Should I buy this House?

The Home Inspection process and the question of whether or not you should buy a particular house.

Often times an inspector gets asked, ‘Should I buy this house?’ This seems like a reasonable question. It is however a question I cannot responsibly answer. This question is much bigger than just being ‘about the house’. Even a perfect house might not be the right house for you to buy.

A Homebuyer usually has many more qualifiers in their mind than an inspector is ever aware of. A particular house on its’ own merits may be perfect. The location however may not be quite right for getting to work efficiently. The unfenced yard might not work so well for the dog and kids. Another house may have some wear and tear issues but works just right for the other factors just mentioned.

The following are a couple of real life examples of how the home buying process can go.

Example 1: Three houses to choose from in Oak Park and River Forest

I received a request to do a home inspection for a family. We scheduled the inspection and everyone met at the property. The location and home were just what the buyer wanted. The clients main concerns were safety and functionality of the home for them and their children. Overall this was a very nice house. Most of the house was original but some rehab work had been done. There were some issues however with some of the original components and the newer rehab work.

The 2 story wood rear porch was clearly unsafe for children and somewhat questionable for general use; the basement layout was a bit odd and not very practical for children; and mechanical systems needed updating.

The buyer stated they had a busy life schedule between 3 kids and 2 jobs. Taking on a fair amount of work was not what they were looking for. They decided to look around a little more but kept this house as an option.

The second house they requested I inspect was a beautiful vintage home nearby. It had a much larger yard and driveway. The interior was wonderful; had lots of natural woodwork throughout; nice sized rooms and endless amounts of charm. The house was being sold by the Estate. Unfortunately nothing had been updated in the home in probably 40+ years. Plumbing, electrical and the heating system had all reached the end of their useful life cycles. The kitchen and bathrooms were all outdated and in poor condition. This building clearly needed substantial rehab. As much as the clients loved the house, they realized it wasn’t a realistic purchase for them.

The 3rd house they requested I inspect was a nice, newly rehabbed house. The kitchen was large and modern with new appliances and cabinetry. The bathrooms were clean and shiny. The place looked really great. Unfortunately, the majority of the mechanical systems were installed very poorly and non-compliant. Overall workmanship and components were done in a way that was not going to last. As great as the house looked it was going to be a money pit of repairs in coming years. The client gladly passed on the house.

In the end, the client ended up purchasing the 1st home. Once they evaluated the differences in available homes, level of work and costs, the 1st house is the one that worked best for their situation. There were way to many factors going into their decision making process for any inspector to make any valid recommendation.

Example 2: Great big house in a great location in Morton Grove

I received a call for a home inspection on a suburban home. The house turned out to be a large newer home about 12 years old. The house had a great location, secluded but close to the expressway. Rooms were large and abundant. The house had great curb appeal and a wonderful yard. The client really wanted the house. Size and location were ideal for their situation.

Unfortunately, nothing had been done on the house since it was built. The kitchen was original, outdated and had extensive damage to cabinetry. All 4 bathrooms had 12 years of family wear and tear. The basement was finished and would be a great space for an entertainment room. It also had a second kitchen in the basement.

As much as the client wanted this house, he realized that installing a new kitchen and 4 bathrooms in coming years would be a bit much. Once we discovered that the basement was taking in water, the deal was pretty much dead.

Fortunately this client was able to see past his desire for the house and accept that it probably wasn’t the best fit for them.

A few weeks later I inspected a townhome in Northbrook for this client. The townhome also had various repair issues. However, the issues were much more manageable and far less costly to deal with. The client purchased the home.

Example 3: The vacant REO and the young couple in Chicago

A corporate client requested that I perform an inspection on a vacant REO property. As I was finishing up the inspection a young couple arrived to look at the house again. They had already seen the property and were coming back for a second time before making an offer. They were absolutely in love with the house. Their daughter was thrilled with the large yard and swing set that had been left behind.

Under normal circumstances I would have chit-chatted with them for a minute and then left. We did chat for a few minutes and it became clear they had no idea what they were doing, they were 1st time homebuyers. Having done my inspection, I knew at that point my client was most likely going to pass on the deal. Also knowing my client I knew they would not object to what I was about to do.

It just didn’t seem right to allow this young couple to walk into this purchase blind. Based on our conversation, it was clear they didn’t have a lot of money to spend on purchase or rehab. The husband stated they were looking at REO’s because it seemed like a more reasonable way for them to become homeowners. I offered to walk-through the house with them, take a look around and chat.

We started walking through rooms and I asked them what they thought of each room and if they saw any potential problems. They beamed with joy as they described the woodwork, colors they would paint the walls and where furniture would go.

To make a long story a bit shorter … they hadn’t seen the clear signs of roof leaks; they hadn’t noticed that all the copper plumbing supply pipes and water tank had been removed; They did see the holes in the walls where the pipes had been removed but assumed that was just drywall repair work. The mold like substance growing on the basement walls, they figured was dirt; Nothing that some cleaning or painting wouldn’t take care of. Based on the amount and location of the mold like substance it seemed evident that the basement was taking in water. The 40 year old furnace with a rusty heat exchanger just looked dirty to them.

These sorts of revelations continued throughout the inside and exterior of the home. In the end the young couple was able to view this house and future homes with a much better understanding of what to look for when buying a home.

I informed my client of what had happened. They also chose not to purchase the property. They approved of my actions and were happy that I had helped a young family stay out of a money pit.

Conclusion: All the people in these situations asked me, if they should buy the home I was inspecting. I explained to them that I could not responsibly answer that question. Only they know all the factors going into their decision and what was right for them.

I hope these examples shed some light on the question of whether your inspector can or should tell you whether to buy a particular house or not. As has hopefully been demonstrated, the answer to this question isn’t always an easy one. There are many variables that can go into your decision making process. Your inspector is not sufficiently aware of all of the factors and concerns that go into your home purchase decision to give you a responsible answer.

All homes have maintenance concerns and defects that should be addressed, new construction homes even more so. The issues vary by home and vintage so looking for a house that has no problems isn’t realistic. Assessing how manageable the issues in a home are for your particular situation is often a much better strategy. Buying a house is a major purchase decision. Short and long-term renovation cost factors should be considered wisely and thoroughly.

Please feel free to give us a call to discuss questions you may have about the home inspection process or to schedule your inspection.

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