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Here’s why buyers should insist on going to home inspections

Robert Stockmann, owner of Pinnacle Inspections, inspects a crawl space at a home in Bellingham in 2009. Homebuyers always should insist that they accompany their inspector, in part because it’s a great opportunity to learn more about the property they intend to purchase.
Robert Stockmann, owner of Pinnacle Inspections, inspects a crawl space at a home in Bellingham in 2009. Homebuyers always should insist that they accompany their inspector, in part because it’s a great opportunity to learn more about the property they intend to purchase. The Bellingham Herald file

DEAR MR. MYERS: We made an offer to purchase our first home and followed your advice by making the offer contingent on the property first passing an inspection. The inspector is coming out next week, but says that he does not want us to be there because he does not want us to “interfere with his work.” We are paying his $350 inspection fee out of our own pocket, so don’t we have the right to be there when the inspection is made?

ANSWER: You are paying for the inspection, so you have every right to be there when it occurs.

Homebuyers always should insist that they accompany their inspector, in part because it’s a great opportunity to learn more about the property they intend to purchase.

Accompanying the inspector could alert you to problems that should be remedied before the sale closes. A good inspector also may be able to provide some maintenance tips that will help you after you move in.

Perhaps most importantly, joining the inspector will allow you to view the property through the eyes of a trained, objective third party. Too many buyers “fall in love” with the home they intend to buy and consequently ignore its shortcomings.

The best inspectors don’t share such emotions, so they can provide an honest opinion about the property — warts and all.

REAL ESTATE TRIVIA: The nationwide average cost of a professional home inspection is $326, according to a survey by real estate website HomeAdvisor.com. But fees vary from one community to the next, with prices generally higher in areas where sales are hot and lower in markets that are slow.

DEAR MR. MYERS: A bank in the area where my mom lives is advertising an upcoming “absolute auction’’ of about a dozen foreclosed properties that promises that “all homes will be sold, regardless of bids.” What does this mean? Is an absolute auction different from a conventional auction?

ANSWER: Yes, there’s a big difference.

In a typical auction, the seller can set a minimum price, called a “reserve,” that will be accepted. If bidding doesn’t reach the reserve price, the seller can pull it from the auction block.

Conversely, in an “absolute” auction, there is no reserve price. That means that the property must be sold to the highest bidder, even if the bidding is tepid and offering prices don’t get close to what the seller had expected.

It’s rather unusual for banks to hold an absolute auction. Instead, they typically prefer a reserve or “lender confirmation” auction, which gives them the right to reject the top bid if, say, it isn’t enough to pay off the outstanding balance of the loan plus the lender’s marketing and legal expenses.

DEAR MR. MYERS: We have a large basement that doesn’t have much stuff in it, except for some boxes of old clothes and other things. If we convert it into a rec room with a television and things like that, would we have to get a building permit to do the work?

ANSWER: It depends on where you live, and the extent of the work that would be involved.

Most cities and counties don’t require a homeowner to get a permit to remodel a basement or attic if the conversion involves basic changes, such as painting or paneling. But you almost certainly will need to get one if you are adding, say, new electrical outlets or plumbing.

Some municipalities also require homeowners to insulate their basement or attic if they plan to convert it for a different use. Contact your local building department for details.

David W. Myers’ column is distributed by Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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