Skipping That Home Inspection? These Horror Stories Will Make You Think Again.

by | BiggerPockets.com

A few weeks ago, I wrote a 48-Point DIY Home Inspection Checklist. This was not intended to be a replacement for an actual home inspection; rather, it was a pre-inspection list for you to use while you were walking through the home to help you determine if you wanted to make an offer.

I would never suggest you forego a professional home inspection with a licensed home inspector. Ever.

I mean, if you’re J. Scott and you’ve flipped 96,000 houses, you could probably get away with not having one. But chances are you’re NOT J. Scott, and you haven’t flipped 96,000 houses already.

I have done this a couple of times already, and I still get a home inspection. Every. Single. House. It has saved me tens of thousands of dollars in home repairs on properties I didn’t want to buy and has given me a great head start on knowing what needs immediate attention in houses I do end up buying.

Still not convinced you need to spend that $400-$800?

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The Time the Buyers “Saved Money” by Using a Friend

Lindsay is a personal finance blogger who writes over at Notorious D.E.B.T. Her husband was military, and they were separated during their first year of marriage while he was in Iraq and she was in the states.

They were living in Alaska when he came home, and they decided to use their VA zero-down loan to buy a house. You can read the entire story here.

They found a great house, and their real estate agent suggested they use one of his friends for the home inspection to save money. The friend “declared the home in perfect condition after spending 10 minutes glancing over it.”

Five years later, they decided to move to Colorado and put the house up for sale. The selling season in Alaska is understandably short. It didn’t sell, so they connected with a property manager to rent it for them while they moved on, thinking they’d just sell it next year.

The issues started about two years after they moved in. You see, a home in Alaska comes with its own set of unique circumstances, such as permanently frozen soil, which is very difficult to dig into.

Related: How to Get a Better Real Estate Deal by Using Inspections to Your Advantage

This home had a septic tank that was eventually declared unusable, requiring a new permafrost-friendly system that runs around $35,000.

That $800 they saved on the inspection looks like a bargain in hindsight.

If you can’t afford $400-$800 for an in-depth inspection, you can’t afford to buy that house. Period.

The Time the Buyer’s Dad Was a Contractor

Real estate agent Brett Maternowski shared the story of a client who’s father was a contractor.

“He waived the right to inspect and instead, took a look around himself. After all, he knew houses! He gave a thumbs up after a quick look around, and the deal went through. Two weeks later, I got a phone call from his daughter, upset that her house was not insurable because the two times roofed-over roof, didn’t make the grade. This cost them about $10,000 to correct, and because the repairs were deemed dangerous, caused her to have to stay in a hotel until the work was done.”

The Time the Buyers Really Couldn’t Afford a Home Inspection

Casey Tibbs, owner of Image Squared Marketing, shared his story with me.

“My wife and I bought our home in 2004 at the age of 22. We knew we were able to make the monthly payments and had built up enough credit to get the loan, but we didn’t have enough money to pay for much else and had to forego any ‘extra’ items we could. The exterior was far from attractive and clearly needed some attention, but the interior had been partially renovated a few years prior, so we didn’t have many concerns that we felt would justify the cost of an inspection.

Shortly after taking ownership, I opened the old trap door in the pantry, climbed down the worn wooden ladder into the cellar, and immediately noticed a number of water hoses that connected to a couple of double spigots. Prior to the spigots was old galvanized piping that connected to newer PVC piping. The water hoses supplied water to our bathroom. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

A few months later, we had our first of several cellar floods. These would occur when the o-rings in the water hoses would wear out. Actually, come to think of it, it was a combination of the leaking hoses, ground water and rain that pours through the foundation, and sump pumps that would eventually just die after a life of hard labor.

Eventually, after replacing the terribly inefficient old windows (bonus fail: not a single window was the same size, resulting in a huge expense for custom windows), we remodeled the kitchen & bathroom, replacing every last bit of the plumbing at that time.

It turned out to be worse than we thought — the drain from the kitchen sink included a smaller pipe that dropped down into a larger pipe. That larger pipe did not appear to connect to ANYTHING ELSE. The smell of the soggy, saturated earth when disturbed by working hands was enough to induce vomiting.

Oh! And I almost forgot about the septic system! This is great. There wasn’t one. One day, we noticed a sink hole in the yard. Eventually, that little sink hole became a BIG HOLE when the buried wooden cover of an old steel tank (makeshift septic tank…) finally rotted and collapsed. We now have a modern system. You’re welcome, nature.”

If you can’t afford $400-$800 for an in-depth inspection, you can’t afford to buy a house. Period.

The Time the Buyer Skipped the Specialized Septic Inspection

Sep Nekian, founder of CondoBlackBook, recommends his clients get the specialized inspections for high-dollar systems such as septic. (Boy, septic systems seem to be prone to issues…)

“One client who was purchasing a home skipped the septic inspection against my recommendation since septic is a specialized inspection that costs an additional few hundred dollars. It consists of fully draining the septic tank and taking video of the surface to find cracks. Some buyers see a septic inspection as a bonus for the seller if the deal goes through, since now they have a completely clean tank. But it’s worth every penny because a new septic tank will cost you at least $6,000, plus the cost of replacing the landscaping that might have been damaged in the process.

The DAY AFTER they bought the place, the septic overflowed, and they were greeted with an unwelcome flow from their master bedroom. The cost was around $10K to replace the septic and redo their landscaping, along with some interior repairs/cleaning.”

Related: Home Inspections Can Save You Thousands: Here’s How to Get the Most Out of Yours

The Time the Seller Was Hiding Something

Marie Haynes and her husband David from David and Marie are agents who recommend home inspections to all their clients.

One client skipped the inspection a few years ago “…because he felt he knew enough about home construction and repairs. It turns out that there was a crack in the home’s foundation that the seller had hidden by piling some bricks up in front of it. It ended up costing $6,000 to repair the problem, which is quite a bit more than he would have paid for a home inspector!”

The seller should have disclosed the crack — and obviously hid it on purpose to avoid a price reduction or the cancellation of the contract. But not getting a home inspection only helped the seller in this instance — and in many other instances as well.

The House is Listed “As-Is”

A common misconception is that when a home is listed “as-is,” that means you cannot have a home inspection performed. “As-is” doesn’t mean “no home inspection” — it simply means that any issues found during the inspection will not be addressed.

If you’re just starting out — or if you have to ask if you need a home inspection — the answer is always yes.

Did you skip the home inspection — and regret it? Did you get one and have it save you a lot of money when massive issues were discovered?

Please share your story below.

About Author

Mindy Jensen

Mindy has flipped numerous homes in the past 10 years, one at a time and doing much of the work with her husband. She lives in Longmont, CO, and is always looking for an ugly duckling to turn into a swan.

12 Comments

  1. Andrew Syrios

    I definitely think you should have a home inspection if you’re only doing a few a year, but if you’re buying a lot and do a detailed walk through yourself (and have an inspection when you have serious concerns, say about the foundation or electrical) I think you can get away without always having them. A lot of times, because we can’t really get the utilities on (they’re messed up anyways or it’s a bank who is particularly hard to deal with) it makes an inspection all the less valuable. But if you do it my way, definitely make sure to put in a contingency for add on repairs. And I would only consider skipping (most of) the inspections if you’re doing pretty serious volume.

  2. Jeffrey Hare

    In a Seller’s market, with low inventory, real estate agents often carelessly advise their buyer clients to put in “zero contingency” offers in order to get the deal. Bad idea. Even if the buyer is able to do an “all-cash” deal with no loan or appraisal contingency, it is extremely risky to skip (or skimp) on the physical inspection. As Mindy noted, the cost often proves to be a bargain. And don’t stop at the building’s walls; be sure to check the setbacks, easements, and neighborhood. One further warning – if the buyer got talked into doing a dual-agency transaction for any reason, The California Supreme Court recently held that the Listing Agent owes the buyer the same fiduciary duty as to the seller. However, it’s a long and expensive journey between pointing the finger and recovering your damages, so the most prudent approach is to take a defensive approach and get the inspection!

  3. Clayton Boyle

    I’m in a seller’s market here in Denver. Even in cash purchases on as-is properties, I like to set a very short window for any inspection objection (like 3 days into the contract), then allowing any earnest money to go hard after that point. This allows you to still create a very attractive offer and cover your butt.

  4. Peter Mckernan

    Great article! Yes, home inspections are critical because home buyers are typically not knowledgable in home contraction nor do they spend the time at the property to go through every detail! That being said, these inspections need to be performed and the cost should be looked at as the normal costs of purchasing a home.

    The more you in depth the inspection the better the buyer should feel about buying, or not buying the property. Also, if the agent suggests to not have the inspection performed, then they are liable for those costs of corrections if they end up popping up after escrow closes.

  5. Joel Owens

    Make sure your home inspector is properly qualified. I haven’t done residential in ages but here in GA they used to have to not be licensed. So a lot of failed real estate agents would end up becoming home inspectors.

    Qualify the inspector that they have done a bunch of inspections themselves and have highly regarded certifications. Some tout all these inspections but you find out the company has the experience and not the inspector coming out. In those cases you can demand the senior inspector comes out with the apprentice or newer inspector to shadow them for your inspection. Other option is to go with another company if you do not feel comfortable. Remember brand new construction can have just as many problems even with a warranty as an older house. Buyers think new house and warranty I do not need an inspection. That is wrong. Builders can cut corners sometimes or use suspect contractor to build. The builders say they will handle after closing items discovered. Get inspection before closing and have it is a requirement that all punch list items will be handled before closing. Once the builder has your money their attention is elsewhere. They like to pass of your warranty claims to a third party and be (out of sight,out of mind).

  6. The two best and easiest way I would suggest to choose a qualified home inspetor are:-
    1. Certified Inspection Company with over 10 years of Industry experience.
    Make sure the Home Inspection Orange County NY organization is ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors), certified. Ensuring your planned organization is an individual from a substantial and trustworthy association for home assessors furnishes you with assurances and guarantees that the company utilizes elevated requirements in their examinations.
    2. Google them and read surveys.
    After you\’ve found a couple of nearby alternatives, search for audits on sites other than their own, the same number of organizations alter the surveys all alone sites or just post positive ones. You can likewise discover surveys via web-based networking media business pages, on the off chance that you know the name of a specific organization. Remember that private companies frequently just have audits composed by companions or group of the proprietors, who may have never utilized their administrations. This isn\’t really motivation to reject them crazy, however you may need to do somewhat more burrowing to discover genuine customers.

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