Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Buyer Bewitched

Don’t you know, new houses are plagued by sloppy construction by Walter Jowers

About this time of year, just before spring house-shopping time, I feel an urge to share a little inside house-buying dope with eager would-be homebuyers.

First of all, let me tell you the upside of owning a home. Having your very own house, in a neighborhood that you love, is a wonderful thing. Wife Brenda and I share a weakness for old houses in old neighborhoods, where sidewalks connect every front porch and 100-year-old trees shade the whole neighborhood.

We’ve lived in two such houses in Nashville. Both turned out to be good homes and good investments. But after a 20-year run in the home inspection business, I know that some folks don’t have such good house-buying luck.

Over the last 10 years or so, I saw my home inspection company transform from a little homespun advice-giving business into more of a litigation-support and expert-witness business.Best I can tell, it’s getting harder for folks to find a good house—especially a brand-new, fresh-out-of-the-ground house. And it’s getting harder to buy a house without somebody unfairly manipulating you along the way.The newly built houses I’ve seen in the last 10 years have been uniformly plagued by sloppy construction.

During this time, the labor pool has been made up mostly of unskilled workers doing substandard work. In new developments, roofs tend to leak, walls and windows leak, brick veneer cracks, and decks rot prematurely. Apparently, unskilled workers are having trouble reading instructions. For instance, a few years ago, I walked into the crawl space of a new house and found the whole house supported by a dozen or so steel columns. Each column had a big red label that read: “Not for use in new construction.”

From what I’ve seen, there are few, if any, carpenters who can perform the simple task of installing a folding attic stair. Every stair comes with a big label that shows how to install it, along with little labels that show where the nails and lag screws should go. Even so, installers routinely cut the stairs too short or too long, and put drywall screws into the very holes that are labeled, “Nail here.” Just so you’ll know: Using screws where you should be using nails can cause an attic folding stair to collapse—while you’re on it.Hint to homebuyers: The cheap labor on new construction is extremely expensive in the long run.

Builders know this. But they won’t tell you. When you complain about growing leaks and cracks in your new house, the boss man will most likely send an unskilled guy to squeeze caulk into the gaps. He’ll do that until your home warranty runs out. Then you’ll be stuck with the cost of fixing the original slipshod work.

Meanwhile, home inspectors are being licensed by their respective states. That’s good, right? Well, no. It’s mostly bad. Here’s why: The folks who build and sell houses have lobbyists who make sure their state legislators take care of their interests. The rules and regulations that apply to home inspectors are meant to make money for builders and sales folk. Protecting consumers is a low priority.

A few examples: In North Carolina, home inspectors were recently instructed to leave safety issues out of their report summaries. That’s because most homebuyers skim the boring body of their inspection report and rely on the summary. If safety issues—for instance, fire hazards, electrical shock hazards, asphyxiation hazards, trip-and-fall hazards—are buried in the body of the report, buyers likely won’t read the worrisome warnings, get nervous and walk away from deals. Builders, sales folk and state legislators know this. But they won’t tell you to read the whole report.

Up in Kentucky, the state Board of Home Inspectors (KBHI) recently issued an advisory to home inspectors, telling them to take it easy on old Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) electrical panels, which many experts say are prone to failure and likely to start a fire. Says the KBHI: “There is no current documentation from any source that states the FPE panels and breakers are a hazard.... To assume so without current documentation is incorrect and irresponsible.” And there’s this: “To...recommend the removal of FPE panels and breakers...is irresponsible and could cause the homeowner undue financial hardship.”

Put more simply, burying information about faulty electrical panels might hurt home sales.There’s plenty of documentation about the flaws in old FPE panels, including Dan Friedman’s website (inspect-ny.com/fpe/fpepanel.htm), which is well known to conscientious home inspectors. Surely, Kentucky has some home inspectors who know about Friedman’s extensive documentation. But the KBHI isn’t directing anybody to Friedman’s website.

Down in Alabama, real estate sales folk have a clause in their contracts that protects house sales by blessing old aluminum wiring. Never mind that research sponsored by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) showed that houses wired with pre-1972 aluminum wire were 55 times more likely to reach fire hazard conditions than houses wired with copper. In Alabama, aluminum wiring is not a “hazardous condition,” because, as the sales contracts say, “conditions that meet current governmental guidelines are not considered hazardous.” How’s that for having your sparky wires and getting your commission too?

Best I know, Tennessee’s home inspector laws have yet to sprout any blatantly anti-consumer features. That’s good. But every year, our legislators have a chance to make life better for sales folk and worse for homebuyers. The sales folk will be watching legislation closely. If you’re thinking about buying a house, you should too.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

First Line of Defense for Real Estate Agents

How agents can limit their liability with regard to home inspections.

by Joe Ferry, Esquire and Nick Gromicko, InterNACHI Founder

In a world where litigation is the preferred method of resolving even the most minor conflicts, it should come as no surprise to real estate agents that they are increasingly finding themselves named as defendants in law suits wherein purchasers of residential real estate are claiming damages as the result of the alleged fraud and/or negligence of one or more of the participants in the transaction.

Aggrieved purchasers of residential real estate are operating in a target-rich environment and have a remarkable array of potentially responsible parties from which to seek financial redress for their claimed grievances. In lawsuit after lawsuit, one finds multiple defendants: the sellers, the sellers’ agent, the sellers’ agent’s broker, the buyers’ agent, the buyers’ agent’s broker, the home inspector, the pest inspector and so on; multiple counts: fraud, negligence, breach of contract; and, generally, hundreds of allegations against the various defendants.

Once a lawsuit has been filed and you have been named as a defendant, you can kiss your E & O deductible goodbye. Even if you are blameless, which in the overwhelming majority of instances you are because the overwhelming majority of these types of lawsuits are completely devoid of merit. The size of these Complaints and the sheer number of their allegations guarantees it. No competent lawyer could possibly read and respond to the vastly overblown pleadings that normally characterize these types of lawsuits for anything close to the typical real estate agent’s E & O deductible.

Therefore, the best strategy is to avoid being named in the suit in the first place. Fortunately, there are a number of effective policies that, if followed, can sharply reduce and even eliminate your exposure to being named in a merit less lawsuit.

Lawsuits resulting from a residential real estate transaction almost always result from a feeling on the buyers’ part that they got less than they bargained for. After they moved into the property, they discovered that it was not all that it was cracked up to be. Sometimes the alleged defects were present at the time of the home inspection but for one reason or another were not discovered by the home inspection. The fact that the alleged defects were not discovered by the home inspector does not automatically mean that the home inspector was negligent or that you were negligent for recommending the inspector. Far from it.

There could be a large number of reasons why the alleged defect was not discovered at the inspection that fall well short of actionable negligence. The defect could be something that is not discovered because its inspection is simply not contemplated by the home inspection, a determination of the adequacy of any structural system or component, for example. Such a determination is outside the scope of a home inspection. Or it could be something that is not reported because it was concealed by furniture on the day of the inspection or was located in an area that was inaccessible. Not infrequently, known defects are deliberately concealed by the sellers. And far more frequently than anyone would imagine, the alleged defect that is the subject of the buyers’ complaint was actually discovered by the home inspector, noted in the inspection report and not acted upon by the buyers because they did not bother to read the inspection report.

Therefore, when selecting a home inspector for your client, you should bear uppermost in your mind that the home inspector is your first line of defense against a meritless negligence claim.

Top Eight Ways You Can Sharply Reduce Your Professional Liability Exposure:
Insist that your client hire a professional home inspector to inspect the property and strongly recommend that the inspection also include ancillary inspections for the presence of wood destroying insects and such harmful pathogens as mold and radon.
Take the time to manage your clients’ expectations of what can reasonably be discovered by a limited visual inspection of a property that is full of furniture, carpets and stored items that further physically limit the scope of an already limited inspection.
Be sure to carry your own Professional Liability Insurance to protect yourself from allegations that you should have independently verified that the property was defect-free.
Review the inspector’s Pre-inspection Agreement to make sure that it contains a Notice Clause that requires the buyers to notify the inspector within no more than 14 days of the discovery of any defect for which they believe he is responsible.
Avoid conflicts of interest. Never recommend an inspector who participates in preferred vendor schemes. All major inspector associations prohibit participation in such undue praise-purchasing schemes. You have a fiduciary duty to recommend the very best inspectors, based solely on merit, not money. And it goes without saying that you should never recommend any inspector with whom you have a close personal or blood relationship.
Recommend the high value inspector, not the low price inspector. Good inspectors charge accordingly. Trying to save your client $100 on an inspection could cost them $10,000.
Only recommend inspectors who adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, such as members of InterNACHI.
Always attend the home inspection. Many real estate agents have been advised never to attend a home inspection, allegedly by real estate attorneys. Agents who say that they have received such advice are never able to articulate its rationale. You are not any less likely to be named in a suit by hiding during the inspection and the reasons for attending the inspection are quite compelling. First, your presence is a clear indication of your professionalism and concern for your client’s interests, two factors well-known to engender referrals. Secondly, it affords a very cogent opportunity to refocus your client’s attention to the limited nature of the inspection. For example, you could note the numerous obstacles, such as furniture, carpets and appliances that can obviously inhibit the inspector’s ability to see certain areas of the home. Finally, should this transaction come to grief, your interests are usually perfectly aligned with the inspector’s and your recollection of such limiting factors would provide powerful corroboration of the exonerating reasons that a defect was not discovered during the inspection.

It's very simple actually.....you get what you pay for!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Don't Get Sued

This article was published on: 09/01/97

Don't Get Sued!

Real estate professionals are getting sued today more than ever. Is there anything you can do to protect yourself?

Brokerage loss control expert Leonard Schapker offers answers.Today's market has evolved into a legal battlefield. Buyers and sellers of real estate are filing lawsuits at an accelerating pace. Real estate practitioners increasingly are finding themselves caught in the crossfire.

Today's REALTOR® asked attorney Leonard Schapker, a risk management expert, to give us the latest advice on how to bullet proof a realty practice against this dangerous and growing litigation threat.Schapker frequently travels around the nation speaking to REALTORS® on this issue. He is assistant vice president and claims counsel for Employers Reinsurance Corp., Overland Park, Kan. ERC and its affiliate, Westport Insurance Corp., are the endorsed errors and omissions (E&O) insurance carrier for the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Kirke-Van Orsdel Inc. is the program administrator. Their E&O product is known as REALTOR® Guard.E&O insurance covers liabilities for errors, mistakes, or negligence in the usual listing and selling activities of a real estate brokerage.

Here's what Schapker had to say.

Are lawsuits against real estate professionals still on the increase?In 1990 about 20 percent of our policy holders were getting sued annually. By 1996 that figure had increased to about 25 percent. We project that the percentage will continue to climb.

What's behind the upward trend?We have several theories. One is that we're seeing more complex real estate transactions than in the past--such as property trades or transactions involving alternative financing. Whenever you have a complicated transaction, you increase the likelihood that something will go wrong and that the practitioner will end up getting sued.

Second, we've been seeing a lot of mergers and acquisitions recently in the real estate industry. When companies consolidate, they end up with managers trying to oversee more salespeople. Sometimes the oversight isn't done properly, and salespeople neglect to follow correct loss control procedures.

Third, society as a whole is growing more litigious. People are more willing to sue today than ever before. This trend is affecting a broad spectrum of business, not just the real estate industry.

Fourth, federal, state, and local governments are passing more laws that are expanding the duties and obligations of real estate practitioners. An example is the new federal law requiring real estate professionals to disclose information to buyers about lead-based paint hazards. The more duties that salespeople have, the greater the opportunity that they'll make a mistake somewhere along the line.I can understand why more buyers are suing sellers, but why are the salespeople getting dragged into these cases?
In many circumstances, the buyers determine they may have trouble forcing a seller to pay a claim. The seller may have moved out of state and can't be located. Even if the seller can be found, the claimant might have difficulty enforcing a claim across state lines. Plaintiffs often name real estate professionals in their lawsuits for practical reasons. The brokers aren't going anywhere. They're right down the street.

Real estate professionals are seen as convenient deep pockets. They often appear to have the money to pay a claim, or else they're insured.What's the most common reason that real estate professionals get sued?

Without question, the major source of litigation involves failure to disclose some claimed property defect. These defects are often ordinary, run-of-the-mill problems such as a roof leak or a foundation crack.In recent years, a number of states have enacted laws requiring sellers to disclose known property defects.

Has that type of legislation helped reduce the number of lawsuits against real estate professionals?Those laws have helped, but they haven't eliminated the problem. Failure-to-disclose lawsuits against real estate professionals are still common throughout the country.

How does the salesperson get caught in the middle? Let's say a buyer moves into a new house. Two weeks later, there's a rainstorm, and the roof leaks. The buyer goes back to the seller and asks, "What's going on here? You didn't say anything about a roof leak in your property disclosure form."The seller's reply will often involve some variation on the theme that he didn't say anything about a leak because the salesperson told him not to. Unless the salesperson can document otherwise, it's a matter of the salesperson's word against the word of the seller.We find that lawyers for buyers and sellers sometimes pursue a strategy of trying to keep the deep pockets, the real estate professionals, in the middle of the litigation.

Are salespeople in urban areas more at risk than those in small towns or rural areas? The number of lawsuits filed for every 1,000 real estate transactions remains fairly consistent throughout the country, regardless of whether the area is urban or rural. Because urban practitioners have a higher transaction volume, it may seem they get sued more often, but rural practitioners get sued at the same rate.

What's the single most important step that practitioners can take to protect themselves against liability?I can't emphasize enough the importance of having proper documentation in a transaction file. If the salesperson recommends that the buyer obtain a home inspection, and the buyer declines, the practitioner should have the buyer sign a form documenting that decision.

What could happen if the practitioner doesn't have that documentation?If after moving into the house, the buyer discovers a problem--termite infestation, for example--the buyer is going to sue the practitioner, claiming that the salesperson never recommended an inspection that would have uncovered the problem.When the case goes to trial, the buyer is going to get on the witness stand and say that if the salesperson had recommended an inspection, the buyer would have ordered one. After all, a house costing about hundred thousand dollars is at stake.

Who would skimp on an inspection costing a couple of hundred dollars? That type of argument is going to have a logical ring to a jury.I recommend that practitioners have sellers and buyers sign all declinations. In other words, if the salesperson recommends that the buyer get a home inspection or a home warranty, and the buyer declines, the salesperson should have the buyer sign a form to that effect.

Do many practitioners overlook that type of documentation?I don't have statistics, but my gut feeling is that most practitioners aren't getting signed declinations. A number of brokerages require their salespeople to obtain those forms, but some salespeople neglect to do it. This is one of the greatest failures we see in company risk management programs: The procedures are not consistently followed.

Why is that?Practitioners are in the business of selling property, not in documenting every transaction detail. A lot of the conversations between the salesperson and the buyer dealing with inspections or home warranties take place in informal settings outside the office--often in a car. The salesperson may not have the proper form at hand and has to remember to get it back at the office.Whenever you add more steps to a process, you increase the likelihood that something is going to slip through the cracks. Maybe the salesperson actually remembers to mail the form, but the buyer forgets to return it. Maybe the salesperson doesn't have a good diary or tickler system as a reminder to follow up.

What's the most effective way of reminding salespeople to follow through on these procedures? Practitioners who have been sued before are extremely good at following proper loss control procedures. The problem is that there's a lot of turnover in the industry. You have new salespeople coming in every year. These rookies have never been sued, and it's hard to convince them of the importance of documenting everything.

What's so bad about being sued? I travel around the country a lot giving loss control seminars. At every seminar, I ask brokers and salespeople to raise their hand if they've ever been sued. I encourage them to tell others in the audience what it was like. I've probably heard hundreds of stories, but I've never had a practitioner stand up and say that getting sued was a pleasant experience.Getting sued is expensive and time-consuming, and it can hurt you in unexpected ways. You can lose days or even weeks away from selling. And the case can drag on for years. Even if you're insured, a lawsuit can end up costing you. Most policies have a deductible, and in some cases, the deductible is sizable.Negative publicity about a lawsuit will damage your business and personal reputation--even if you ultimately win. That's particularly true in small towns.Litigation is a bad experience worth avoiding.

Leonard Schapker was interviewed by Walt Albro.Four Smart Tips to Reduce RiskLoss control expert Leonard Schapker says you can cut your exposure to liability by taking these simple, basic steps:

1. Have sellers fill out a property disclosure form. Many states require it. Even if yours doesn't, use one anyway. Check with your state association of REALTORS® to obtain a model property disclosure form customized for your state. The form should be filled out and signed by the seller. It should have a space for the buyer to acknowledge receipt.

2. Recommend that buyers obtain a home warranty. For a specified period after the transaction, this insurance will cover most property defects that might crop up--thus avoiding need for the buyer to sue the salesperson to recover a claim. The buyer can often negotiate with the seller to have the seller pick up all or part of the cost of a warranty.

3. Recommend that buyers obtain a home inspection. Give the buyers a list of at least three home inspection companies they can contact if interested. If buyers decline a home inspection, have them sign a form confirming their decision.

4. Always use a standard sales contract approved by your local or state association of REALTORS®. Although this practice is widely followed, some salespeople still overlook it-- particularly in unusual transactions, such as those involving a friend or relative or some kind of property trade.

For online information about the REALTOR® Guard professional liability insurance program endorsed by NAR, visit the Legal floor at One Realtor Place®, http://www.realtor.com/, and view the entry for Insurance: REALTOR® Guard Errors & Omissions Insurance Program. You can also get information by calling toll-free, 800/367-2296.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Things About To Change ?

Unhappy home buyer, feeling misled on price, sues agent: By DAVID STREITFELD THE NEW YORK TIMES CARLSBAD, Calif.

-- Marty Ummel believes she paid too much for her house. So do millions of other people who bought at the peak of the housing boom.What makes Ummel different is that she is suing her agent, saying it was all his fault.Ummel claims that the agent hid the information that similar homes in the neighborhood were selling for less because he feared she would back out and he would lose his $30,000 commission.

Real estate lawyers and brokers say the case, which goes to trial in North County Superior Court on Monday, is likely to be the first of many in which regretful or resentful buyers seek redress from the agents who found them a home and arranged its purchase."When your house appreciates $100,000 in the first six months, you're not quite as concerned that maybe the valuation was $25,000 or $50,000 off," said Clifford Horner of the law firm Horner & Singer. "But when your house goes down, you ask: 'Who might have led me astray here?' "

Agents representing buyers rarely had the opportunity to make mistakes during the last real estate boom, in the late 1980s, because the job hardly existed then. For decades, residential transactions almost always involved brokers who, whatever assistance they gave the buyer, legally represented only the seller. The long boom that began in the late 1990s put an end to that one-sided world. As prices spiked, buyer's agents and brokers became popular as sounding boards, advisers and negotiators. The National Association of Realtors estimates they are now involved in two-thirds of all residential purchases.That makes this the first housing collapse in which large numbers of buyers had a real estate professional explicitly looking after their interests.

The Ummel case poses the question: In a relationship built on trust, where promises are rarely written down and where -- as in this case -- there is no signed contract, what are the exact obligations of these representatives in guiding their clients through a sizzling market?"Agents have a lot of fiduciary duties, but they don't make money unless they close the sale," said Joel Ruben, a real estate lawyer in Manhattan Beach, Calif. "In an inflated market, there are built-in temptations to cut corners."

The defendant in the Ummel case is Mike Little, a veteran agent with ReMax Associates. He will argue that Marty Ummel, who brought the case with her husband, Vernon, is trying to shift the blame for the couple's own failures of research and due diligence."They simply didn't do what is expected of a knowledgeable, sophisticated buyer, and are now looking for someone other than themselves to take responsibility," Roger Holtsclaw, an agent who was hired by Little as an expert witness, said in a court deposition.Horner, the lawyer, said valuation is a tricky area for brokers."Brokers aren't appraisers," said Horner, one of the writers of a guide to suing brokers. "They have no obligation to opine about value. But once they do, it becomes a gray area whether it's puffery or a misstatement of a known fact."

Most people who made a bad real estate deal might wince and move on, but people who know Marty Ummel describe her as unusually determined. She spent a year picketing ReMax offices on weekends.Vernon Ummel, an administrator at Dominican University, gave her his permission to pursue the case, on one condition: "Don't tell me how much the legal fees are." So far, the bills come to $75,000, more than Marty Ummel's annual salary as a fundraiser at California State University-San Marcos."

I do not think I'm obsessive-compulsive, but I am 114 pounds of absolute perseverance," Marty Ummel said.

Food for thought

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly of Real Estate Tranactions

This blog will address the uneasy relationships between Realtors and home inspectors and the issues that affect all involved in the process of property transfer.
My first volley will be the known fact that most home inspectors need the Realtors for their continual flow of business
This in itself creates a major conflict of interest for the buyers of property and the often forgotten phrase, "A Fiduciary relationship is joined between the Realtor and the buyer." Simply stated the Realtor will in all aspects of the real estate transaction protect the buyers best interests. In most cases this is a normal course of action for the Realtors until the home inspection is ordered for the buyer.

How does the home inspector create a conflict in this simple process?

Follow this line of events...the buyer contracts the home inspector to do an inspection on the property before close of escrow. This creates a "Fudicary Relationship" between the buyer (who pays for the inspection) and the home inspector(who performs the inspection). The home inspector has the best intrests of the buyer to fullfill his part of the Fudicary Relationship as does the buyer who pays the inspector. The report is delivered to the buyer and the Realtor is upset with the inspectors conclusions. The buyer is protected by the home inspector, the Realtor in turn is not happy with the inspector and does not use him in the future.
What happened to the "Fudicary Relationship" between the buyer and the realtor? Gone!
Now the home inspector is "blackballed" in that office even if the sale goes to escrow.

Like I said, this is the first volley. There will be more!

Inspection Protocal

Inspection Protocal

I have certain steps that I go through, my home inspection protocol, to test and evaluate appliances (heating and cooling, dishwasher, etc.) and systems (showers, sinks, toilets, etc.) in your new home, and I perform these steps in a certain order to ensure three things: (1) the unit is properly tested, inspected and evaluated (2) without causing any property damage and (3) without causing personal injury to anyone near the appliance (that includes me!).

Step one typically is a “yes” or “no” to this question: “Does it look like it will work properly?” If yes, I proceed to step two. If no, I quit evaluating that appliance or system and state the reason why it did not look like it would work properly. In myhome inspection report, I will also state, “Unit not tested. Recommend further evaluation before close of escrow.” This does not mean that you can simply move in and start using the appliance or the system. It means that further evaluation must be completed before the appliance or system is used. I recommend that further evaluation be completed by qualified individuals, usually licensed in their profession under State of Florida laws (plumbers, electricians, etc.). Such professionals typically will evaluate the complete appliance or system during their evaluation to make sure that it is fully functional.

When further evaluation is performed, that licensed professional will have his own home inspection protocol, again, designed specifically to do determine what the problem is without causing property damage or personal injury. He should at least begin the inspection process all over again and should not start in the middle of anyone else’s evaluation, including mine. Additionally, that licensed professional should not rely on any statements by an individual not licensed in that profession, such as me. Keep in mind that home inspectors are not licensed in any profession, even including home inspecting since the State of Florida does not license home inspectors. Relying on statements of others without verifying them can result in property damage, personal injury, or death, especially since no one except the person currently inspecting the appliance can possibly know what might have happened to anything since the last time someone (me!) inspected, tested, or evaluated the appliance.

In some instances, depending on the initial problem, evaluation by the licensed professional might be much more extensive than a home inspector’s evaluation. That’s why they charge more, and that’s why I only recommend them when absolutely necessary. It’s kind of like your family doctor, also called a “General Practitioner.” If you have a chest pain, you’d make an appointment with your family doctor. You’ve done the initial evaluation (“I have a chest pain.”) Upon “further evaluation” by the family doctor, he says you need some X-rays or an MRI. He’ll send you for “further evaluation” to the laboratory. Once you get that done, you’ll go back to him for more “further evaluation.” Let’s say that the X-rays or MRI indicate that you have some blocked heart arteries and need surgery. Who do you think will do the surgery? Not the family doctor! He’ll send you for “further evaluation” to the heart surgeon. When you get to the heart surgeon, he’ll read the family doctor’s report, look at the X-rays or MRI, and then do his own evaluation, perhaps even having some more X-rays or MRI taken. In every case, the family doctor is far less expensive than the heart surgeon.

Home inspectors are like your family doctor. We’re inexpensive because we’re “General Practitioners.” We know something about everything, but everything about nothing. So if I find something wrong with the electric panel, I've inspected I’ll recommend “further evaluation” by a licensed electrician, equivalent to the heart surgeon. That licensed electrician, due to his licensing and expertise, is considered by the State of Florida to be more knowledgeable about electricity than an unlicensed home inspector.

So, I’m looking for the biggest problems that can cost you a significant amount of money, are extremely dangerous, or, if not corrected soon, can causes significant property damage. If I find the big problem, then there is no reason for me to try to document any other problems. The simple fact is that it doesn’t look like it’s going to work. Let’s use the dishwasher as an example. First, if the property owner or tenant is available, I’ll ask them, “Does the dishwasher work.” If they answer, “No,” then I have to take them at their word and not test it because testing it could cause property damage or personal injury. Sometimes they’ll even tell me what they think is wrong with it, which I will also put in your property inspection report. So armed with disclosure information, I’ll recommend “further evaluation by a qualified professional before close of escrow.” That qualified professional repairman gets to determine what the exact problems are. Many times a problem can only be detected when something is being used, so if it doesn’t look like one can use it safely and for the purpose for which it was intended, I don’t go any further.

I’ll use the dishwasher as an example again. Under normal circumstances, this would be my protocol:

Does the dishwasher look like it will work? If yes, I proceed to step two. If no; I quit testing and state the problem. This quite often happens when the dishwasher is present but the shipping and packing materials have not been removed—good appliance installation personnel will not remove shipping and packing materials until the appliance is fully installed and ready to be used. After all, if it looks like it will work, then someone might try to use it, possibly causing property damage or personal injury. With shipping and packing materials still in place, it obviously does not look like it will work, and people should not be trying to use it.
Subsequent steps for the dishwasher would include:
Is the water supply hooked up? If yes, proceed with testing. If no, quit and state the problem.
Is water drain hooked up? If yes, proceed. If no, quit and state the problem.
Is door latch working? If yes, proceed. If no, quit.
Is door seal present to prevent leaks? Yes or no.
Is door hinge working? Yes or no.
Is there any physical damage?
Are the control knobs/buttons damaged?
Did unit work?
Did unit drain properly?
Did unit leak? Is the floor around the dishwasher wet?
Did soap dish work?
Did rotator arms work?
Although the steps above may or may not prevent additional testing they are dependent on the specific dishwasher. At any point, if a no answer also means that the dishwasher cannot be properly tested, then I will not proceed with subsequent steps.
If I did try to document all the other problems, your home inspection would have lasted many hours and cost substantially more than what you paid, and your home inspection report might have become unwieldy, unreadable, and/or undecipherable. So, again, I’m looking for the biggest problems first and then the more minor or cosmetic problems. This is also the reason why I offer different types of home inspections for different Clients with different wants and needs.

Many home issues such as those disclosed in your property inspection report can be interpreted and acted on in different ways depending on your needs and any advice that you might solicit from third parties, especially those who were not at the property at the time of the inspection and don’t know what the conditions of the property were at the time of the inspection. Additionally, your intended use of a property might result in varying opinions about what you should do about some of my recommendations in your property inspection report. Therefore, if you have any questions about anything, please contact me.

Any advice that you might rely on that does not agree with the information in your property inspection report should be obtained in writing (preferably signed and dated on the providing company’s letterhead) and further researched.
See additional information at; “When things go wrong.”

Please contact me if you get information that you think conflicts with my recommendations in your property inspection