If you're buying a house... (free advice)

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT use a home inspector recommended by your real estate agent. Don’t do it. Just don’t.

The reason should be obvious but, in case it’s not–the Realtor will know somebody, undoubtedly. The Realtor also wants to sell the place and wants a commission. Real estate agents are salespeople and they are into overcoming all objections. The person the Realtor knows will be someone inclined to overlook things that might negate the sale. (Maybe not, they could be honest, but do you really want to take the chance?)

So. Get a referral from a friend. Get a referral from your plumber. Get a referral from a local disaster mitigation company (you know, the people who come in and mop up when a system fails).

Do not let your real estate agent tell you the timetable doesn’t work for the home inspector you’ve selected but she knows someone who can get in there right away. This is classic.

Just call me “one who knows now.” I was stupid. Don’t be stupid. Get someone with no connection to your real estate agent, the seller’s real estate agent, or the seller him- or herself.

Come on now. You can’t write an OP like that without telling about the problems that resulted from hiring the inspector recommended by the real estate agent.

Actually I’ve found that in general house inspections are only sort of worthwhile.

I’ve had great inspectors and bad ones but the end result is that they are not responsible for anything they did or did not find. One house we bought the inspector missed several items but the most obvious one was that the AC had been ON FIRE. They passed the AC on the inspection and 6 months later when we went to turn it on and it didn’t work the repair dude pointed out that the entire inside of the unit was burned and melted. No recourse from the inspector and by that time nothing we could do with the previous owner either.

Definitely have one done but be present when they’re doing the inspection and read the entire report not just the summary.

Maybe in a couple of weeks when my house is put back together…

Can’t they be sued if they “miss” obvious flaws? I’ve owned two houses without an inspection and it worked out, but I was young and, in retrospect, doubtless foolish.

I’ll second not using the other party’s inspector, too - get your own inspection done, by an inspector that you have personally researched. We ended up doing our own inspection before we sold our house, after some prospective buyers used what we were pretty sure was their brother-in-law (or other relative) to inspect our house, and came back with a laundry list of bogus findings. Next time we sell a house, we’re just going to do that right away - get our own inspection done, and make it a feature of the listing.

This. I have a family member who bought a house a few years back in the fall, and it soon became apparent that the basement flooded in the spring summer. It wasn’t a particularly snowy winter or rainy spring, but there was standing water in the basement.

Then, we noticed, “hey, see these marks on the wall? These are high water marks, aren’t they?”

Well, despite how obvious the water marks on the wall were (in retrospect), the inspector found no sign of of water in the basement. Nor did the previous owners disclose that there had ever been flooding in the basement.

Well, $20-30,000 of re-grading the property later, the basement doesn’t flood. But it was basically impossible to pin that cost on anyone, even though the previous owners quite obviously lied about it, and the inspector was either lying or negligent.

I understand caveat emptor, but I thought the whole point of an “inspector” was that they were supposed to be knowledgeable about things and prevent various states of disrepair from being hidden during a sale.

The contracts I’ve seen limit damages to a refund of the inspection fee. Is this enforceable? I suppose it depends on the state, the contract, and the circumstances. IANAL, but I know some of you are.

Just passing time until Hilarity N. Suze coughs up the story.

We are in the process of buying a house and the very best thing we’ve done for ourselves is hire a real estate lawyer. Not only is she dealing with all of the stuff lawyers normally handle (contracts and such) but she has given us incredible referrals for inspectors, contractors, mortgage bankers, and other professionals that we know have our best interest in mind. She has more than earned her fee.

If you want to understand just how clueless your ‘home inspector’ could be, just look up what’s required to become one in the state where you are buying. My sum total of experience is as an owner of a couple different houses, but I can become a home inspector given enough money and the ability to sit a test.

Another place to look for referrals would be insurance companies. They use home inspectors to deny all sorts of coverage. They can also point you toward structural engineers (also used to deny coverage). Depending on what you’re looking at, a structural engineer might give you a better idea of the condition of the house.

Also, usually home inspectors come into the scene after the bid has been accepted. The bid is usually contingent on passing a home inspection. Hence the reason that you don’t want the referral from any of the real estate agents. Because a bad inspection can either cost the seller money or kill the deal all together.

Another place to maybe find a referral would be the local HUD office, since they have to have their houses inspected on a routine basis.

AND, here’s my FREE ADVICE. If you are looking at a mortgage, consider this. If you buy a house that has a low enough payment that you can add an amount against the principle equal to 1% of the principle, you would have your house paid off in @ 7 years (and it would totally screw with mortgage backed securities if a significant portion of the population started pre-paying their mortgages).

I don’t think home inspectors add much value, but aren’t they usually required if you want to get a loan?

I used one on a personal referral and he said the only problems were cosmetic. The place needed $60,000 in mechanical and structural repairs and mold remediation.

I used the inspector recommended by my realtor on my current home expecting him to be worthless. He actually spent all day inspecting the place and gave me a 75 page report with the most pressing issues first. I knocked $15,000 off the price of the home to replace the AC and spending two weekends of fixing these issues saved me from causing thousands of dollars in water damage.

YMMV but in the future I’m calling the second guy for sure.

I second the advice from the OP.

My advice is to follow the inspector around and see what they are doing. The inspection of our current house was so cursory (done initially by the realtor’s recommended guy) that I was stunned. He started to write his report and I said “Were you not interested in looking in the attic, or at the furnace?” !!!

That unfortunately seems to be accurate. Alberta is working on creating a licensing program to try to reduce the damage done by incompetent people claiming to be home inspectors.

Does no one watch Holmes Inspection?
It has been a learning experiance. I pity whoever is selling the next home I buy.

I am reading this with great interest since if we can get past the sales contract stuff, I will be looking for an inspector. Our agent (who is only working for us, sellers have their own agent) seemed to be extremely up-front about inspectors. He discussed 3 with me and then sent a follow-up email with that same info. He has one he recommends highly, but she is far more expensive (twice normal cost)–but you get photos when she is done. Middle guy is less expensive and no photos. Last guy was licensed, but that’s about all he had going for him aside from his lower price. There was another inspector he liked, but she lived farther away and would charge travel fees to get to our house, putting her in the ballpark with the first one. Given these options, it’s difficult to believe he is trying to swindle us to make the sale. In fact, due to some financial issues that the seller is having, my guy and their agent, who are already splitting the commission, have adjusted their take downward (less than 3% each, which would be their split of the normal 6%).

I just don’t see our agent, who has been simply wonderful, trying so hard to cheat us that he would risk putting us in the positions some of you have been in. The house is in a small town about 400 miles from where we presently live. The house price is under $100k, so nobody is getting rich on this.

I suppose I could call the HUD folks–that seems like a good idea–and bounce those names off them. Perhaps realtors in small towns–where shoddy behavior cannot be kept secret–are more scrupulous? At any rate, I will heed the advice here and get a second opinion before hiring anyone. Just in case.

As a buyer, I would never trust your home inspection report.

I have sold several homes in my life and one thing my wife forgets during each one is to NOT get excited when an offer comes in. It is most likely not really an offer (not legitimate anyway). It will be a lowball offer or have many strings attached or something to make it not really an offer but an attempt to, well, basically con you.

Even if the offer has a reasonable price/after negotiation with reasonable strings attached…do NOT get excited. It will most likely be pulled away from you after the ‘inspection’. I to have seen the ‘inspector’ be obviously a shill for the buyers in order to try to talk huge reductions in the price and if you do not agree they walk. So, all along, they were never legitimate buyers only predators trying to con you.

Only AFTER the buyers accepted the offer after the inspection can you get excited.

It drives realtors/buyers up the wall but I will NEVER take my home off the market for any buyer until they accept the contract after the inspection. I’ve been told I am unreasonable about this and that it seems suspicious to legit buyers but the house stays on the market until sold and if you don’t move fast enough or nit pick around until another buyer offers…tough.

This times ten. I was present when the inspection was done on my house and followed the inspector around like a lost puppy. I learned a lot from him about houses and appliances and stuff. It also probably helped that I’ve known the guy for years.

I just want to point out that for first time buyers or others who don’t know much about the process, it is very important to remember that in general the real estate agent you deal with is probably working exclusively for the seller. Which means you should take everything they say with a huge grain of salt. In the past this was by far the most common arrangement, yet of late the role of a buyer brokerage has become more popular. In short, this type of agent works on behalf of the buyer, and may be very well worth looking into.

Much depends on the state of the market. It is all very well to insist on strict inspections and to attempt to negotiate prices down based on inspections - works perfectly in times and places where it’s a buyer’s market.

Doesn’t work so well where there are bidding wars going on. Why should the seller care for an offer contingent on inspection, when they can get one that isn’t?

Of course, one may say, one should not buy in such a market - just wait until the market cools off, or the bubble bursts. Again, that depends. In my home town of Toronto, I bought roughly seven years ago, and people were saying ‘wait until the market cools’ - they had been saying that for years; and they are still saying it now.