Did you know that there are no such categories in the Municipal Codes as “Health and Safety Items”, “Repairs Items”, or “Maintenance Items” regarding home inspections? Nope! And yet, our home inspections always seem to have them. And more, lenders, underwriters and appraisers frequently seem to lean on those categories like a crutch. Some have even stretched their importance beyond belief and require everything on a summary sheet to be fixed, repaired, or upgraded – regardless of the subjectivity employed to put them in those categories.
So, what’s that all about?
I recently hired one of the most reputable home inspectors in town to conduct a pre-sale home inspection on my peaceful and energizing Elizabeth Street listing. (I’d swear, that home is mostly Feng Shui already!) There were a few relatively insignificant electrical items in the 672sf garage with lots of cabinetry and counter tops for shop projects. (Did you know those maple wood cabinets came from Wendler Middle School when they renovated it? True story!) Anyway, Dave Mortensen did a great job and he really seemed to like that ‘ol house a lot!
He immediately noted the Douglas Fir flooring in the main level, the stairs and the sitting area between the 2 smaller bedrooms upstairs. I pointed out that the wood came from an old 1800’s house that Habitat for Humanity in Washington State replaced. The boards were bulk shipped to Anchorage where each tongue and groove board was individually stripped, stained and placed by hand. And the stylish worm holes were filled in with epoxy by hand. When it was all installed, the floor was absolutely beautiful. It’s probably due for another coating soon.
But I digress…
After doing some catching up, he mentioned that he and a large number of home inspectors – because, as you may know, he’s the president of the American Society of Home Inspectors here in Alaska – have been meeting in order to streamline the inspection reports they deliver. As it turns out, inspectors are just as interested in keeping the reports meaningful in a transaction as all the other parties involved. And keeping the hardball negotiating due to the reports that tend to muck up the works to a minimum.
After he pointed out how well built the roof was with its proper ventilation – as opposed to other typical hot roofs of the time, he said that we realtors started asking that the summary sheet display those three categories so we could focus on only the important items in an amendment requesting repairs. Of course, we all know that that has gotten out of hand. Even the lenders, underwriters, and appraisers have dog-piled onto these highlighted categories as if the items chosen to be in those categories were all far less subjective than they really are.
I was perplexed to hear that. As we were both leaning on the railing of the way over built 525sf Oberon deck (because it was originally intended to hold a full-size hot tub) and soaking up the view of Sleeping Lady and the inlet in the distance, I asked Dave what he thought should be done. He immediately said that the neighbor should cut down some of those trees that were encroaching on the view. We laughed because he knew that wasn’t what I was talking about. But he went on to explain that the code is still the standard to be used. But what goes into that summary sheet should be pared down somewhat and brought back into a common sense perspective.
He gave an excellent example. But, please understand that this example is NOT referring to THIS home because this home has a beautiful young metal roof on the home and about a 7-ish year old storm worthy roof over the garage! Dave pointed out that a house could be sporting a few broken outlet or light switch face plates – vs – a relatively aged roof. Since the face plates are electrical related, they pose a danger of shock and automatically get included in the health and safety category. Whereas the roof isn’t falling down, hasn’t fallen down and isn’t wet in the ceiling of the attic. But it may be a bit under-insulated and packed down according to today’s standards and is showing signs of wear and fatigue due to its old age. That is not an immediate threat to life and limb so it’s not included in the health and safety category. The face plates would cost about $15 dollars to repair while the roof would cost many thousands to replace but it is treated with a different sense of importance in order to satisfy the Realtors. Because as you know, some Realtors make statements that only “health and safety” items will be entertained by the sellers to repair. And that often creates a huge disconnect between the seller’s asking price and the buyer’s offered price. And that’s before the lender, appraiser and underwriters get involved.
Another example of genuine subjectivity is the square “hole” in the wall between the closet downstairs and the family room. As an inspector, he was wondering if there was some sort of code that hole was satisfying. I’ve heard at least 5 different serious explanations for it – from it being a pet door to circulating air to let moisture evaporate, to electronics wiring for TV’s and stereo equipment, to sheetrock required under stairs. And none of those reasons are correct. It was really installed because when the home was raised, the owners at that time used to home school downstairs in the family room. That little “hole” was built for their youngest daughter to have her own little “fort”. It’s amazing how everyone jumps to conclusions – kind of like when receiving home inspection reports – when we really just don’t have enough information on something yet.
Dave asked me if the very discretely placed Conex used for storage in the south yard stayed with the home and I said yes. In fact, the owners at the time were issued the last permit in Anchorage by the Muni for installing a Conex in your yard (if I remember that correctly, that is.) Someone could go a step or two further and put in a huge garden, greenhouse and large chicken coop in the 50 or more square yards next to it to grow food for the household. I’m not saying it’s “prepper”, but I wouldn’t rule it out either!
I mentioned to him how the owners back at the time this home was raised pointed out that the yard is so beautiful because of excellent drainage and hydro-seeding. He said that an extensive French Drain was installed around the entire house and the drains inside the home are connected to it. Even cooler, that the septic system, while being pumped and maintained annually, is only about 15-ish years old. There is plenty of water flow from the well, and because of their friendship with Mike Anderson of Anderson Engineering, even to this day, there is no problem with the in-floor heating on the bottom level.
In a nutshell, I recommended that Dave hold a number of “Streamlining Home Inspection Reports” seminars – kind of like what Stewart Title does when Ted Jones rolls into town for his annual economic forecast – in Anchorage and around the state in order to make it more agreeable all around. So sometime in the next month or so, we’ll all be hearing from the Society announcing these “tweaks”.
If you want to see what the fuss with this home is all about for yourself, then text me and go. It’s on MLS lockbox. And if you want to learn more about these “tweaks” in the home inspection reports, then contact Dave Mortensen with Discovery Home Inspections.