test drive his possible next car. The salesman gets the keys and they drive the car together in mostly awkward silence until Mike asks about the turbo and if this model had the old diverter valve which was prone to malfunction (because that is what Google told him to ask), the salesman fumbles for a ambiguously phrased response that doesn’t even make sense to himself because honestly he doesn’t know, after all he is not a mechanic, he is a salesman. They get back to the lot after a 5 minute drive, Mike steps out of the car really excited about it but he can’t show the salesman because if movies have taught us anything they are all evil venomous vipers who pounce at the smell of a potential car buyer (I jest of course I actually wanted to be a car salesman for a large part of my life). So Mike hems and haws loud enough for the salesman to hear but quiet enough so it sounds like he is just talking to himself. He kicks the tires (even though he doesn’t know what he is supposed to tell from that)and slides his hands across the car, a la Nicholas Cage and a ’67 Mustang, Elanor, in Gone in 60 Seconds. He opens the hood to look at something that he barely understands and gets down on ground to look under the car to inspect something he definitely doesn’t understand. So after enduring awkward small talk, even more awkward silence, clumsily half answered questions, a short 5 minute test drive and borderline molestation and voyeurism of an inanimate object; Mike drops twenty thousand dollars at an interest rate that makes him pay almost double that over the term of the loan on a car and he still knows next to nothing about other than the radio display looks high tech.
What if Mike was able to take this car to a qualified mechanic who was able to really inspect the car, he would feel much more confident in his investment in the vehicle that will be transporting him and his loved ones almost every day.
Purchasing a home is almost the same thing but with much larger numbers and even greater effect on the home buyers life and family. I have seen too many homeowners purchase a home because it was in the location they wanted and it was decorated with the hip and trendy style found on HGTV. If you have seen an episode of “Flip or Flop” chances are the seller did too and is merely copying highly trained realtors, to the best of their ability, to fool you into buying the house. So how do go from walking into the basement and looking at the boiler, or furnace, or heat pump, or “whatever that thing is” and judging its potential life span based on how shiny it looks, to buying with confidence that all systems have been inspected and explained to you. I’ll give you a hint, it’s what I do for a living. I’ll give you another hint, it’s by getting a qualified Home Inspector to inspect your potential home…..that’s my last hint.
Hiring a qualified Home Inspector is one of the best things you can do to ensure your investment in a house.
A properly trained one can identify the age of system components; possible, if not already present, failure of components as well as educate the home buyer of recommended maintenance that will aid in extending the life span of a component. I was just at a home with another inspector who looked at a Brock brand (very nice oil water heater manufacturer) water heater that looked very clean and shiny. He informed the homeowner it was a great brand and he should have nothing to worry about. I looked even closer at the unit and discovered it was a model from 2001, almost 14 years old, which is beyond the life expectancy of a standard water heater. I informed the potential buyer and he had the homeowner replace the water heater with a new one of same quality, to the tune of almost $2000.
Now a properly trained and thorough home inspector will look at things other home inspectors will not. At another inspection the outside temperature was well below 65 degrees, which means you cannot adequately or safely inspect the air conditioning system for the house. The A/C condenser unit was covered with its winter jacket (which is a good practice) as well as many other outdoor objects being stored for the winter, i.e. chairs, a table, an umbrella and some outdoor games. Now it is not required that an inspector move these objects, but in my opinion I would be doing my client a disservice if I did not at least put my eyes on the unit. So after moving all the items and the jacket it was clear the seller was trying to hide that an entire corner of the unit was completely destroyed, meaning that A/C would not work at all in the house. The potential buyer then was able to ask that this A/C unit be replaced before purchase saving her thousands.
And the best kind of properly trained and thorough home inspector is one who used to be a contractor. As you would guess it, that is me. I was a contractor before entering into the home inspection field. This arms me with the unique ability to intimately know the entirety of a home beyond what is taught in classrooms. I have had experience tearing down walls and finding hidden “gems” of homeowner handy work which was terribly dangerous, fixing previous mistakes, retro fitting new fixtures into old systems as well as building homes and commercial building from the footing up. It is this distinct knowledge that helps me to see oddities in a home and explore beyond to find out why and what it means to the potential buyer. For instance, modern air conditioning systems have air exchanges or air handlers that encompass a coil that the refrigerant passes through that the air is forced around, cooling the air that cools the house. If an air exchange is in the attic it requires a fault drain, or pan drain. This is a drain that should be easily seen so if it begins to leak the homeowner can see it and realize there is a leak in the system. A house I was just at did not have one, so I inspected further. I climbed into the attic and the air handler seemed in fine condition at first inspection. I started to look for the drain and discovered the homeowner had run a new flex drain line into the main vent stack of the house, so the leak in the handler was not able to be discovered by the homeowner if the A/C system was turned on. Ignoring the possible infiltration of water and sewer gas into the attic, the potential home buyer wouldn’t have discovered there was a serious problem with the A/C until it was too late.
So, when buying a car, get a mechanic to look at it first. When buying a home, get a qualified, thorough home inspector who has real hands on experience in whole home construction.