Reluctant Renovator: Inspect Now or Pay Later
A home inspector looks beyond a room’s outdated décor to assess issues of structure and safety. (Photo by Kim Moldofsky)
When it came time for a home inspection, I was dreaming of a “Holmes Inspection.” On HGTV’s reality show of the same name, Canadian contractor Mike Holmes goes beyond what’s allowed in a typical inspection, breaking down walls and ripping apart roofs in an effort to assess the condition of a house. You would not believe the crazy things he finds.
Granted, there’s a bit of staging in “reality” TV. Licensed Illinois home inspectors are not permitted to damage a house that their client doesn’t own yet. Indeed, our inspector wouldn’t even pull up a piece of the wall-to-wall carpeting to confirm the presence of wood floors. It wasn’t our house, so that wasn’t his job.
According to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, a home inspector is required to review the interior and exterior, including at least two of the following: HVAC, plumbing, electrical, structural, foundation, roof, masonry and structure.Ideally, your inspection should include all of these.
A detailed whole-house review takes time, but it’s worth it. A thorough inspection may impact the purchase price (though I think it’s mostly first-time buyers who dream of huge post-inspection refunds from the sellers). The results might cause a buyer to walk away from the sale. At the very least, a good inspection will help the prospective owners learn about the house and help prioritize the inevitable to-do list once the sale closes.
I didn’t get my Holmes Inspection, but I’m certain I got the next best thing. More than a decade ago, I heard about a Tom Corbett of Tomacor, a Chicago-area home inspector so thorough, the mere mention of his name causes real estate agents to shake in their boots.
Tom’s not the kind of guy who comes in, flips the light switches, runs the water and hands you a report. He takes his time. He goes deep and so does his knowledge. But still, he can’t see through walls or tear them down, nor does he have a crystal ball. He was up front with us about what he would review and the limits of his abilities.
In fact, it rained buckets on the day of our inspection, which minimized the roof inspection, but did not prevent it altogether. On the plus side, the rain also caused a puddle in the basement due to a foundation crack. Better to see this on inspection day than after we’d moved in.
Tom suggested we update the electric panel, something we included in our renovation plans. He also cautioned us that our HVAC system would be inadequate, especially after we’d enlarged the living space. We left the current system in place, waiting for the day the newish furnace conks out, but this recent heat wave makes our choice regrettable.
In the end, Tom left us with an inspection report and a binder full of information on home maintenance. Despite what seemed like a long list of issues to address, Tom felt the house had good bones. We agreed and we ultimately closed the sale. Given the substantial renovation we were planning, the bones mattered most.
I feel for friends who’ve paid for home inspections, only to face thousands of dollars of upgrades or repairs shortly after moving in. I mean, it’s one thing to have a sense of the repairs ahead, even if the list of them is daunting, but it’s another to get stuck with a pricey emergency fix because your home inspector missed it.
If you’ve got concerns about your inspector that deserve more than a critical review on Angie’s List, consider filing a report with the State of Illinois.
Tell us - do you have a home inspection horror story?
Kim Moldofsky knows how to rock a tool belt, but her favorite technique for fixing things in her home is calling up tradesmen she finds on Angie’s List. That said, she’s learning a few things as she works to turn her “new-to-us” 1950s Cape Cod into a modern home in Chicago’s suburbs. She documents her home improvement projects at Reluctant Renovator.com.
The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie’s List.