Thursday 22 February 2018

When your purchase goes stinky on inspection

A majority of the time, property inspections go well enough, with only small problems and maintenance items identified.  But sometimes they don't go as expected at all, with the inspector uncovering a significant defect or cause for concern.

It can get "stinky" pretty quickly... especially a septic inspection. (hah!)

While septic inspections can be the stinkiest of course, any inspection is an opportunity for things to go sideways.  A home inspector may stick their head in the attic and discover mould or animal damage, or a septic inspector could identify problems you'd never be able to find on a casual viewing like you would at a showing - often the access to the system is buried and not even visible until it is dug out for the inspection.

At one country property, the septic specialist was concerned as soon as he took the cover off and saw the tank was badly worn.  From there it went downhill, as the system was old and its location on the property was okay when it was installed but would never be allowed today.  Between the slope of the property and the location of the house and well on the lot, replacing the septic system would have been a huge headache and cost significantly more then usual for an advanced system that would be able to pump up hill, and having to decommission the well.  The off-hand estimate at the time was $50-60,000 total.

Needless to say, the buyer didn't proceed with that purchase.  The family was sad because the house seemed perfect in many ways.  But it would not have been prudent to buy the house, knowing the septic would probably need be to replaced within a few years and the problems they'd have (not to mention the expense).

When a purchase falls apart because of a bad inspection, it's tempting to feel like you've wasted money.  But can you imagine if the buyer above didn't have an inspection condition in the offer?  They would have bought the house without knowing about that problem, and then it would have been an unpleasant surprise later on when they had to change.  That huge expense would have been much "stinkier" than losing the fee on an inspection!

We always try to identify problems before we even make an offer, but there are limits within the scope of a normal showing, and sometimes things just get missed because we're human.  Whenever possible, buyers should try to include appropriate inspection conditions to protect themselves.

And consider it a wise investment if it does turn up something bad enough to cancel the purchase. The alternative can be much worse.

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