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Confessions of a cosmetics inspector

Jim Baird

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I know that "cosmetics" are beyond the scope of home inspectors' service, and they are specifically excluded from the building codes.

Early this week, however, I got a call from a spec builder who got so many jobs going that he lost control of his quality, had a painter walk on him and a trim man he had to fire.

He called me to document the bag of crap he'd been left with prior to hiring fixit people. I told him that if it reached the expert witness phase the price would go way up, but for now quoted him my usual hourly.

I have, in the process, learned a lot about cosmetics.

Anyone have a similar experience?

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When I'm doing new homes I always write the cosmetic crap. I figure that if I were purchasing a new Mercedes that I'd want to know about scratches on the fender and torn apholstery, etc..

Yung usually goes through and blue-tapes that stuff and we make a generic note about finding lots of minor cosmetic issues or unfinished details throughout the interior which we've marked with blue tape, yadda, yadda. Sometimes though, they're more serious issues such as big ugly gaps at trim or tile that's been installed so badly you'd hook a toe and trip on it. Sometimes it's something more subtle like the washboard cupping of hardwood floors.

I rarely catch flak from builders for doing this. Most of the time they appreciate the extra pair of eyes on the job and then they go back and climb all over the sub who had his head tucked up his butt.



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I like to use the term "aesthetic defect". "Cosmetic" has gotten to be such a Realtor term. On new homes, I always report on the more obvious but tell the client I don't report on minor paint dings and such and they should look for and list those on their own. I then include them in the report as "The client is concerned about paint touch up needed at x, y and z. You could literally spend all day looking for things like that in new construction and still miss a few.

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FWIW, there are some, well, guidelines in the NAHB Residential Construction Performance Guidelines. Stuff like certain cosmetic defects must be fixed if they're visible from a certain distance.

I've cited those guidelines a few times. Truth be told, the house can look like hell and still meet the NAHB guidelines. But that can be good: it sets customer expectations exactly where they should be, which is very, very low.


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