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Magic wand? I'd change the home inspection contingency form.

If I could wave a magic wand to make my job as a home inspector easier, I'd change the home inspection contingency form. Dig.

When someone buys a home in Minnesota, they typically include an addendum to their purchase agreement, called the Inspection Contingency. This is typically a one-page form that says the buyer wants a home inspection. It gives the buyer the option to cancel the purchase of a home without any penalties if they're not happy with the inspection results. I'm simplifying things a bit here, but that's the gist of it. The form is very basic but does have a spot for the seller to check a box to say whether or not they'll agree to allow the buyer to perform intrusive testing or inspections.

home inspection contingency form

If I were in charge, there would be several more boxes on this form that the seller had to check. This would force the seller to actively acknowledge their responsibility to make their home accessible for home inspections. This home inspection checklist would look something like this:

Seller _DOES  _DOES NOT agree to make the attic(s) and crawlspace(s) readily accessible for inspection.

Seller _DOES  _DOES NOT agree to make the electrical panel(s) readily accessible for inspection.

Seller _DOES  _DOES NOT agree to make all appliances readily accessible for inspection. This includes items such as the furnace, water heater, boiler, etc.

Seller _DOES  _DOES NOT agree to make the garage readily accessible for inspection.

I believe that a tremendous amount of time and effort could be saved by having some simple language like this added to the home inspection contingency form that almost everyone in Minnesota uses. If the seller doesn't agree to anything, negotiations take place right there and then; not while the home inspector is at the house. Of course, the term "readily accessible" would need to be defined, and some cover-all statement added to make the rest of the house readily accessible. I'd copy the definition right out of the Home Inspection SOP Glossary created by the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI):

Readily Accessible Available for visual inspection without requiring moving of personal property, dismantling, destructive measures, or actions that will likely involve risk to persons or property.

This has been the focus of my last two blog posts, which have simply been building up to this post.

I've given this a lot of thought, and I really can't see any downside to this. Do you agree? Disagree? Please share your thoughts.

Author: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections

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Four simple things for sellers to do before the home inspection

This is a home inspection checklist for sellers, to help make sure that the home inspection can be completed once, the first time, without any hitches. It’s extremely frustrating for everyone involved in a real estate transaction if a full home inspection can’t be completed during the first trip, especially if it’s because of something that could have been easily avoided.

When my company schedules a home inspection, we send out a home inspection checklist to the listing agent for the property asking them to pass this list along to the home sellers. This list ends up being followed by sellers approximately 5% of the time, but my goal is to get that number much higher. Here's a slightly wordier version of the list that we send out:

Make sure everything is accessible.

Blocked electrical panelsThis is the most important part. If we can’t get to it, we can’t inspect it, and that means an incomplete inspection. Here are the most common things that home inspectors need access to:

  • The attic. I just wrote a blog post/letter to home sellers last week, specifically addressing this: Dear Home Seller, please let me into your attic.
  • All electrical panels. If there are paintings, refrigerators, stored items, air compressors, or similar obstructions that prevent the inspection of the electrical panel, they should be moved. If the electrical panel cover is caulked in place or has drywall mud covering over the panel, this needs to be made accessible.
  • The furnace, boiler, water heater, and other similar mechanical equipment.
  • The crawlspace, if applicable.
  • The garage. If it's a detached garage, keys or a garage door opener should be provided.

Make sure the utilities are on.

Gas, water, and electricity should all be on. If any of these are off, this will mean an incomplete inspection.

Secure any pets. 

Pets that may run out of an open door should be secured or brought somewhere else.

Open curtains, blinds, and window shades.

Opening blinds, shades, curtains, and other window treatments takes time but is an important step to inspect windows. Brackets and cords deteriorate over time. When they fail under normal operation during the home inspection, can you guess who gets blamed for 'breaking' them? Not only that, but I think that houses with unobstructed windows are simply more inviting.

I've seen larger and more comprehensive lists, but everything else after these four items starts to get into the obscure and uncommon stuff. I prefer to keep the list short and sweet. I have more to say on this topic, but I'll wait until next week to share that info. I don't want to muddy this week's message with my opinions. Yet. Stay tuned.

Author: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections

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