There may come a time that you discover something wrong with the house, and
you may be upset or disappointed with your home inspection.
Intermittent Or Concealed Problems
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 and basements only leak when specific conditions exist.
Some problems will only be discovered when carpets were 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.
We Always Miss Some Minor Things
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 $2,000 problems. These are the things that affect people's decisions
The main 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, with some minor repairs, the roof will last a few more years.
Last Man In Theory
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
the roof leak is his fault or not. 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.
Most Recent Advice Is Best
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.
Why Didn't We See It
Contractors may say "I can't believe you had this house inspected, and
they didn't find this problem". There are several reasons for these apparent
1. Conditions During Inspection
It is difficult for homeowners to remember the circumstances in the house,
at the time of the inspection. Homeowners seldom remember that it was snowing,
there was storage everywhere in the basement or that the furnace could not
be turned on because the air conditioning was operating, et cetera. It's
impossible for contractors to know what the circumstances were when the inspection
2. The Wisdom Of Hindsight
When the problem manifests itself, it is very easy to have 20/20 hindsight.
Anybody can say that the basement is wet when there is 2 inches of water
on the floor. Predicting the problem is a different story.
3. A Long Look
If we spent 1/2 an hour under the kitchen sink or 45 minutes disassembling
the furnace, we'd find more problems too. Unfortunately, the inspection would
take several days and would cost considerably more.
4. We're Generalists
We are generalists; we are not specialists. The heating contractor may indeed
have more heating expertise than we do.
5. An Invasive Look
Problems often become apparent when carpets or plaster are removed, when fixtures
or cabinets are pulled out, and so on. A home inspection is a visual examination.
We don't perform any invasive or destructive tests.
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.