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Ten Home Inspection Deal Breakers… and a Little Chat with the Guy Under Your House

September 15, 2009
Hmm... this can't be good.

Hmm... this can't be good.

I’ll admit- I’m insanely curious about homes. When I’m at friends houses, I ask the kind of questions that earn me blank looks, head-scratching, and an occasional eye-roll over my obvious enthusiasm for the things many people overlook. But nobody beats out a Home Inspector when it comes to an eye for detail…

If you’re a realtor in LA, you probably know David Salvato- with DHI Home Inspection. He’s one of those people that seems to magically be everywhere, a featured Home Inspector on Active Rain, and I love his juicy updates on Twitter describing conditions good and bad in homes all over LA.

Today I grill David in honor of first time home buyers- and giving them some sound advice, with a quick Q & A followed by some of David’s Home Inspection Deal Breakers.

@EvangelistaLA: David… I’m guessing you either have to be OCD or majorly methodical to be a home inspector. Where’d you get your patience?

@FollowDHI: I get my patience by remaining focused on the task at hand. I inspect every home as if were one I was buying for myself. As the owner of David Home Inspection my name is on every inspection and I take that very seriously.

@EvangelistaLA: How do you feel about buyers who want to be present for your inspection?

@FollowDHI: I love it! I guess I must have been a teacher in another life or something. I truly enjoy sharing the details of the home inspection with the potential buyers.

@EvangelistaLA: Gimmie the dirt. What’s the worst thing you’ve seen on an inspection?

@FollowDHI: I would have to say by far the worst thing I’ve ever seen was a complete cutaway of a roof truss system to make room for a non-permitted bonus room. The roof could have collapsed on the occupants. The Home was deemed uninhabitable by the local building department. It took an investor to remove all the damaged trusses and rebuild it.

@EvangelistaLA: Woah. I’m guessing with banks taking ownership of so many homes you’re seeing some crazy conditions in REO properties. What’s the deal?

@FollowDHI: Conditions vary with location- and the amount of time the home is left unattended. It’s not uncommon for a Home Inspector to find things like the Heating and Air Conditioning systems removed. Vinyl doors and windows missing. Copper plumbing and electrical wires pulled out. I recently inspected a home where the $6,000 pool equipment had been stolen!

Your bonus: DHI’s Top Ten Reasons Homeowners Tend to Walk Away:

  1. Foundation cracks that are beyond normal. Small hair line cracks are considered normal – caused by the shrinking and settlement of the concrete itself. Larger cracks are sometimes caused by large tree roots or poor soil conditions.
  2. Mold. At times mold will come up on the report. Mold in large amounts can be caused by long term roof leaks, plumbing and irrigation damage- and the health effects attributed to major mold exposure may be serious.
  3. Asbestos. Any home built before 1978 will contain asbestos of some type, unless it’s been removed already. In older homes where the new owner wants to renovate, it is best to know where the asbestos laden products are and call a pro to remove them. This can impact a renovation budget heavily.
  4. Lead. For young families with small children a home with lead paint can be a big issue. Many times I find paint peeling or flaking off- leaving small bits of paint that can be ingested by children. The lead paint removal process is a expensive, and takes time.
  5. A Bad Roof. The roof system is one of the most important parts of the house. Replacing a roof can cost thousands and in some case even over ten thousand. Wood damage under the roof will cause the replacement price to escalate quickly.
  6. Wood destroying insects and organisms. Subterranean termites are the most common termite in the United States. A mature colony has from 80K to 400K workers. (eek! Something tells me they’re not lazy either…) The average colony can consume a one foot length of 2×4 in 118 days. Other unfriendly suspects inclue the Powder post beetle, the Carpenter bee, and the Carpenter ant. Long term infestation by any of these pests can lead to the loss of structural integrity.
  7. Household pests. (uh. Yuck…) Rats and mice are the most common finds in Southern California homes. This is especially true in homes that have a lot of fruit trees and date palms. Rodents can cause thousands of dollars in damage to the homes systems and equipment. They can eat the insulation off electrical and control wires, can nest in and destroy HVAC ducts as well.
  8. Missing or damaged systems and equipment. Plumbing, electrical and HVAC equipment are some of the first things taken. Many homes are being sold as is- Bank Owned. When homes are left unattended they are subject to thieves removing HVAC equipment appliances, copper wire and plumbing.
  9. Signs of past fire damage. Even after repairs have been made many people can’t get past the feeling of bad luck that comes with a home that’s been involved in a house fire.
  10. Death or Murder in Home. (major eek!) We saved the worst for last. Everyone has seen Amityville  Horror. Never meet anyone who went through with the purchase of a home after this kind of disclosure.

Seen something wild? Bought or sold a house somebody died in? Shoot us a comment!

12 Comments leave one →
  1. September 15, 2009 3:05 pm

    All excellent points. But about #10 … if a home is old enough, chances are that either someone has died or gotten quite old and sick in it, which to me says it’s probably a nice place to live out a life. Plus, not all deaths/murders are of the Amityville Horror variety (actually, I haven’t seen it. recommend?). After we bought our 87-year-old house, we were a little creeped out to learn that the 86-year-old previous owner had died, a few years before, of injuries received in a break-in. It was sad and eerie, but the home had (and has) a wonderful vibe. We just wish we didn’t have to learn about the death after the sale closed, via cryptic statements from neighbors. Still, I’ve always wondered: Is there a statute of limitations on when a seller must disclose a death or murder?

  2. September 15, 2009 5:38 pm

    The last two seem more like reasons people walk away than reasons TO walk away, no?

    I remember being with my father when he did a final walk-through before purchasing a house. It was somehow mentioned that the former owner had shot himself in an upstairs bedroom. I believe my father asked a few questions about whether or not the carpet had been replaced in that room. That was all.

  3. September 15, 2009 5:42 pm

    The title to this one kinda cracked me up: “Chat with the Guy Under Your House”. I think you know why…

    As for the reasons to walk away, most of those seems pretty valid to me (but then again, that’s just me). My older brother bought a house as a fixer-upper and they’re currently trucking away on that one.

  4. Bob Watson permalink
    September 16, 2009 10:54 am

    Laurie, your musings are sensational! Especially love the catchy headline and your interview style…and the pun at the end…well, classic!
    As a professional negotiator I do offer this post as a challenge to my fellow REALTORS who are good salespeople and negotiators all over the U.S. to BE the the negotiator and work with the other agent in the transaction, the buyer and the seller to “facilitate the sale”.
    Prepare your clients for the eventualities related to any contract contingencies and most of all, do not let anyone, agents or home inspectors stand in the way of someone buying the home they want.
    A home inspection should provide a diagnosis for what’s great and what’s not so great about a home, not provide a “punch-list” of repairs or “deal killers”. Is asbestos an issue-yes, but unless it is in “fryable” condition, sometimes it is better to leave it in the home rather than remove. It’s is NOT always a reason to walk-away. Mold? We just sold a home for $100,000 under market that went through $56,000 worth of mold remediation. Result? Extremely happy buyer with built-in equity and a remodelled home!
    Glad David didn’t inspect that one….might have scared the buyer out of the deal!

  5. September 16, 2009 11:06 am

    Bob- really great discussion starter.

    While I may be grossed out by rodents and creepy crawlies, there is nothing on this list that I can’t and haven’t remediated for a client-with exception to a death in the home.

    Big ticket items on an inspection serve to educate agents and homeowners of what’s truly on the table- and what they’re getting into. I get invited often to be present for the inspection, because the things we turn up are handed over to me to fix. It’s valuable information to guide the negotiations, as you say, between buyer and seller and their agents.

    Most agents are more than happy to negotiate their way through the inspection, and inspectors, including David, have a responsibility to lay the facts on the table. {Edit} I’ve retitled this list to avoid confusion. I’m not sure he’s implying or suggesting that you should drop and run over these… merely that they are some of the more serious problems buyers must address.

    Kudos to you for bringing up mold and asbestos- in most situations they simply require a licensed pro to do their job.

  6. Angelica Richardson permalink
    September 16, 2009 12:03 pm

    Laurie, Love the list. I agree with Bob that you shouldn’t walk away because of mold. But, here’s a “what if” scenario: What if the inspector doesn’t catch it in the inspection? I purchased a home in ’06 and recently “dumped it” in ’08. The inspector missed the mold behind the washer and dryer located in the garage. We were upset, but the listing agent took care of the problem and replaced much of the wall, at no expense to us. Therefore, I would like to add one more “walk away” to DH1’s list above: Walk away if the garage is filled floor to ceiling, and wall to wall with junk. If the inspector cannot do his or her job effectively because of the seller’s poor housekeeping, most likely there’s something terribly wrong with the house. (I obviously did not pay attention to the warning signs).

  7. September 16, 2009 12:45 pm

    Bob Watson Quote “Is asbestos an issue-yes, but unless it is in “fryable” condition, sometimes it is better to leave it in the home rather than remove. It’s is NOT always a reason to walk-away. Mold? We just sold a home for $100,000 under market that went through $56,000 worth of mold remediation. Result? Extremely happy buyer with built-in equity and a remodelled home!
    Glad David didn’t inspect that one….might have scared the buyer out of the deal!”

    Sorry for not fixing the poor spelling in Bob’s quote above.

    1. Bob, Scare or Inform?

    2. Bob, asbestos becomes more of an issue for buyers looking to renovate a home after purchase. Remediation of asbestos can crush any budget.

    3. Congratulations on your great negotiation skills. Selling a home with mold for $100,000 under market value. As you said you have a happy customer. Not every home buyer would be as happy. 10% of all homes that have had mold in the past when retested, test positive for mold again. Some people can live in moldy environments for years without experiencing any physical symptoms, while others will have immediate and sometimes severe reactions. Just like someone with animal allergies, the severity of one’s reaction depends on how sensitive they are. But than I have never had any one file a lawsuit against me or any of 100s of great Realtor’s I represent for selling home with MOLD. Lets hope that the home you sold doesn’t retest positive for mold.

    • September 18, 2009 10:56 am


      I’ve edited this post. By making a short, fun title for David’s list of things that make buyers freak out, I’ve unintentionally made it sound like David suggests not buying a house exhibiting these problems.

      A home inspection is a great asset, and a home inspector is an even bigger one. I love the discussions that have come from this post, and thank you to Leah, Seth, Ricardo, Bob, Angelica, and David for taking time to comment.


  8. September 18, 2009 11:13 am

    Laurie … Enjoyed your fun and good article about home inspections, with interview, especially your bonus points at the end.

    I agree with others that asbestos and mold should not be deal killers for buyers, but rather be taken care of carefully by inspectors with experience in those areas. If the A and M can be removed by qualified and licensed people, buyers should be calm and satisfied.

    Thanks for your article.

  9. September 28, 2009 11:54 am

    We have run across this same problem over and over – Thanks for great information.

  10. September 30, 2009 11:04 pm

    I don’t know If I said it already but …This blog rocks! I gotta say, that I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read..Jim Bean


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