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  • Writer's pictureDave Norris


Have you ever heard the terms “patent” or “latent” defects? If you’re looking for a home, it’s a good idea to figure out which is which and what needs disclosed. Upon my initial visit with a potential seller, I look the home over carefully! What bugs them about the home may not necessarily be considered, in the end, a buyer’s objection! Maybe the husband promised to paint a bedroom years ago but just never got around to it. Or the enclosed patio needs new curtains. Are those things the buyer will object to? Probably not. It will most likely be the scuffed and filthy front door, the moldy smell in the basement and the orange counter tops, in other words, items they’ve simply gotten used to and ignore as no big deal!

When I go in for the first time, I view it as a “buyer’s agent” and point out items that I think would alarm a buyer. One guy pointed out a few missing pieces of moulding but had a dark, dank basement that had never been painted or sealed. Another client claimed a buyer wouldn’t find anything at all wrong with the home and was adamant about not agreeing to doing any repairs……until the home inspection report came in! Needless to say, what he had gotten “used to” proved to be some rather large issues. For example, if you sell the home with a dishwasher, it must be plugged in and working!

So, what’s a patent defect versus a latent defect and what must be disclosed? If there’s a big crack in the driveway cement that anyone with two eyes can see, that doesn’t necessarily have to be disclosed by the homeowner. A buyer can see it when they tour the property. What about the old windows? Can you see that they are old? Those are examples of “patent” defects that may not be disclosed. Does the ice maker work in the refrigerator? Is the disposal operational? Does the backyard flood? Those are considered “latent” defects that the buyer will most likely not know about or can’t discover. Those should be disclosed.

So, what does a home inspection discover? A general home inspection is designed to inform the buyer of the overall condition of the home, the mechanicals, structural integrity, roof condition, etc. If something pops up that he/she is not sure about, the home inspector may recommend further inspections perhaps by a qualified roofer, HVAC company, electrician, plumber, etc. A home inspection may help find “latent” defects that perhaps even the homeowner is not aware of, such as mold in the attic, a bad breaker, a small plumbing leak, a shifting garage foundation, etc. 

The home inspection is NOT a tool to renegotiate a purchase agreement with. It is very common to ask for “safety” defects to be repaired. But certainly not other defects such as the crack in the driveway cement or old windows. You don’t have to hire a home inspector to see those things. So be very careful when looking at properties or take notes of anything you DO see to refresh your memory when it comes time to put an offer on the property. Your offer reflects those visible defects and rarely will you be able to ask the seller to repair those items later. 

All homes have issues, whether deferred maintenance or preventative maintenance. Good observations up front by the buyer and honest disclosures by the seller will help make the transaction go smoothly!

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