Today I’d like to talk to you about ‘walk and talks’, the not-quite home inspections that are cropping up across the country in response to the current seller’s market. There’s a lot of pressure on home buyers these days to skip as many steps as possible and sign on the dotted line, sometimes without even seeing the whole house! I’ve seen memes of realtors crying when their listing is on Zillow for more than a couple of days and heard about all kinds of outrageous offers going tens of thousands of dollars above the asking price, oh my! One of the ways people are being pressured to skip step is to delay the home inspection until after settlement. Personally, I shudder in horror at this thought.
‘Skip the home inspection!?’ I gasp to myself, clutching my invisible pearls.
But that’s easy for me to say, isn’t it? I’m not trying to buy a house right now. I don’t have to face the pressure of other families making offers on my dream home. If it were me looking at my family’s wistful faces I might be tempted to skip the home inspection too.
And that’s where walk and talk consultations aka partial ‘inspections’ aka concierge consultations come in. They’re advertised with lines like this,
“Don’t have time for an extensive home inspection?”
“Walk & Talks are a time-saving, low-cost option when a full home inspection isn’t needed”
“If you don’t need or want a full home inspection, but want to prepare or protect yourself from costly repairs or replacement of “big ticket items”, this service is probably right for you.”
All three of these statements imply that a walk and talk is simply a smaller or mini inspection. It isn’t. It’s a whole different product in some really important ways that might not be clear unless you’re already familiar with the home inspection process and the benefits it provides.
For example, walk and talks don’t include a written report. You can only take your memories and whatever you manage to jot down on a notepad with you. You might think, ok, that’s fine, it’s a lot cheaper so it’s worth it. And maybe it is, I certainly can’t decide for everyone, but I’d like you to consider the following:
This is happening during your showing, the time you have to ask the agent questions and see the house for the first and possibly last time before committing to buying it. Do you really want to spend that time looking down at a notepad, writing?
You won’t have a professional report to negotiate with the seller, just some hastily scribbled notes.
a. No labeled photos (unless you take those too)
b. Only some issues or defects in a home can be negotiated for, a written report tells you which defects you can bring to the seller and which ones you can’t. Incidentally, a Reliable home inspection written report is organized by category of defect so you can easily prioritize what to negotiate for and what to repair later.
c. The ‘inspector’ won’t have a report to reference so if you need to ask questions that might work… or not.
A home inspection includes a contract. A contract protects the customer and keeps the home inspector honest. It tells both parties what’s going to be inspected and holds the inspector to that. A (Reliable) contract in Delaware includes inspecting:
- Mechanical systems including central heating and cooling units
- Plumbing fixtures, piping, and water heater.
- Electrical system
- Structural condition including foundation, basement, crawl space, and attic
- General interior including ceilings, walls, floors, windows, and doors
- Fireplace and chimney
- Kitchen appliances and bathrooms
- General exterior including roofing, siding, gutters, grounds, drainage, and grading
- Report the quality and condition and life expectancy of these major systems
If you’d like to know more about what’s involved in a home inspection please see my previous blog entry.
On a walk and talk whatever gets inspected is determined by some mix of the consultant, the agent, and the customer. Also time. Time determines what gets inspected on a walk and talk, possibly more than any of the people. A walk and talk can be anywhere from 15 min to an hour. You’re not going to be able to examine every part of the house.
Oh, and if they don’t do a good job you have no legal recourse. The consultant may be a licensed home inspector, but on a walk and talk they’re not inspecting so they can’t be held to inspector standards. There is no legal definition (at least in Delaware and several other states) of a walk and talk so they can’t be held to any standard.
But even with all that what bugs me the most is when companies say a walk and talk will give you everything you need to make an informed decision.
There is absolutely no way to tell if that’s true. The point of a home inspection is to go over everything in detail, that’s why they take three hours, and even then the inspector probably won’t find everything. Someone spending one hour, or less, and not opening panels, windows, etc. definitely can’t promise they’ll find everything. The point is that you don’t know the conditions of the house, that’s why you get it inspected, to find out about its condition. A walk and talk is not going to provide you with that. If the house happens to be in great repair then you might learn everything you need, but if it isn’t? If some of the defects are a little hidden- or just out of the way- a walk and talk is not going to find them.
Phwew! I may be getting on my soapbox a little here, but some advertising and promotion of these consultations really bug me. If you’re in a tight spot and you figure something is better than nothing, ok. Just be informed, know what you’re risking giving up. If you want or need to get a walk and talk consultation I would suggest looking for the following in the company:
They’re clear- a walk and talk is not an inspection
They have some way for you to ask questions after the inspection
They’re willing to discuss what areas you want to be inspected
They use the words consult and consultation more than inspect and inspection (and inspector while we’re at it). Someone using ‘inspect’ and ‘inspection’ more than ‘consult’ and ‘consultation’ may be trying to mislead you into thinking you’re getting a home inspection when you’re not. Please see number 1.
They’re willing to spend their time getting into cramped areas like a crawl space or an attic. An ‘inspector’ not willing to get their hands a little dirty isn’t worth your time or your money.
If they’re willing to do a home inspection later and subtract the cost of the walk and talk from their home inspection price.
The walk and talk won’t be the same experience as a home inspection, but it may be better than nothing. I can’t say I would recommend it, but life’s choices aren’t always easy either. Hopefully, this article will help some of you out there make a more informed decision about what service is right for you. With a home inspection, you get a written report, a binding contract, legal protection outside of that contract, and the entire house examined. With a walk and talk you don’t get those things, but you do get convenience and a lower price point. At Reliable we don’t offer walk and talks for the reasons outlined above, but if you’re interested in our home inspections check here.
And for why you really want your roof inspected click here.
Whatever decision you make, happy house hunting, and thanks for reading!