The expression, ‘’Beauty is only skin deep,” is especially true of houses. A fresh coat of paint or new carpeting may disguise serious flaws that can turn your dream into a nightmare on Elm Street. One way to find out about possible defects is by having it inspected. This does not mean asking your ‘’handy” uncle over to tour the house with a tape measure and screwdriver. It does mean hiring a professional inspector to survey all parts of the house, including the structure, roof, exterior, the major systems (electrical, heating, cooling, and ventilation), and appliances that will stay. The inspector may spot existing as well as potential problems, and will suggest remedies.

A fresh coat of paint or new carpeting may disguise serious flaws that can turn your dream into a nightmare on Elm Street.

You can build an inspection contingency into the Purchase and Sale Agreement. Ideally this should be a blanket clause that allows you to walk away if you are dissatisfied with the results. Usually you will have a few days after the inspection to make up your mind.

If the inspection does turn up some flaws, a seller may be willing to make necessary repairs or adjust the price, or he or she may refuse. It all depends ‘upon how much effort, or cash, both parties are willing to spend. If this is the home you’ve been waiting for, try using a little tact with the seller.

On the other hand, some sellers may institute their own inspections, which can be an incentive to a buyer. After all, it saves you time and money, and says something about the assurances the seller is willing to make.

Horse Drawn School Bus Vintage Talbot County Photo

Early Talbot County School Bus
Photograph from the collection of the
Historical Society of Talbot County

Choosing an Inspector

Even so, there are advantages to conducting your own inspection. You’ll have the opportunity to tour the house with the inspector who can point out possible trouble or tell you how to avoid it. And though the seller’s inspection may certify the house trouble-free with only minor flaws, those flaws may be important to you.
Though an inspection takes only a couple of hours and may cost a few hundred dollars, it is important to make sure the inspector is qualified. Your real estate agent can recommend some, and you should ask for references from other homeowners, too. You also may want to contact the American Society of Home Inspectors for advice, or to find a local appraiser. Write to them at 932 Lee Street, Suite 101, Des Plaines, Illinois, 60016, or call (847)759-2820, or visit them on the web at Be sure the inspector is certified and insured.

Besides the basic home inspection, you may conduct an adjunct inspection for pests, such as termites or rodents and the like, and one for environmental concerns. This inspection checks for possible contaminants such as radon, lead paint, or asbestos. Other common inspections conducted in Talbot County are for septic, roofs and wells.

Finally, make sure that a comprehensive inspection report is in writing. Although you wisely will take lots of notes while you tour the house with the inspector, the official report will serve as the contingent document in any deviation from your contract.

Don’t think of the inspection report as a weapon to be used against the seller. If flaws are trivial, consider fixing them yourself in order to move forward with the sale. If there are major problems, use the report as an aid that will allow the seller to remedy the situation, or void the contract.

Photo of an old-time school house where all the kids are lined up outside.

One room Talbot County Schoolhouse. Notice the wide age range of the children, all of whom learned in the same classroom.
Photograph courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum

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