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Home Inspection Etiquette

I am often flabbergasted when I am asked by a buyer if "I have to be there?" It's a little like a woman asking if she has to be at the birth of her child. In my mind, the home inspection is the time when the buyer learns about the problems with a particular property and the important things to take care of to maintain a healthy and safe environment. It's very difficult to do this when you're on vacation and the cracked pipe I'm trying to describe is about 3000 miles away.

So, when you make your offer, be sure that you allow yourself enough time to have the inspection before or after vacation. When you arrive, leave the three-piece suit and high heels in the car and be prepared to go into the basement or crawlspace for the first time. There is no substitute to being there. Take notes or bring a cassette recorder because you will never remember everything a good inspector has to say.

Most better brokers will not say anything during the inspection. Many will expect to follow you and the inspector on the inspection, though the most professional often realize that the inspection is a time to leave buyer and the inspector pretty much on their own; the broker will usually remain nearby to answer any questions should they arise. If you wish the inspection information to remain confidential, say so.

The broker usually advises the seller to remain away on the day of the inspection. Be sure to find out how long your inspector will take and have the broker alert the seller; it is very awkward if a broker has to leave for an importunely scheduled appointment or the seller arrives home to cook dinner while you are testing the stove.

Once a buyer insisted on moving a dresser to test an electric outlet and broke the leg off. If you notice that the closet with the attic hatch is full of clothing, ask that the seller remove these before the inspection to make the hatch accessible. After inspecting an attic, there is nothing more upsetting to your inspector and the seller than a closet full of clothing covered with fallen attic insulation. The electric panel and water main should also be readily accessible, as home inspectors do not normally move furniture or boxes to get to things.

It can be tempting for some brokers to make inappropriate comments during the inspection. In the basement of one home, where there were strips of duct tape concealing, as it turned out, numerous areas of termite damage, I remarked how kind it was of the seller to mark these off. The broker responded with a comment about "what lovely people the sellers were."


By J. May

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