No Bull

by Walt Fish - Date: 2007-04-10 - Word Count: 799 Share This!

Gertchrude, my old milk cow was a dear soul and dependable as they come, still she was no Bull and neither is what I am about to say!

As I have transitioned my Inspection Business to Upper Michigan, I keep running into one specific problem that befuddles me. I suppose I should tell you first that in my Market, many listed homes are vacant. Sometimes the owners live out of state, sometimes there is a death in the family and often, people leave the area for career pursuits (usually returning at some point). in any case, Imagine meeting a client at a property to begin an Inspection only to find that the water, Gas or Electricity have been shut off. This brings up an interesting question...several actually. You might first ask, why didn't the Inspector know the Utilities were shut off? More on that later. The next logical question might be: So the water is shut off, what's the big deal, just turn it on...right? The short answer is: wrong, wrong, wrong! Lets say, for example that I do turn on the main water valve as it comes into the home. I begin by inspecting the plumbing, not difficult as I soon learn several pipes have burst (home was not winterized) and there's a hole the size of Niagara Falls underneath the water heater. So, just quickly shut off the water. Not so fast, it seems the shut off valve which has been around since Moby Dick was a minnow, doesn't...yep, you guessed it, want to shut off! The Listing Agent is unavailable and the municipal water might be able to get out later that afternoon. Now, luckily for me, that scenario has not happened, but less dramatic things have. Once I make the decision to turn on any component or utility during an inspection, I have not only just assumed responsibility for damages, I have also potentially peeved a whole bunch of people if there is a problem that can't be immediately fixed.

So, I could have just written up the report without inspecting the plumbing. Sure I could have. But doing so would not be fair to the client who paid and trusted me to provide a complete inspection. One month later when this client closes on the home and finds the water heater leaking, or it raining in the dining room from the hall bath above, this buyer will be hopping mad, and ultimately, it won't be me this client addresses his/her anger toward.

Yes, yes, but you say, why didn't you just wait until the Utilities were all turned on? Well, now here is where we truly get to the nut of this problem. You see, in my market, when a purchase agreement is drawn up, sometimes the Realtors don't address the issue (within the purchase agreement) of who is responsible for turning on and off ulilities prior to closing. This can cause a great deal of confusion and buck passing, and I for one, don't wish to be caught in the middle. Further, as a generalized truth, I find that some Realtors (Listing Agents) are giving the buyer 10 days to have the Inspection completed and then not immediately working toward getting all the Utilities turned on knowing they are not. It has happened (to me) more than once lately that the water or electricy was still turned off at the time the inspection contigency expired.

The only thing I can think of is to try to provide some guidance and experience on this issue to Realtors in my area. They need to understand that a Home Inspection Contigency, is just that, a "Contigency". Failure to allow the buyer a complete inspection within the agreed upon time frame voids..or makes voidable, the purchase agreement. If the Utilities are shut off and the Listing Agent knows this, and the listing agent also knows the home has not been winterized, it seems reasonable to assume that they may need more than 10 days to fix any forseable problems (i.e. leaks in water and NG pipes, servicing the furnace or boiler, making sure the electricity is safely turned on). These are not my repsonsibilities.

I do also understand that in Michigan, there are no state standards or competency requirements for Home Inspectors...yet (more on that in another post). Personally, I adhere to ASHI standards. How do I know those standards? Well, I have been licensed in Wisconsin for nearly 9 years now. I also engage in a minimum of 40 hours up to 200 hours of Home Inspector Training classes and seminars each year. I know what Michigan Inspectors should be doing, but with no standardized guidelines, there is little consistency and perhaps some Realtors are misinformed in general about the scope the Home Inspection should encompass.

And how is your weekend going?

Related Tags: home buying, home inspector, home inspections, buying a home, inspector, buyer beware, inspections


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