By Anessa V. Cohen

The first time I saw the movie The Money Pit, with Tom Hanks and Shelley Long, I laughed so hard my sides hurt. For anyone who has bought or nearly bought a house that looked perfect at face value, or for those who have done any extensive construction, this movie is a must-see.

Since that first viewing in the late 1980s, I must have seen that movie at least 20 times, and each time I see it, I laugh as much as the first time, even though I know what is going to happen. For those of you who haven’t seen it, in a nutshell, it starts off with a couple coming to preview and possibly buy a beautiful old classic house with Old World features and detail. The owner of the house takes them through the house using a candelabra, giving the explanation that she is trying to save money on electricity bills. The husband, thinking he is being savvy, uses the bathroom, checks the water, and then decides the house is sound and makes a deal.

They come back after purchasing the house, to a bucolic scene of the beautiful house with picturesque landscaping–only to find that once they start to try things out like lights, water, etc., they encounter one disaster after another.

I am basically relaying this as a synopsis since I do not want to spoil the movie for anyone who has not seen it. Suffice it to say, on a serious note, this movie could have been a promo for the idea of “buyer beware.” One of the basic rules in the “to do’s” of house-buying is to bring in an engineer or home inspector to check out the condition of the house and its structure as well as all the utilities and their functionality.

Although, as I said, this movie is funny and extreme, no one should even consider purchasing a home under any circumstances without having it inspected by a home inspector or engineer before making a final decision and going ahead with a deal. A home inspection can save you the grief of having to deal with maintenance issues you never considered. At the same time, it can find any problems that need to be dealt with, such as any incorrect construction that may have been done in the home that does not follow code, which you might not notice unless you are a professional.

That being said, even when one follows all the rules and brings in a home inspector, there are situations that come up that fall through the cracks even when the best crackerjack of home inspectors is brought in. Many buyers may not realize that a home inspector, or engineer for that matter, can only physically inspect what can be seen visually. There are still some areas of the home that are not open to the visual eye and therefore can hide problems, sight unseen, between walls or joists or other places that are closed off. This is not typical and usually a home inspector can spot most problems or the hint of problems even if certain things might not be fully visible.

Unless a home is physically taken apart and put back together again, so as to see and examine every inch of what you are getting, there will always be areas in the home that will just have to be taken on the luck of the draw–“It looks good from the outside, I can’t see anything negative here, my home inspector does not see any potential problems, so I am hoping and praying everything I cannot see is okay and that I can buy this house and not worry about surprises.”

When you buy a home, have a home inspector or engineer inspect it to the best of their ability. This does not mean there is no chance that something that is visually hidden might not come up in the future–it just means that by having the inspection done, you have lowered the chances of there being any surprises or problems and lowered the odds of finding new problems to the very small percentages.

Nothing is foolproof–not even new construction. But by having as thorough an inspection by a good inspector as possible, your likelihood of coming across surprise problems will be slight and this will give you more security in whatever home you choose to buy. v

Anessa Cohen lives in Cedarhurst and is a licensed real-estate broker and a licensed N.Y.S. mortgage broker with over 20 years of experience, offering full-service residential and commercial real-estate services (Anessa V Cohen Realty) and mortgaging services (First Meridian Mortgage) in the Five Towns and throughout the tri-state area. She can be reached at 516-569-5007 or via her website, Readers are encouraged to send questions or comments to


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