Many first time home buyers aren’t familiar with what the purpose of a home inspection is. The home buying process can be quite overwhelming. Unfortunately, buyers in the current fast-paced market usually need to make a quick decision or they may miss out on being able to purchase a home. It seems crazy that it’s probably the biggest purchase you will make in your life and many times you spend less than thirty minutes in the home viewing it before you make an offer. Because showings are not inspections, and agents are not inspectors, I advise buyers to make their offer contingent upon a whole home inspection so they know exactly what they are buying.
When I sit down with buyers to write a contract, buyers decide which inspections they would like. Buyers can elect to do a whole home, termite, radon, mold, septic, and water inspections. Within a day or so of having your offer accepted, buyers call to schedule the inspections. Inspections must be completed and replied to within a certain period of time which is written in the sales contract. It’s imperative that buyers get on the home inspectors schedule as soon as possible because they tend to get very busy, and buyers want to be sure they have enough time to meet contractual obligations. There are several companies that offer this service in our area and I am always happy to provide my clients with a list. The property as well as the type of financing will also help determine which inspections are needed.
Ideally, the inspector from the home inspection company arrives a few hours earlier than the buyer on the day of the inspection. They like to go through and do their testing which can be tedious and time consuming. They are basically going through the house with a fine tooth comb and listing everything that could be considered a problem or defect with the property. When they are finished (or almost finished), the buyer arrives and they walk through each part of the property to review their findings. Within hours (sometimes minutes depending on the company), the buyer will be emailed a report about everything the home inspector found. Sometimes they are fifty-plus pages in length which can seem daunting to the buyer. I always reassure my clients that it would be very rare for any property to not have a thick report. It’s the inspector’s job to find the areas of concern so that the buyer knows exactly what they are buying when they agree to purchase this home. The inspector will also note if there is an area of concern that needs more investigation. Sometimes they might suggest that the buyer bring in a roofer, electrician, plumber, etc. to look at something further. After all, they are inspectors, not specialists.
Luckily for the buyer, most of these inspection companies make the report very easy to read with pictures and a few pages dedicated to “significant findings.” This allows the homeowner to see what the inspector feels the major issues are. It’s a great guide for buyers to use when deciding which repairs they would like to request from the seller. When I’m working with buyers I always suggest that they look at it and make their repair requests based on things that they feel change the value of the home in their mind. The home inspection is not an opportunity to renegotiate the sales contract. It also may not be reasonable to expect the seller to repair every item listed in the report. Let’s face it, unless the house is brand new, there are going to be some defects (and probably some defects in new homes too!). Sellers have a certain amount of time that is specified in the contract to respond to the buyer’s request. They can agree to do all, some, or none of the repairs. If an agreement can’t be reached, buyers can walk away from the deal and still have their earnest money returned. Unfortunately for the buyer, they are out the money for the inspections and usually the appraisal fee because the service was performed, and the inspector and appraiser still need to be paid. It rarely comes to this, but it does happen.
The best advice I can give to buyers and sellers is to agree to do what’s fair. Buying and selling a home can be a very emotional process, but it’s best to try to make decisions logically and picture yourself in the other party’s shoes. If both parties can do this, it makes for a smoother process and usually results in both a happy buyer who knows exactly what they are buying, and a happy seller.