Inspection Report Defects: Cosmetic vs. Major

You’ve just been handed your page of inspection report defects and discover a long list of issues that need immediate attention—or so the other party says. See what items you absolutely have to address and which ones you may be able to forgo.

Inspection Report Defects: What are They?

If you’re in the middle of a home sale or working with a local real estate agent, chances are you probably already know about inspection report defects. Here’s a quick overview just in case you aren’t familiar. After an offer has been accepted on a pre-built home (new construction shouldn’t have any defects), it’s common for the buyer to order an inspection from a local inspector or inspection company. Once the inspection is complete, the inspector will produce a document showing all the defects found within the home and on the property. This document is then sent to the sellers who will then decide which items they want to address (typically by repairing or replacing). After those denotations are made, the report will be delivered to the buyers who then decide if they accept or deny the seller’s proposed list of items to address. There are generally two variations of defects that appear on the report: cosmetic and major.

What are Cosmetic Defects?

Cosmetic, or minor, defects pertain to non-vital components of the home that aren’t essential to every day use or function. This can include anything from torn window screens, chipped paint, wallpaper, nail holes, and much more. Most of the time (but not always!), you will see more cosmetic items on the list of inspection report defects than major defects. That scenario is definitely what both parties (buyers and sellers) should hope to find on the report. Sellers will enjoy a mostly-cosmetic report because it will be less money out of their pocket, while buyers will know they are purchasing a safe and sturdy home. Cosmetic defects are generally much cheaper to repair or replace, and sometimes the seller is able to do the work themselves.

What are Major Defects?

When you hear those nightmarish stories about inspection report defects, they undoubtedly deal with what are known as major defects. Unlike cosmetic defects, major or “material” defects deal with issues that negatively affect the core function or safety of the home. It goes without saying why these types of inspection report defects are much more serious, as they are legally required to be repaired or replaced by the seller of the home. Some of the more common examples of a major defect include a leaking roof, severe cracks in the foundation, poor or dangerous electrical wiring, or even the presence of mold. These types of problems almost always require professional assistance, especially if they are considered to be a danger by the home inspector. That being said, major defects can usually be addressed and repaired without major complications (albeit expensive for the seller) to the overall sale of the home.

So What’s the Problem?

The biggest issue that arises over the cosmetic vs major discussion is where the line is drawn on which sides items should be listed. We commonly see buyers who expect the seller to repair and replace every item on the list of inspection report defects. Sometimes this works, but more often than not, this is where conflicts arise between the buyer and seller. It’s not uncommon for buyers to request all issues be resolved, but they need to know that the seller is only required to fix major or material defects. That’s not to say that a seller won’t fix every item if asked, but buyers should be prepared to have at least some of their cosmetic wish-list issues remain untouched. If the buyer and seller can come together and agree on a reasonable list of inspection report defects to address and fix, the quality of the transaction will most likely improve as a whole.

Do you have questions about what items are considered cosmetic defects and which are major defects? Leave us a comment below or reach out to our team for more information!

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