Every home inspection reveals a surprise or two or many more.
The home inspection is part of almost every purchase and sale agreement. In a hot sellers’ market, some buyers forgo the inspection to make their offers more attractive. It’s a risky move in most instances and should only be used as a tool of last resort.
Home inspection is a broad topic. Today, I will concentrate on the general inspection and touch briefly on special inspections. The discussion of pre-inspection and seller inspection will have to wait for another day. I’ve written about inspections in my May 2011 newsletter. Perhaps it was the catchy title: Oh Rats, I didn’t know that.
The general home inspection should be performed by a licensed inspector. Your binge-watching HGTV friend does not qualify. While this is a visual inspection, moisture meters and other non-intrusive tools are permitted. The listing agent must be present for the duration. You as the buyer should be there at least for the last fifteen minutes to hear and see for yourself what the inspector has to say. Oh yes, and to pay the bill. The inspection cost for a 2,400 square-foot home runs between $350 and $500.
Some brokerages send an agent other than the buyer’s agent to an inspection. I don’t like this kind of delegation because it breaks the “chain of evidence.” Later, in the back and forth about what window was broken and in which room, this can become a pain (pun intended).
The inspector usually starts with the roof and siding. Once inside, the inspector methodically examines every room and all the utilities, first and foremost electrical and plumbing. The inspector’s report, anywhere between 40 and 50 pages long, will highlight safety concerns such as a gas leak or a garage door that isn’t fire-rated. It will point out some less critical things that appear in every inspection report. There is always the mention of some vegetation growing too close to the exterior walls.
If you are a seller you should not be present during the home inspection. Make certain that utilities such as electricity and water are on, provide access to the electrical panel and water heater, and to the attic and the crawl space.
Keeping the best for last
The last places the inspector visits are the attic and the crawl space. That’s because both of them require protective clothing. You may have lived ten or more years in your home and never seen either place. This is often were trouble lurks. Don’t be surprised when the inspector finds mold in the attic because the loose dryer duct was venting air inside instead of outside of the roof. Don’t be surprised when the inspector finds that vermin are living in the insulation of the crawlspace.
That’s why I compare a home to a hamburger: what holds it all together is taken for granted. To avoid unpleasant surprises, I recommend that homeowners hire licensed professionals at least every three years to inspect the crawl space and the attic.
The home inspection aftermath
Needless to say, the home inspection dance takes place within specific time frames and dates of the Purchase and Sale Agreement. If a buyer does not submit the inspection report by the deadline, the inspection has been waived. Likewise, if a seller does not respond on time to the buyer’s report and related requests, the seller has accepted the buyer’s requests by default. The back and forth can take several days. Especially when the general inspector recommends a special inspection, such as a special inspection of the roof.
Unless the seller’s agent asks in writing, the buyer agent is not permitted to send her/him a copy of the inspection report. Here’s the reason. The buyer may try to force the seller to either give in to all the demands or else threaten to walk away from the deal. In which case, the seller would need to take the property off the market, feel obliged to either make critical repairs or revise the Seller Disclosure Statement.
The buyer has three options.
After the inspection, the buyer has three options: decline to move forward by disapproving of the inspection report. Ask for remedies in the form of repairs or monetary compensation. Accept the inspection and move forward with the transaction. If the buyer disapproves of the inspection (no reasons needed!), the earnest money will be refunded.
The seller has three options.
Upon receipt of the buyer’s home inspection reply (there is a form for that), the seller also has three options: accept the buyer’s inspection remedy requests. Offer to repair some items but not all. Decline the buyer’s request which stops the transaction and the earnest money is returned to the buyer. In case the seller offers to make only some but not all repairs, it’s the buyer’s turn again and by now you should know what the options are.
During the home inspection phase, the real estate agents on both sides must manage the expectations of their clients carefully. Each agent must protect the client’s interest while preventing rash decisions made under emotional stress. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.