About thirty days ago I inspected a ten year old, one story ranch in Troy, MO. The owners were in the process of moving out but there were still a lot of items left to move. My policy – which is also an ASHI standard of practice – is to inspect what I can see and document if I can’t see to inspect an area. If there is an item in the way that I can move with one hand I will move it, inspect that area and then move the item back. But if there are large items or a lot of items in one area and I can’t see the area to inspect it, I document that the item in question was not observed and therefore not inspected.
These buyers were thrilled to find a home close to her parents. They did not want me to find anything wrong! This was the home of their prayers! As I went through the home I did not find any major defects which for a ten year old home are what you would expect. I inspected the first floor and attic. Only small items were noted. And as usual I pointed out a lot of ‘good’ things too. It’s hard work finding a home and buyers need to know the strong points, too! I went to the unfinished basement. Everything looked great on three walls. But the west wall had boxes and totes stacked from floor to ceiling.
I documented the fact that the wall was not visible and not inspected due to visibility being blocked the storage items. I also explained to this couple that I couldn’t inspect what I couldn’t see. They understood. I told them to be sure and do the final walk through before they closed to make sure that wall looked good. If they saw anything questionable they could call me and send a pic by phone so we could discuss what they were seeing.
As it turns out, their walk through was last Friday. The house was now empty. At 10 am I get a call from them saying, “Hey – would you look at this crack?” The picture they sent me showed an obvious step crack! I was able to do a visual inspection a few hours later and recommended a foundation specialist to come and repair as needed. They made a few calls and held off the close. A few days later they had two estimates. They presented those estimates to the seller who agreed to pay for repair. He said he hadn’t disclosed the crack because he never knew it was there. It was all worked out. They will be closing next week.
Had I not documented this wall could not be inspected, the repair would have most likely come out of my errors and omissions insurance. Home Inspecting is not only documenting what you see but what you don’t see. In the end, this was a happy story for everyone. And a good lesson to all – never assume anything!