Homeowner maintenance inspections are becoming more and more popular in Minnesota. About a month ago I had a full week where all I did was homeowner maintenance inspections. Not a single real-estate transaction all week.
That's not to say that the real estate market is slow; sales are certainly up. It's just that most purchase agreements in Minnesota only give home buyers five business days to get their new home inspected. Because of that, we typically don't schedule any real-estate transaction inspections out past five business days, but when it's a homeowner maintenance inspection, most folks don't mind waiting a week or two to get the inspection done.
A maintenance inspection is essentially the same as a standard home inspection, but the inspection is done for the current owner. Most of these homeowners have been in their homes for over ten years, and they may or may not have had their home inspected at the time they purchased it. One small difference between a buyers inspection and a home maintenance inspection is that we don't test the appliances during a maintenance inspection. Homeowners already know about every little funky issue with their appliances; they don't need me to test out the burners on their stove for them. We do inspect the installation of the appliances though.
Another difference between a buyers inspection and a homeowner maintenance inspection is that we sometimes go a little 'Mike Holmes' on the house by cutting into stuff or taking stuff apart that we wouldn't normally do for a traditional home inspection. While a traditional buyers inspection is subject to a purchase agreement with standard language saying it's a non-invasive inspection, we don't have those kinds of limitations with a maintenance inspection. Usually, the homeowner is right there with me for the maintenance inspection. If I'm concerned about water intrusion below that basement cabinet in the corner, I'll ask the owner if I can drill a hole in the back of the cabinet and stick a borescope in there to check it out.
Just last week I inspected a home in Maple Grove for a homeowner who had water in his in-floor ducts, and we removed the supply plenum coming off the furnace to get a look in the ductwork right next to the furnace, which revealed where the water was most likely coming from.
I think most home inspectors enjoy getting to the bottom of stuff like this, and homeowners appreciate the extra work involved to get to the bottom of questions. Win-win. Everyone's happy and I sleep better at night.
Think of a maintenance inspection as a checkup visit to the doctor or dentist that need only happen every five years or so. A maintenance inspection will help to prioritize a home improvement list, and to hopefully find out about small problems before they turn into big ones. In some cases, a maintenance inspection will reveal that what was thought to be a small problem has already turned into a big one.
A maintenance inspection also gives homeowners a chance to have a professional home inspector answer questions with a completely unbiased viewpoint.
Is it normal for the lights to dim like this when the AC turns on? Is my deck still safe? Can I leave that buried fuel oil tank in the yard when I sell? My roofer said the roof should be replaced; does it really need replacement this year, or can it wait? Should I invest in new windows or more insulation in the attic?
The home inspector isn't there to sell anything. We're just there to give unbiased, accurate information.
When someone has a specific problem with their house that they want to get to the bottom of, or they just have a few particular issues that they want to have addressed, I call it an a-la-carte or single item inspection. We do a lot of those, but the price of a troubleshooting inspection for a particular issue is typically about half the price of a full inspection. In most cases, we end up doing full inspections because a homeowner is dealing with a persistent problem that nobody can get to the bottom of. The owner has been meaning to have several things looked at by various professionals, and this is the owner's chance to get it all done at once in a matter of hours.
At most single item inspections, I end up walking past a number of other major concerns that jump out at me... does the owner know their downspouts drain right against the house? does the owner know they're missing kickout flashing and water is probably pouring into the wall behind the siding every time it rains? does the owner know their dryer vent is clogged and creating a fire hazard? ... but I usually try to keep my mouth shut unless it's a safety issue, and even then, it needs to be brought up tactfully. A homeowner's home is not their castle; it's their baby.
If you have a persistent problem with your home that you want to get to the bottom of, you want help prioritizing repairs, you'd like to know the overall condition of your house, or you'd like to get an unbiased opinion on home improvements, contact a professional home inspector to conduct a maintenance inspection.
If you'd prefer to conduct your own inspection, check out these two blog posts from last year on how to conduct your own inspection:
These blog posts were focused on conducting cursory home inspections while looking at real estate in the Twin Cities, especially at older houses in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. In the near future I'll have a follow-up post on how to conduct a maintenance inspection on your own home.