Let’s talk about an issue that does not get enough attention and may seem relatively minor compared to other topics we’ve covered in the past such as foundation repairs, termites, or flooded basements – namely “the small stuff.”
When Small Items Become Major Issues
Although there is no one particular item within the category of “small things” that may warrant an entire article, if you tally up all of those little items on an inspection report it can – and often is – one of the most important issues that concern the homeowner. In fact, if you were to talk to 100 veterans of the home inspection profession, most of them would likely agree – and so would the majority of real estate agents – that home sellers frequently “sweat the small stuff” and get most upset when they see minor items on the inspection report.
This can definitely trigger problems between buyers and sellers that require sensitive negotiations in order to get past the issue and ensure a smooth closing. A seller can get very uptight and feel like they are being “nickel and dimed to death” when the buyer demands that little “handyman” repairs get done prior to closing. Then buyers dig in their heels and refuse to budge. Both parties become entrenched. Emotions become raw. Stalemates happen. Negotiations are paralyzed. Sales fall apart over issues that should be insignificant.
Home buyers and sellers usually “get it” about why an inspector will write up a critique of something like a damaged roof, badly needed paint job, or an HVAC unit that is not putting out sufficient heat or cold air. But sellers in particular can get really peeved and impatient when the report comes back and mentions what the homeowner considers small, insignificant stuff. They often complain to their real estate agents that the inspector is being too nit-picky. “Why are they being so critical and hard on us,” they may say. “Is the inspector trying to kill this deal that we have worked so hard to make happen?”
To be honest, that kind of reaction is not totally out of line or unreasonable, because the typical homeowner who responds this way is not really at fault. They are just less informed and not as experienced, so they really can’t be expected to understand why some of these issues show up on the inspection report.
What to Do Next
As soon as your receive the inspection report, review it carefully and if you are the buyer, go over it with your Realtor and let the seller know if any repairs should be done.
You may see recommendations, for example, to fix cracked window panes, missing or broken doorknobs, torn or missing window screens, shaky handrails, chipped steps leading up to your doors, or even porch lights that don’t work. One reason that those may show up in the report is because your inspector is concerned about your health and safety. A porch light that doesn’t work may not seem like a big hazard. But if you trip in the dark and wind up with a broken ankle it starts to make sense why it was mentioned. Cracked panes can cut your child’s hand or allow a strong gust of wind to send glass shards raining down into your home. Missing screens can invite more mosquitoes, including those that carry potentially serious diseases. A shaky handrail could become an expensive lawsuit if a visitor to your home falls, as could a damaged step.
In this way you can see that there are solid reason behind this seemingly innocuous repair suggestions. Talk to your inspector and they will explain their thinking and reasons. Then work it out in a mature way between buyer and seller, confident that both of your are receiving fair and professional treatment and help that is beneficial for everybody involved.