A Realistic Evaluation
Your real estate agent’s job is to find you the perfect home, in the right location, with all the amenities you want–and at the right price. It is the home inspector’s job to find any skeletons in the closet — or in the plumbing, wiring, roof, basement and beams.
The inspector won’t pass or fail a home based on what he or she finds, but will go over the house thoroughly to help you understand the condition of the property you are buying. If there are any serious problems, your inspector can give you a realistic idea of how much the repairs will cost. If there are material defects that were not reflected in the asking price, you will have the opportunity to re-open negotiations with your sellers before you commit to the purchase. A good inspector will also explain the operation of the basic emergency systems such as the main water cut off valve and the circuit breaker box, and will go over items that will need routine maintenance.
If you are buying a house, we recommend that you make a professional home inspector part of your home purchase team.
Most real estate offers require an inspection by a licensed exterminator to determine that the house doesn’t have termites or other wood boring insects. The inspector will look for two signs in deciding whether or not to pass a house–an active termite infestation and evidence of a past infestation.
If your house does not pass the termite inspection, get a list of qualified exterminators from your real estate agent. Find out what treatment options they offer and what they charge for the service. Exterminators are usually quite competitive. If your home was treated for a past infestation, the company which performed the extermination may be willing to re-certify your home without a second treatment. Arrange for the termite inspection as early as possible, so you will have time to determine the best way to get rid of them, if they are found.
You have finally found the home that is right for you, but you have some questions about the structure and condition of the home. A home inspection is the best place to get answers that will help protect your interests as a buyer. There are companies that specialize in inspecting new and used homes. Most sellers allow a reasonable amount of time to have the property inspected after the purchase agreement is agreed upon and prior to closing. It is wise to have a home inspection, even if the house is new or everything appears to be in perfect condition.
The inspector can provide important information about the house. Where are the gas and water shut-off valves? How do the circuit breakers operate? What type of routine maintenance should be done for each system? The inspector’s fee is an investment that can save you money later!
Many home buyers today are investing in a professional structural inspection before they finalize their purchase of a home. You should choose an inspector carefully and be prepared to learn important facts about your new home that could save you money.
When you have a ratified sales agreement, the real estate agent will set up an appointment for you to see the home with the inspector. Bring a notebook, even though you will get a written report of the inspection. Write down any questions or concerns that may occur to you as you tour the house, such as cracks in the walls, spots on the ceiling, or noises in the air conditioning system. And remember that no house is perfect. You should come away from the inspection with a fundamental understanding of what you are buying and how much the maintenance will cost.
Before you close on your new home, you will make a “walk-through” inspection to ensure that the property is in the same condition as it was when the purchase agreement was drawn up.
Some sellers convey the appliances and major systems “as is,” offering no promise that they will be in working order. Other agreements require all of the major mechanical systems, such as heating, plumbing, and air conditioning, to be operational. It depends on the terms that are negotiated between the buyer and seller.
During this inspection you should check the appliances by turning each one on and letting it run through a full cycle. This gives you a chance to make sure that any repairs that were to be made by the seller prior to the closing have been made. These details are much easier to work out before or during the closing than after you have taken possession of your new home.
If It’s Broken…
Most houses have a few “little” problems, like leaking faucets, a stove burner that won’t light, or electrical outlets with too much “spark”. These defects may not seem very important–unless your house is about to go on the market.
Sellers often agree to paint, replace worn carpets or plant a few flowers in the front yard. These kinds of repairs obviously increase the overall appeal of the property. However, if any of the major systems in your home need maintenance, it is also prudent to have the necessary repairs made. Have your furnace, central air-conditioning system, plumbing and wiring checked as part of your pre-marketing efforts. The best rule is–if it’s broken, fix it!
The purchase agreement requires that a house be conveyed with all the systems in working order, and most buyers will bring in a home inspector to identify any potential problems. During the period of time between the “meeting of the minds” and the removal of the inspection contingencies, the buyers are the most vulnerable to an attack of buyer’s remorse. This is also the time when anything that hasn’t been repaired could become a major issue.
Many of today’s purchase offers include a contingency clause that allows the buyers to hire a home inspector or professional expert to inspect the property. If there is a significant defect in the property, the buyer can cancel the contract without losing the earnest money deposit. Such contingencies are an excellent procedure that protect both the buyer and the seller.
The time period for inspection contingencies is negotiable. In most parts of the country, the buyers have about a week in which to cancel the contract if the structural inspection reveals a serious and consequential defect.
The positive side to such contingencies is that the inspection usually addresses–and overcomes–the buyers’ misgivings, and confirms their decision to move ahead with the purchase.
When you sell a house, the buyers will probably have a home inspection before they sign a contract to purchase the home. The inspector may turn up something that needs attention or repair, and after the inspection, the buyers may produce a list of items they want repaired as a condition for moving forward on the sale.
When you get the buyers’ list, remember that some of the items may be negotiable. Sales contracts usually require that all the systems be in working condition. Some buyers may make requests that go beyond the normal obligations of the seller. They may ask for a new roof or certain structural repairs that you may not want to make. Your agent can help you to assess the risks of just saying “no” to buyers who are making demands you consider to be unreasonable. You may decide to decline the requests, but the buyers may also decide to back out of the deal as a result.
When you agree to make repairs, hire licensed professionals who will guarantee their work, and give copies of the reports to the buyers. Arrange to have the repairs made as far ahead of time to avoid last-minute complications which could compromise the transaction.
Real Estate Repairs
In most real estate transactions, there are a few responsibilities that the sellers need to handle before the closing, such as repairs and termite extermination. The deadline for completing these obligations usually coincides with the actual closing. Many sellers barely make that deadline. Those who wait until the last minute to handle these matters may miss the deadline altogether or pay high rates in order to get a plumber, roofer or electrician on an emergency basis.
Your buyers will probably get a structural inspection done after the contract is ratified. Within 10 days of the contract’s acceptance by all parties, the pest inspection should be scheduled. Even though sellers usually know well in advance what is needed, they sometimes put things off until the buyers have finalized the loan approval process. Since these repairs will have to be made anyway, it is a good idea to get them done promptly.
After looking in your area, you found a terrific house, and like many smart home buyers, you included a structural inspection contingency in your purchase agreement. What happens when you find out that your “perfect” house needs some work? Do you ask the sellers to pay for the repairs? Before you answer “yes”, there are some important considerations.
Some contracts require all the systems, such as plumbing, heating, electrical and central air conditioning, to be in working order. In this case, the sellers may be obligated to repair any problems with these systems. Leaky roofs, damp basements, or other structural problems may not be covered, however. If you ask the sellers to make these types of repairs, you may void the contract by doing so. The sellers might prefer to negotiate the repairs to keep from losing the sale. If there are other buyers waiting in the wings with back-up contracts, however, you run the risk of losing the home.
If you have a house for sale your buyers will probably include a structural inspection contingency in the contract. This allows them to have an expert check out the house, the major systems and the appliances.
A professional structural inspector can help buyers to “know” the house and to feel comfortable with it, but the inspection does not result in a pass or fail grade. The buyers will learn important facts about the house, such as where the water cutoff valve is located, in case of an emergency. The inspection may also help buyers set up a budget for repairs and determine if they want to invest in cost-effective measures to increase energy efficiency.
Buyers rarely back out of a sale after a structural inspection. Even if there are problems, you have the opportunity to negotiate a compromise and to avoid any obstacles that could seriously threaten the sale.
The “Perfect” House
You found a terrific house and like many competent home buyers, you included a structural inspection contingency in your purchase agreement. What happens when you find out that your “perfect” house needs some work? Do you ask the sellers to pay for the repairs? Before you answer “yes”, there are some important considerations.
Some contracts require that all the home’s systems, such as plumbing, heating, electrical and central air conditioning, be in working order. In this case, the sellers may be obligated to repair any problems with these systems. Leaky roofs, damp basements, or other structural problems may not be covered, however. If you ask the sellers to make these types of repairs, you may void the contract by doing so. The sellers might prefer to negotiate the repairs to keep from losing the sale. If there are other buyers waiting in the wings with back-up contracts, you run the risk of losing the home.
The Good Inspector
Structural inspection contingencies are a common feature of home purchase offers. A buyer is allowed a certain period of time to have an expert look over the home, examining the structure, plumbing, wiring, roof, and appliances to give the buyer a realistic idea of what they are getting into.
How do you find the right inspector? Look for an expert on pre-purchase home inspections, not simply a renovation contractor or a friend who can tell copper from galvanized pipes. There are specialists in most cities, or you can obtain a list from a real estate agent. Ask for recommendations from friends who have recently purchased homes. Most inspectors have some background in building or engineering, and have had additional training related specifically to residences. Call several companies, and ask about the background and training of the staff, as well as their rates.
Home Inspection Is Buyer Protection
You may be tempted to buy a bargain-priced home “as is” and forego the home inspection. But without the inspection report, do you know what the “as it” refers to? Wouldn’t it be better to know what condition the home is in before you buy it?
The inspection contingency allows the buyer to enlist the services of a licensed home inspector within three to seven days after the purchase agreement is signed. The inspector will go over the property from top to bottom, evaluating the condition of all the basic systems and structures of the home in order to identify conditions that may be considered material defects and thus may affect the market value or the safety of the home.
The inspector’s report is the only documented proof of the actual condition of the property that is being sold. It is a valuable tool that helps you negotiate the sales contract and gives you information about future maintenance projects. The cost of an inspection is well worth the peace of mind it provides.
When you are involved in the process of buying a home, it is safe to assume that you will probably find one that you like, make an offer, and purchase it. There are many steps along the way, and more and more buyers in the market today want guarantees. Inspections by structural engineers and environmental specialists often turn up something wrong with the property you want to buy. Many sales have been halted or delayed because asbestos, lead, or radon was found on the property.
If a problem has been found with the property you want to buy, ask yourself two questions:
1) Can the problem be fixed?
2) If so, what will it cost to repair it?
Some of the following problems could keep you from purchasing a property, if:
1) the house rests on a fault line;
2) the water supply is contaminated;
3) there is a severe crack in the foundation;
4) the house is located under electro-magnetic power lines;
5) the house is contaminated with radon gas.
Enlist your real estate agent’s help in identifying the existence of any of these problems prior to buying property.