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Realtor red flag? Or unfair expectation?


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A few years ago my sister bought a house, and she was very frustrated with her realtor and the realtor-rec'd home inspector.  They refused to exercise any sort of professional judgement on her behalf.  Upon being given the frankly scary 20-odd page list of everything wrong with the house, she asked the inspector what it all meant - which of these things are major, which are minor, which are the things you'd expect in a house like this and which aren't.  In short, for the inspector to not just give her a giant list of facts, but to then exercise a bit of professional judgment and explain the signifiance of those facts, as he saw it.  But he refused - said she'd have to contact individual contractors to get a cost estimate for fixing.  But she wasn't looking for a detailed cost estimate for fixing from him, but more of a general sense of "how serious are these problems?"  But nope, he insisted that was outside of his purview - all he does is list the problems, not discuss the problems.  Ditto for the realtor - she refused to offer up any sort of professional opinion about the pros and cons of buying this house with these problems at this price.  Wasn't her job.

Well, my sister wasn't thrilled about that - what is the point of hiring professionals to help if they won't exercise any professional judgment?  And for that and other reasons, she didn't trust her realtor at the time.  And then they had 3 or 4 major problems with the house in the first month of ownership (a/c not working, plumbing backed up into the kitchen, and a major roof leak) - they spent over 20K fixing things in that first month.  So one can't help but wonder if the realtor and inspector refused to exercise any judgment, because their judgment would have been to run away.

So did my sister just get a bad realtor and inspector, or were they right that the sort of professional judgment she expected them to offer is simply not what realtors and inspectors do?  (In which case, what sort of professionals *do* offer that kind of help with home-buying?)  I've been curious ever since, and as we might be looking to buy a home, I'm rather interested in figuring it out.

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Yes - we walk through the house with our inspector and he talked about things on the fly as we went and what his opinion was.  i.e. this furnace is old, but should be ok for another 5-10 years.  Your roof looks good for another 4-6 years.  You may want to replace this plumbing in the bathroom sooner rather than later.  This tile may have asbestos under it FYI.  Etc.  

I wouldn't expect the realtor to know and be ready to discuss the inspector's report.  But the inspector sounds like a piece of work. Though if he didn't walk through the house with the buyer, that is unusual in my experience.   If I were buying from afar and couldn't be present for the inspection, I might have offered the realtor (or someone) something to walk through. 

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You can't expect it from the realtor, because they have a vested interest in selling the house. 

I've never experienced an inspector who will give no thoughts at all, although they might be couched in words like: generally speaking, from what I have seen, I can't guarantee it but, and so on. 

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Bad inspector. 

Our inspector was very up-front about what was wrong and what expenses to expect (and what was poorly designed etc). He also gave us a "crash course" in keeping a house in good shape.

He did not give us any prices, just things like, "You'll need to replace the water heater soon and put it in a pan" and "This roof has a few years' life more, but only that" and "These railings aren't up to code; if you do any major work, you'll have to replace them all."

Emily

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Our inspection report just listed problems, and a bit of verbiage about the problem. Our realtor helped us read the inspection report and determine which were "common for this area" and "Common for this age of house" and which we should get fixed one way or the other. They also helped us figure out values so we could determine what was worth asking/potentially losing the house over and what to take care of ourselve.

 

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Ours was realtor recommended as well, but he wasn't quite that vague.  I do think their inspections are highly limited.  But, live and learn, next time I will hire my own inspector and not go with the friend of the realtor.  I do think it worked out fine and he didn't tell us any BS, but I always had a feeling in my gut that I didn't make the best decision at that point in time. 

 

 

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Our realtor was incredible - she actually knew "houses" and knew what was what.  Our inspector was OK.  My husband is REALLY good at spotting problems, he is very handy and understands various house systems.   Both, my husband and realtor spent HOURS and HOURS in the house before the deal was final, during 3 different seasons. (we are in New England)

And yet!  Our basement flooded the very first spring.  We were shocked bc there was NO sign of any kind of water in the basement before.  None!

All this to say two things:

1.  Even people who KNOW might not always see something from a few hours of "inspections" and /or walk-through.

2.  As much as I would love to trust all the professionals, my expectations are fairly low now days - I just don't see a lot of experts out there.

 

BTW, roof and plumbing that you described might not have been as obvious to someone who just walked through the house. 

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I think a couple of things are at play:

1. As far as professional responsibility goes, the inspector was not necessarily wrong in advising outside consultation. We've purchased and sold a few homes in the last three years, and there are times when a specialist's opinion is needed. I'm dealing with a roof/gutter issue right now where even among the bids I'm getting, there's not complete agreement as to the scope of the issue.

2. Sometimes an inspector just has a crappy personality and you need to ask specific questions. "How much degranularization is there on the roof? Is the electrical box up to current code?"

3. Sometimes an inspector is trying to tell you, in a polite way, that the house is a bad deal and you aren't picking up on the clues.  This can especially be true when a buyer is over the heels in love with a house and is turning a blind eye to reason.

Of the three houses, in three different states, there as have also been different realty rules as to disclosures. In TX, all previous inspections in the past 5 years must be disclosed. That hasn't been true in the two other states we've dealt with.

My advice? Interview a few different realty agents.  Ask for sample reports from the inspector.  Ask about the amount of detail that is given as to the condition of major systems and when they refer you out for additional advice. Frankly, I think it's worth the extra fees to have those additional inspections done because the repairs can become really steep really quickly.  We had to back out of a contract on a house in January because we discovered extensive hidden damage because we had gone the extra mile in being diligent (using moisture meters to check around every toilet on the floor and the wall, using thermal guns on the windows, etc.)  Generally, nearly every house is going to have *some* issue. It's figuring out what you can live with with the market you're in and the budget you've got.

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Was the realtor a buyer or a seller's broker?  Exactly what the realtor can or cannot do will vary by state law, but if the realtor is not acting as a buyer's broker, you cannot expect the realtor to work in the interest of the buyer.  

Was the inspection paid for by the buyer or the seller?  In my experience an inspector provides a detailed report of items that are not up to code or things like wiring that has not been done properly or that there is water damage to the ceiling.  They would say things like "this is very common in a home this age" but  they would not provide any estimate of cost of fixing the problem.  Also, they would not be able to make any judgements regarding how long it would be before an AC unit quit or other appliances broke.  

 

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32 minutes ago, SereneHome said:

 

All this to say two things:

1.  Even people who KNOW might not always see something from a few hours of "inspections" and /or walk-through.

2.  As much as I would love to trust all the professionals, my expectations are fairly low now days - I just don't see a lot of experts out there.

 

This is a good point.  We bought a 100 year old house.  We still had some surprises.  (ETA - luckily not near the tune of 20K!)

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So it sounds like it's not unreasonable to expect more from a realtor/inspector.

My family hasn't had great luck homebuying.  We none of us knew anything and just blindly put ourselves into the hands of the realtor.  Bewteen us we've made what feels like all the mistakes.  My sis was the only one who came to distrust her realtor during the process, but she just closed her eyes to red flags and hoped nothing too bad would happen.  (The expensive repair surprises only capped off an already bad process.)  I'm hoping to learn from past mistakes, and be proactive and smarter about it this time. 

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3 minutes ago, forty-two said:

So it sounds like it's not unreasonable to expect more from a realtor/inspector.

My family hasn't had great luck homebuying.  We none of us knew anything and just blindly put ourselves into the hands of the realtor.  Bewteen us we've made what feels like all the mistakes.  My sis was the only one who came to distrust her realtor during the process, but she just closed her eyes to red flags and hoped nothing too bad would happen.  (The expensive repair surprises only capped off an already bad process.)  I'm hoping to learn from past mistakes, and be proactive and smarter about it this time. 

 Home buying was the most convoluted process I've ever gone through.  It really stinks.  And it's not like most of us have an unlimited supply of money.  The home inspection cost us $500.  We couldn't exactly afford to have multiple inspections.  (Given the price of the home  this represented a pretty significant chunk of change too.) 

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I wouldn’t expect an inspector to give their “opinion” on what thing are an issue, etc.   that enters the realm of liability.  Both from the buyer’s standpoint of “you said this wasn’t a big deal – and now look at how catastrophic this thing failed” . .. and the seller’s standpoint of “you told the buyer this was a problem and now the sale fell through, or now they’re demanding I fix this before they’ll buy”

And – inspectors can miss things.  Plus the stuff you really don’t’ know about unless you rip open the walls.

Your sister’s realtor was being professional – unlike 2dd’s realtor who kept pushing a sale on terms that benefited the *seller*. (it turns out they were friends.)   not only did they end up cancelling their contract to buy – they fired the agent and got a new one.

 

 Most contractors will go through the list, in the house – and give an estimate for what to expect to pay to fix them. 

 The bank will also give you their opinion on what can wait – and what they want fixed before they’ll make a loan on the property.   Of course – you risk them refusing to make a loan if there are critical things that need to be fixed.

1dd bought a house with a “seller’s inspection” (we’re I a super hot market)  – and a list of everything and how much it would cost to fix.  By coincidence – we were acquainted with the son of the builder they used for the bids.

We could go through the list – and have had enough experience we had a good idea of what was normal wear and tear, and what needed to be fixed asap.

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I was once told by a person who bought/sold houses as a business that you have to live in a house for a year to find out all its "secrets".   that's why any time my friends/family ask me to run numbers for them before buying a house, I strongly suggest to them to start house EF before the ink is dry on the purchase agreement.

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That sounds really bad.

I would expect more than that.

I have seen realtors flat out lie to people to make themselves look good, for various reasons.  But most of them, unless they are extremely high volume or part timers, seem to like to show off their expertise and would steer someone gently away from a house with such obvious problems, or use them as negotiating points to lower the price or insist on repairs in advance of closing.  Also, although it is not required, it seems pretty common around here for realtors to suggest and sometimes even pay for (as a gift at closing) a one year home warranty that covers appliances and major systems, though not structural things.  That way if something like the AC or plumbing or furnace goes bad, the insurance is there to take care of it.

Also, one of the rules that I have for myself is to attend every inspection, ask questions, and take my own notes.  I learn a ton that way, and I know for a fact that it makes the inspection reports more thorough.

As far as having a good realtor or not, I don't think that people who just put themselves into the hands of a realtor actually usually get well-served.  Realtors are human, like everyone else, and need a little watching--not suspician, just watchfulness.  Buying a property is a big investment, and you owe it to yourselves to get your head in the game and pay very close attention to it.  

 

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1 hour ago, SereneHome said:

I was once told by a person who bought/sold houses as a business that you have to live in a house for a year to find out all its "secrets".   that's why any time my friends/family ask me to run numbers for them before buying a house, I strongly suggest to them to start house EF before the ink is dry on the purchase agreement.

and to buy a home warranty.

We bought a home warranty on this house.  We've owned it for only a few months, and our oven died. The warranty company replaced the oven (to the tune of $3500 as it was an expensive downdraft model).

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Was the realtor your sister worked with hers, i.e. a buyer's realtor, or the realtor of the seller? I didn't read all the posts so don't know if you already said.  We used a buyer's realtor when we bought our first house because we were clueless.  She knew she would get a commission from whatever house be bought so wasn't invested is us buying any particular house.

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52 minutes ago, Mary in VA said:

Was the realtor your sister worked with hers, i.e. a buyer's realtor, or the realtor of the seller? I didn't read all the posts so don't know if you already said.  We used a buyer's realtor when we bought our first house because we were clueless.  She knew she would get a commission from whatever house be bought so wasn't invested is us buying any particular house.

Pretty sure it was her realtor.

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Two things: 

1. I think there is a lot of collusion going on between realtors and thier favorite inspectors. 

2. In my state, it’s really easy to become an inspector. Most lisenced handymen are doing it on the side because it’s an easy $500. 

After a bad experience, I would say it is almost MORE important to choose your inspector wisely and deliberately than your realtor. 

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Inspectors are to alert you to potential problems so you can have an additional licensed pro have an indepth look to determine if you want or can afford to go forward.

As an agent I see and work with a lot of inspectors. I always give my buyer clients a list of at least three inspectors who do a good job and will explain their findings with the potential buyers. I want the level headed guys or gals who can explain what should be a deal killer, an repair or replace item, or what goes on the first honey-do list. 

That 20 (or 40 or 60) page format is pretty standard for the inspection industry. Does a lot of cya in my opinion.

Houses break--a good home warranty can help for some aspects. I tell my clients to start an emergency repair/replace fund immediately-- for the AC and the roof if nothing else.

Many agents I know work hard to explain the process and procedures of buying a house. It is a convoluted process at times--lots of moving parts. 

I'm sorry they had a less than spectacular experience. 

 

 

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And this is part of why I am so blah about even looking. Dh has one eye on the market but me....yawn. 

The last house we built so we knew what was what. I just feel I would have to look over everyone's shoulder in order to not get taken to the cleaners or just buy something that we'd come to regret.

 

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My DH couldn’t be at the house for the inspection. So I brought a friend of ours. The inspector had already done his report (now that I think about it, he must print it in his truck?). So he filled all the tubs, turned up the heat and air, flew his drone around the roof, etc, before we got there. Then he went through the report page by page, picture by picture (space under the jet tub, infrared pictures showing if cold air was getting in anywhere, drone pics, etc). Then he walked me and our friend through the house, pointing out good things and concerns, answering questions. Then our friend called my DH, filled him in, and then the inspector spoke to DH on the phone. We are coming up to one year, and, knock on wood, no surprises.

The inspector was pre-booked by our realtor. However, we were going to buy a different house at first, and they both went first, confirmed the plumbing was not what we wanted, and told us not to come. The inspector didn’t charge us anything for that visit, even though we would have been reimbursed for it. 

However, as with anything involving professionals, I think it’s luck of the draw.

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6 hours ago, ThursdayNext said:

Our home inspectors have been way more helpful and chatty. I think the realtor knew better and wanted to make the sale.

 

Me too.    Our made a bullet point synopsis of what the worst problems were.  He even told us that he didn't want us moving into the house until a few thing were corrected (mold and electrical) and gave us a ball-park estimate for fixing that... which we took to the owners. Our realtor also gave us ball-park estimates from her experience on fixing several things in the house. 

But, it wasn't perfect and there were some things that I wished *we'd* been more proactive about.  But, it was nothing like the OP is describing.

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6 hours ago, forty-two said:

So it sounds like it's not unreasonable to expect more from a realtor/inspector.

My family hasn't had great luck homebuying.  We none of us knew anything and just blindly put ourselves into the hands of the realtor.  Bewteen us we've made what feels like all the mistakes.  My sis was the only one who came to distrust her realtor during the process, but she just closed her eyes to red flags and hoped nothing too bad would happen.  (The expensive repair surprises only capped off an already bad process.)  I'm hoping to learn from past mistakes, and be proactive and smarter about it this time. 

We've purchased four homes as personal residences, plus three additional as rental income. There have been only TWO realtors that I found to be ethical. Some of the behaviors affected us more than others--letting the other parties' realtor know the desperate deadline we were up against, to just shady stuff, one offering to pay out of pocket to ensure a sale went through. We've watched the other side's realtor lie right to his client's face.

I've seen what used to be a home inspection now turn into a giant laundry list of everything needed to make a home brand new. I think it's in response to justifying the cost to appease buyers, and some people apparently use it as a weapon against the seller: "Here are 9 pages of defects, now what are you going to do?"

I would consider hiring a home inspector on my own through an engineering firm, based on one that our buyers used. They were thorough, detailed with the major stuff, and knowledgeable. Your realtor DOES have a vested interest in selling you a house, and any inspector he recommends is going to want to stay on the good side of the realtor. I'm not saying anything bad about the inspector, but if he wants more referrals, he needs to make the buyer and realtor happy.

 

 

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I don't have a ton of experience with this, but it was definitely the case that our inspector told us that stuff. He said, I think this will last you this long, this is a problem, this isn't great but it'll be okay for awhile, etc. The realtor had a sense of how much things cost... much of which was just off. The inspector was right about most of the things and how long they'd last... one big exception was the hot water heater, which he said we'd have to replace in the first few years. We're on year 15 and we only just had to do it.

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There's definitely risk of a conflict of interest when a realtor recommends an inspector.  The realtor wants to sell the house and is going to want the inspection to "go well" to make that happen. The inspector wants to inspect more houses to make money, so they want realtors to refer them.

I'm not going to say it's FAIR, but buyers absolutely do have to do their own homework. I googled the heck out of our report, and that was 12 years ago. I went in skeptical of the inspector because I'd read a book that pointed out the conflict of interest.  Also because he tried to get me to believe that there must have been a painting mishap over the fireplace when I was pretty darn certain that it had been a repair job after a leak.  Lo and behold, our flashing around the chimney is prone to ice damming!

I know not everyone likes to do the research, but it's a bad idea to skip it when it comes to that much money!

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11 hours ago, Scarlett said:

I generally feel that home inspections are a waste of money. And that realtors are not necessary . 

 

Yes!  I agree. 

We could have done just fine without either of these people.  We also had to hire a lawyer. All these people with their hand out for your money.  That's what it is.  Grumble...

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1 hour ago, SparklyUnicorn said:

 

Yes!  I agree. 

We could have done just fine without either of these people.  We also had to hire a lawyer. All these people with their hand out for your money.  That's what it is.  Grumble...

Abstract company does all that needs to be done.  And if you are getting a mortgage on they make sure their investment is protected.  

Dh and I bought this house we have now from an on line auction. it was a pice of cake.  Abstract company walked us through what we needed to do.  

My parents sold their house themselves and they insisted on having an attorney draw up the offer and acceptance . I didn't bother arguing with them on it, but that is not required.  The kids who bought it got a loan and the bank was telling them every move to make....no lawyer required.  

The bank and abstract company have attorneys on staff....no extra attorney is needed.

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1 hour ago, ksr5377 said:

It probably varies by state, but in my state my understanding is that inspectors should NOT be telling people what is a major or minor problem due to liability.  

My experience when I have hired them is they have zero liability.  The report they give you is very clear on that.  The two times I had it done I felt it was a big waste of money.  

The thing about houses is that they just have things go wrong., you really have to plan for that up front.  

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1 minute ago, Scarlett said:

My experience when I have hired them is they have zero liability.  The report they give you is very clear on that.  The two times I had it done I felt it was a big waste of money.  

The thing about houses is that they just have things go wrong., you really have to plan for that up front.  

I think that can be true to a point. If you have structural issues, leaks, termites, roof/water damage, fire hazards, electrical haywiring, all of these can be found through an inspection. We've had inspectors test for radon, which we requested the seller remediate for our current home (along with incorrect canned lighting installation). Those things are not as easily identifiable by the majority of buyers as, say, a deck or driveway needing repair. My husband also was not going to go crawling through the attic/crawl space.

I posted earlier that we've not paid for inspections on rental property we've purchased. The difference is that those are older homes, we do know more what we are getting, it's easier to see the flaws, we know that most is not up to current code. Plus our investment is 10-15% of what our personal residence is, so it's not cost effective. Rental properties where we are require periodic safety inspections by the city, so there is a cushion there for those purposes.

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22 minutes ago, ThisIsTheDay said:

I think that can be true to a point. If you have structural issues, leaks, termites, roof/water damage, fire hazards, electrical haywiring, all of these can be found through an inspection. We've had inspectors test for radon, which we requested the seller remediate for our current home (along with incorrect canned lighting installation). Those things are not as easily identifiable by the majority of buyers as, say, a deck or driveway needing repair. My husband also was not going to go crawling through the attic/crawl space.

I posted earlier that we've not paid for inspections on rental property we've purchased. The difference is that those are older homes, we do know more what we are getting, it's easier to see the flaws, we know that most is not up to current code. Plus our investment is 10-15% of what our personal residence is, so it's not cost effective. Rental properties where we are require periodic safety inspections by the city, so there is a cushion there for those purposes.

I agree a person needs some idea of what to look for.  My Dh can do everything an inspector can do...in fact he thought of getting certified....

it also does depend on how much a person is spending on the house.  But then again I tend to feel most people overspend on a house.  

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On foreclosures the banks are now doing more rehab than they used to.  My parents house had sat empty for 2 years and when they bought it from the bank it was obvious they had done a freshening up.  Turns out THEY ( the bank) hired an inspector and then a contractor and although the bank still sold it as is, they did make those reports available to my parents.  So that is something people need to remember to ask for on foreclosures.  

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I think if the sister were soliciting *opinions* about the condition of the house with respect to whether they should buy then I could understand why agent and inspector weren’t  giving what she wanted. Agents have to abide by some ethical standards of objectivity. I am not sure what the rules are for inspection objectivity, but I can tell you it isn’t like Mike Holmes reality TV.  And both need to be objective to ensure they don’t burn any bridges of future business.

The inspector is supposed to find things that are not to code or pose health or hazard risks.  They aren’t suppose to advise about purchase decisions. And they aren’t experts in each trade so they can’t give you all the answers to “how much?” And “how long will it last?” Or “what will it take to fix?” Our home inspectors have generally been helpful and friendly, but very objective. 

Agents are to facilitate showing houses, mind the legal parameters of the area, and be negotiators with the other party’s agent.  They need to remain on good terms with *everyone* to do this well, including the other party and their agent.  They should give objective information and insight on things, but not personal opinion. It’s a balancing act.

So without knowing everything it’s hard to say if this was unreasonable expectations or if they were taken advantage of.

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Inspectors we have used have looked for very specific things.  The state of the roof is one of them - but they don't climb on the roof.  They rely on reports from the homeowner on the age of the roof, they will visually inspect it from the ground and will look for signs of leaking inside on the ceiling.  If they did those things and there is no sign of damage, then I'm not sure what someone expects them to have done differently. 

They also checked major appliances and systems.  So if the a/c wasn't working at the time of the inspection then they should have caught it.  If it was clunking along about to break, they should have caught it.  If it was super old, then they should have warned that it might be a problem in the future.  But if it was working fine at the time of the inspection, then well, those things happen.  (Our inspector warned us that the furnace was very old and might give out soon.  We were not surprised or throwing a tantrum when it went out the first month and we had to replace it. )

They also check the plumbing for current problems.  So they will look for signs of leaks, low water pressure, bad drainage etc.  If those things were fine at the inspection but then developed after the sale then again those things happen.  (We sold a house where the new homeowners tried to sue us when they had major clogs after the sale.  We were sorry for them (btdt with other houses) but I was able to prove with affidavits from our plumber and the inspector that there was regular maintenance done and there had been no problems at the time of sale.) 

Sometimes houses can be money pits.  And it's not always anyone's fault. 

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We need inspections because we are not handy and would miss even obvious problems. But I think it is silly the way they list every little thing and buyers use a broken drawer pull or something similar to negotiate. 

Our last realtor would give zero input and that was hard because we were not local and really needed some insight on neighborhoods and what to offer, etc. We had the first house we bid on fall through. After we closed on a second house she said "I am so glad. This house is so much better for you in a much better neighborhood." I was pretty frustrated she didn't offer anything like that when we were trying to buy the first house. 

Its a pretty frustrating and expensive process all around. 

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