A Shoddy Home Inspection Cost Us Tens of Thousands in RepairsWhen my husband returned from a military deployment, we already had a clear picture of what we wanted for our future: a house to call our own. We thought we deserved it. We had been married less than two years, and he had been in Iraq for most of that time.

Seeking out Home-Buying Help

We had no idea how to buy a house, but we did know one thing: even though we weren’t rich, he was eligible for a Veteran’s Affairs (VA) home loan.

This would allow us the chance to buy a home without having to save up a huge down payment.

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Buying a house is a complicated process, so we sought out an experienced realtor in the area to help us. Because we were using a VA loan, we thought it would be best to find someone with some experience in this area. We quickly found a realtor who specialized in helping out military buyers, and so we decided to go with him.

Our three main concerns were that the home and all of the fees had to be affordable; it had to be out in the suburbs (I have never been a city person), and it had to be free of plumbing problems.

There were two homes that were within our budget and outside of city limits. One of them was a foreclosure with documented septic tank problems. The other one was a beautiful home that was less than five years old, with no documented problems. Obviously, we chose the latter.

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Cutting Home Inspection Costs

We were ecstatic. We had finally found a home of our own. But before we could finish purchasing the house, we needed to have it inspected. We didn’t want to buy a lemon, after all. It looked fine to our eyes, but we needed somebody experienced to come out and check it out for us.

The problem was that it would be several hundred dollars for an engineer to come out and inspect the home. We had the money to pay for it, but our realtor had an alternate suggestion: he had an old friend who was an engineer, and who did inspections on the side. He could come out and inspect the home for us for just a fraction of the price. We agreed since we could use the savings for a set of nice new furniture.

First, we met the home inspector at our future house and walked around the property with him.

We then listened to him proclaim how the septic system was perfect, despite several pipes coming out of the ground at odd angles.

“Never mind that,” he said. “That shouldn’t be a problem.” After a brief tour of the inside, he proclaimed that this house would be a perfect home for us, and then left. We went ahead and bought the home based on his assessment.

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Here's How Much Our Mistake Cost Us

When the first repair cropped up less than a year later, we didn’t think too much of it. Things age — they need to be fixed. But by the end of the summer, something else broke. And then again during the winter.

While it's natural for items to break down and need to be repaired, a good home inspector should help identify issues for you and mitigate some of the risks. However, home repairs will need to occur. One of the things that can help you handle expensive repairs that your inspector missed – or something impossible to spot – is by getting home warranty coverage. Home Repair companies can help cover things like your heating and cooling systems, septic system and more! Additionally, note that some damages may be covered by insurance, and having a good insurance policy can help you protect your home. Getting a personal plan that works for you is important.

Over the course of seven years, the repair frequency increased each year.

This amounted to well over half of my take-home pay for the entire year.

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Luckily, we’re in the process of selling the house now. We’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars so that the next person who owns the home won’t have to go through the problems we went through.

I don’t know if the realtor was trying to take advantage of our naiveté, but I do know that if we had found our own independent inspector, we would likely never have ended up in this mess.

In fact – in the state of Massachusetts, at least – it’s even illegal for realtors to suggest a home inspector to their clients. We're often told that saving money is a good thing. But there is a time and a place to shell out money to get a critical job done well.

If paying several hundred dollars for a thorough inspection will save you tens of thousands of dollars down the road, then it’s worth it. I only wish we knew that before we bought our first house. Next time, at least we’ll be prepared.