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The Dangers of Assuming on a Home Inspection

While inspecting a home one major mistake a home inspector can make is assuming something is in satisfactory condition though they never actually inspected it or visually observed it. If you can't see something you are supposed to inspect make sure you properly document the fact that the item in question was not observed, inspected and why.

About a year ago I performed a home inspection for a young couple and the house I inspected was 8 years old and had a concrete block basement. Throughout the inspection no major defects were visible, which for an 8 year old house you would hope this was the case.

I had followed the inspection report room by room, page by page and was finished with the living area and attic and was now heading down to the basement. The basement was unfinished so I figured "great, the walls will be visible and I will be able to see if there was any cracking or movement going on". When I looked at the east, west, and south walls and there weren't any apparent problems, however when I got to the north wall it was completely covered with the seller's storage and personal property.

Instead of assuming the north wall was in good shape like the other walls, I documented the fact the wall was not visible and not evaluated due to being blocked/ covered by the seller's property. Also, I verbally explained to my client that I couldn't inspect the wall because it wasn't visible. They completely understood. I did recommend they perform a final walk-through before they close on the property to make sure there weren't any problems with the wall. I told them if my schedule permitted I would be happy to accompany them on the walk-though if it would make them feel better.

After filling everything out in the report I summarized the main points of the inspection, thanked them for their business and left to go on my next inspection. Interestingly, about a month later I received a call from the client stating they were at the house and were doing their final walk though. They were in the basement and the north wall which had previously been covered with storage
was now visible. They had informed me that there was a large step crack on the north wall and were not going to close until it was inspected. I went back into the basement and looked at the crack in question. The wall had an actual shear crack and was slightly bowing in. I made the recommendation that they contact a structural engineer for further evaluation because of the nature of the crack and the apparent movement. After following up with my client they did get a second opinion from astructural engineer and he recommended they brace the wall. They went back to the seller and asked the seller pay for the repair, which the seller agreed.

This is a great example of why a home inspector should never assume something is in satisfactory condition if it was not visible just because the rest of the house did not show any major defects. Had I not properly reported the wall as not being visible, not evaluated and the reason, the repair would have most likely come out of my pocket. DO NOT EVER ASSUME in this business that something is satisfactory if you cannot see it.

 

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