NEPA Real Estate Corner

A Pilot’s Guide to Home Inspections

Apr 6, 2024 | Back On My Bullshit, Helpful Homeowner Hints

Imagine yourself in the cockpit of a passenger jet, surrounded by an array of dials and controls. You’re the pilot, and beside you, the co-pilot is methodically going through the pre-flight checklist:

“Auxiliary fuel pump? Off. Flight controls? Free and correct. Instruments and radios? Checked and set. Landing gear position lights? Checked. Altimeter? Set. Directional gyro? Set. Fuel gauges? Checked. Trim? Set.”

Every switch flipped, every light checked, and every system verified is crucial for a safe and smooth journey. This is much like the home inspection process – a vital checklist that ensures your real estate voyage from seller to buyer, or vice versa, is as secure and trouble-free as a well-navigated flight.
In the world of real estate, as in aviation, the stakes are high. A recent survey showed that 80% of home buyers understand this, choosing to request a home inspection before finalizing their purchase. It’s a decision as prudent as a pilot inspecting their aircraft before takeoff, knowing that what lies beneath the surface could impact the entire journey. The home inspection process is your navigational chart, revealing the turbulences and clear skies of your potential new home.

As we embark on this blog journey, think of yourself as the captain of your own real estate adventure. Each step of the inspection process, from the initial preparation to the post-inspection negotiations, is akin to a phase in flight – from taxiing on the runway to cruising altitude. With careful navigation and attention to detail, you can ensure that your journey through the complex skies of buying or selling a home is as smooth and safe as a well-planned flight.

I. Before the Inspection – Preparing for Takeoff

For Buyers – Setting Expectations and Understanding Limitations:

As a buyer, your journey through the home inspection process is like preparing for a long-awaited flight. Before you even set foot on the plane, you have certain expectations about the journey, and it’s no different with a home inspection.

Think of your home inspector as your co-pilot in this adventure, someone who helps navigate through the technicalities of your potential new home. However, it’s important to remember that even the most experienced co-pilot has limitations. A home inspection is a visual assessment; like checking the weather and flight conditions before takeoff. The inspector can identify many issues, like a pilot spots weather patterns or air traffic, but they can’t predict future problems or assess what’s hidden behind the walls, like unforeseen turbulence mid-flight.

My role in this phase is to set realistic expectations. Understand that an inspection won’t uncover every single issue, just like a pre-flight check can’t foresee every in-flight challenge. It’s about identifying significant, visible problems that could affect your decision to buy the property – your future destination in this real estate journey.

For Sellers – Embracing the Disclosure Process and Inspector Visit:

For sellers, the period before the inspection is like preparing your aircraft for a rigorous safety check. Your honesty and transparency during the disclosure process are crucial. It’s akin to a pilot being upfront about the condition of their aircraft. Disclosing known issues with your property isn’t just a legal obligation; it’s a gesture of goodwill, ensuring that the buyer’s journey is free from unexpected detours.

When the inspector arrives, they will perform a comprehensive review of your property. Expect them to examine your home thoroughly, from the ‘engine’ (heating and cooling systems) to the ‘wings’ (roof and walls). Just like a meticulous pre-flight check, the inspector will go through each aspect of your home, ensuring everything is in order for the next ‘flight’ with a new owner.

As a seller, prepare yourself for this scrutiny. Ensure that all areas of your home are accessible and be ready to provide any necessary documentation or information about repairs and maintenance. Remember, the smoother this process goes, the faster your real estate ‘plane’ is back in the air, ready for its next journey with a new captain at the helm.

II. During the Inspection – Navigating the Skies

As we continue our flight through the home inspection process, we reach the crucial phase of in-flight inspection. For both buyers and sellers, this phase is akin to the pilot and co-pilot communicating and checking systems while airborne, ensuring everything functions as expected.

During the inspection, your inspector – the seasoned pilot of this journey – will methodically examine the property. They’ll check the ‘fuselage’ (structure of the house), ‘engines’ (heating and cooling systems), ‘flight controls’ (electrical systems), ‘landing gear’ (plumbing and foundation), and ‘navigation systems’ (appliances and fixtures). This thorough review is crucial for a safe and successful journey to your real estate destination.

Three Key Inspection Tips for Buyers:

  1. Monitor the ‘Flight Instruments’ Closely: Pay attention to the home’s critical systems – electrical, plumbing, heating, and cooling. These are like the aircraft’s instruments and controls, vital for its safe operation. Ensure they are not only functional but also up to current standards.
  2. Inspect the ‘Wings and Fuselage’: The roof and structural elements of a home are its wings and fuselage, providing stability and protection. Look for signs of wear or damage that could compromise the home’s integrity, just as you would check an aircraft’s wings for any structural weaknesses.
  3. Check the ‘Cabin Pressure’: Evaluate the insulation and ventilation systems. Proper insulation and ventilation are like maintaining cabin pressure – essential for comfort and efficiency.

Important Questions for Buyers to Ask:

  • Maintenance History: “What is the maintenance history of the major systems?” This question is akin to asking for the aircraft’s logbook – it reveals how well the ‘plane’ has been cared for over the years.
  • Future Costs: “Are there any components that might need replacement soon?” This is like inquiring about potential upcoming maintenance for the aircraft, helping you prepare for future expenses.
  • Safety Features: “Are there any safety or health concerns, such as radon, mold, or structural issues?” Ensuring the safety features of your potential home is as critical as checking the safety equipment on a plane.

Remember, the goal of this ‘flight’ through the inspection process is not just to reach your destination, but to ensure a smooth and informed journey. So, keep your eyes open, ask questions, and trust your ‘pilot’ to guide you safely through the skies of the home inspection process.

III. After the Inspection – Landing and Post-Flight Procedures

As our real estate flight begins its descent, the inspection phase concludes with the delivery of the inspection report. Think of this report as the flight log, detailing every aspect of your journey. It’s a comprehensive record of your potential new home’s condition, highlighting both the smooth currents and the turbulent areas that need attention.

When you receive this report, it’s like a pilot reviewing their flight log after landing. Take the time to go through it meticulously. Understand the implications of each finding. Some issues may be minor – akin to a light bulb replacement in the cabin – while others might be more significant, like an engine requiring overhauling. When I work with buyer clients during this phase of the transaction, I find it helpful to separate findings into three main categories: systems and structure, health and safety, and cosmetic. That way my clients can organize their thoughts around what’s truly important, and prepare to negotiate.

Handling Negotiations and Repairs:

With your feet back on the ground and the inspection report in hand, you enter the negotiation phase. This is like the post-flight debrief, where pilots discuss what went well and what needs improvement before the next flight.

For buyers, this is the time to discuss with your real estate agent about what repairs you’d like to request from the seller. Prioritize the issues based on their severity and impact on the overall safety and value of the home. It’s like a pilot ensuring the critical repairs are made before the aircraft is cleared for the next flight. I often suggest to my buyer clients that we always negotiate over health and safety concerns (radon, mold, and electrical issues), sometimes negotiate over structure and system concerns (depending on what was disclosed by the seller before inspection), and almost never negotiate over cosmetic concerns, as they will vary from buyer to buyer, and should be factored into your offer price before finalizing a contract.

For sellers, receiving a list of requested repairs can feel daunting, but it’s an integral part of the journey. Assess the requests and decide which repairs you’re willing to address. This is when I remind my seller clients why a thorough and honest seller’s disclosure can save them time and money down the road. If a concern arises during the inspection that was previously disclosed and explained by the seller, then buyers shouldn’t expect concessions post-inspection. However, inspections often reveal issues that surprise the buyer and seller alike. When this happens, remember: it’s a negotiation process. Finding a balance that satisfies both parties while ensuring the ‘aircraft’ is ready and safe for its next owner should be everyone’s desired outcome.

Remember, the goal at this stage is not just to close the deal but to ensure that all parties involved feel confident and satisfied with the condition of the property – much like passengers and crew feeling confident in the integrity and safety of their aircraft.

Conclusion: Safely Landing Your Real Estate Journey

As we taxi to the gate and conclude our flight through the home inspection process, let’s recap the key points of our journey. Like any skilled pilot navigating through clear skies and storms, we’ve learned the importance of preparation, attention to detail, and swift yet thoughtful action in the world of home inspections.

For buyers, remember that a home inspection is like your co-pilot, providing essential insights into the health and safety of your potential new home. It’s a crucial step in ensuring that your investment is sound and your future home journey is smooth.

For sellers, consider the inspection as your pre-flight checklist, a necessary step to ensure your property is ready for its new owners. Transparency and willingness to address issues not only facilitate a smoother transaction but also build trust – a valuable asset in the real estate market.

As we disembark from this journey, remember that whether you’re buying or selling, the home inspection process is an invaluable tool in your real estate arsenal. It’s the difference between a turbulent flight full of surprises and a smooth journey with a clear destination.

Ready to begin your real estate journey with confidence? Whether you’re preparing for takeoff or gearing up for landing, I’m here to guide you through every step of the process. Contact me today, and let’s navigate the skies of your real estate adventure together, ensuring a safe, informed, and satisfying journey to your new home.