What should we repair right away?
We realize that there are time and money constraints for most homeowners and that all the defects in the report cannot be addressed right away. We've found that for larger or older homes, as a general rule, one third of the items in the report are cheap/easy fixes (low hanging fruit), another third are medium size projects, and the final third are larger more expensive projects (time to take out a loan?). Deciding how to tackle repairs with limited resources takes experience best left to a general contractor but we hope the information below can help:
Water and Safety defects
Our quick answer to the question of 'what should we repair right away' is generally water and safety issues. We prioritize safety because, well 'safety first', we always want to prevent harm even when the risk is remote. Water related defects only get worse over time, can cause air quality issues and tend to depreciate the home faster than any other defect so the sooner these issues are addressed the better.
Review the Inspection Report
The report software that we use has a color code system for defects (Blue, Orange and Red), red being the most serious. As a general rule (in our opinion) the red items should be tackled first, then orange and then blue. (Keep in mind that sometimes the blue items are cheap/easy fixes and by addressing them quickly more expensive issues can be prevented over time. Also sometimes it is hard for us to determine which color to assign to a defect- we can't know for sure how and when a small thing could become a bigger problem)
For houses with fewer issues, sub-contractors can be called to follow up with items in the report. NC statute requires home inspectors to direct the homebuyer to a professional for every defect listed in the report. If you don't know who to contact about a defect, review the report and you will see that a specific contractor is usually called out in the defect comment (Electrician, Plumber, Roofer, Etc...). If you are having a contractor come out to evaluate/repair one issue, have them look at all the other items in the report in that category and ask them for a quote and what they would recommend fixing first if there are budget restraints.
Best resource for bigger projects: The General Contractor
When many different sub-contractors are needed a General Contractor should be consulted. A general contractor is the best resource when there are a lot of different repair categories in the report or when there are complex defects like long-term water issues. With long-term water issues the source of the water must be addressed but also the damages to the structure and finishes- this will require many different subcontractors. Good general contractors have a network of subcontractors and should already be familiar with different repair options and their potential costs. General contractors can further evaluate issues, their causes and extent of damages, and they can discuss the potential repair options and costs. We have found that it is helpful to discuss larger repair projects in the terms of 'Good, Better, Best' with your contractor-- see this article -- in this way repairs can be prioritized.
The Home Inspector - your resource for general evaluations not repairs
Our job as home inspectors in the state of North Carolina is to report any component that is not functioning as intended. Our licensing boards and insurance companies encourage us to stay in our wheelhouse and not to offer too many opinions about repair strategies, costs and methods. Most home inspectors do not do repairs and that's because most we are too busy doing inspections. Some of us may be familiar with repair pricing but we are not the ones bidding or completing the work so our estimates can't be relied on. Home Inspectors do not know which contractors will follow-up with our observations and what their motivations, methods, pricing and opinions are. Without the benefit of further evaluation, seller disclosure, and discussions about repair costs (and financial constraints) it is impossible for a home inspector to answer these questions satisfactorily. These are all questions that are best addressed by a General Contractor.
The Home Inspector IS your best resource when it comes to Annual Inspections (maintenance inspections), Pre-Purchase and Pre-Sale Inspections.