Real estate transactions are private business deals between the owner of a property and a prospective buyer. At the same time, the quality of a community’s housing stock is so critical to its attractiveness to buyers and public safety that many local governments require sellers to get something called a “resale inspection” before a property changes hands.
It doesn’t matter if the house is the cleanest, most well-maintained home in town or a well-known property maintenance nightmare. An inspector is going to be walking through, probably more than once, making sure the electrical outlets are grounded, the smoke alarms work and windows aren’t cracked. They’ll make sure the plumbing is up to code and that the overhead garage door opener works.
It’s time consuming for the inspectors and can be a pain for sellers, who are forced to spend money and time attending to small details.
Brookfield is contemplating changing the way it does resale inspections, because officials believe the village’s two inspectors would be better used sniffing out non-permitted work, responding to property maintenance complaints and moving building permit applications along more quickly.
Most homebuyers get a private home inspection in addition to the village’s prior to buying a house. So the village would like to get out of the resale inspection business in order to, as Village Manager Keith Sbiral says, “match resources with solutions.”
The plan right now is to mandate that homebuyers get a private inspection from a licensed firm before a house can sell. The village would still conduct resale inspections for multifamily residential buildings.
It’s unclear right at this moment if the village can in fact mandate such an inspection. But if it can, we’re hoping the village can have access to those inspection reports to make sure any serious code issues are dealt with either prior to or after the sale.
As anyone who lives on a block where there’s been a foreclosure or neglectful property owner knows, it takes almost no time for a property to sink into a maintenance nightmare.
While the village may contend that the resale inspection process has served its purpose by upgrading Brookfield’s housing stock in the past decade or more, having no idea what’s going on inside a residence can’t be a good thing.
While inspectors may be able to find more instances of non-permitted work or be able to follow up on building permits that drag out over a long period of time, it would be a shame to lose sight of the state of Brookfield’s housing stock by discontinuing village resale inspections.
If the village finds it cannot mandate private inspections, officials ought to think long and hard before discontinuing the program all together. Unless there’s a robust inspection policy to crack down on illegal building and property maintenance violations, then perhaps the resale inspection program ought to remain in place.
Brookfield can’t afford for its residential housing stock to backslide. We’re all for matching resources with solutions; we just want to be sure the village is able to keep a close eye on its most important assets.