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Home Inspections: Is It Time for a Change?

By Cindy Williams July 10, 2022 Lifestyle

Home inspections quite certainly have become the most dreaded two-word request that a home seller doesn’t want to hear these days. Let’s take a close look at the reality of home inspections.

Frankly, I think it is time for a change! After 45 years in the real estate profession, I must say that the
inclusion of home inspections starting in the late 1990s has created the highest degree of animosity and turmoil between a buyer and a seller that I have ever witnessed.

Home Inspection Then vs. Now

Real estate home inspections first came into play in the 1970s when building contractors were first used to inspect homes for potential homebuyers. It wasn’t until the mid-1980s until home inspectors started to become regulated and licensed. Since that time, their popularity has increased greatly with real estate agents encouraging their use to protect not only the agent, but the buyers also.

The right to a typical real estate inspection is included in just about every real estate contract these days and gives buyers a time period to enlist a home inspector and a time period to report defects that a home inspector may find.

It also lists yet another time period for the buyer and seller to determine if the defects need repair,
replacement, cash in lieu of repair/replacement or no repair/replacement at all. Ironically, these three time periods take place “after” the sales contract price has been negotiated and sales contract signed by both parties. It is the “after” that I have a big problem with.

Before or After

My question to you, the reader, is how many times in our lives do we negotiate a purchase price and then take weeks and sometime months, to determine if we are satisfied or want that product?

I tend to think back to the “early days” of real estate when buyers actually examined a home, often bringing parents or builder friends and then negotiated a price to buy based on the home at the time of signing the sales contract.

Remember those days! Was that really such a bad idea?

Do we negotiate to purchase an automobile, then take weeks or months before completing the purchase? No, we typically test drive the automobile or possibly even take it to an auto repair shop “prior” to agreeing to a purchase price. Notice that the key word here is “prior” to agreeing on a purchase price.

How About an Example

A comical example I often use to explain my frustration with the timing of home inspections is this. When you chose a partner for marriage, do you get engaged and then ask for a two to three week inspection period of your partner, only to come back with a list of defects asking them to be remedied or the engagement terminated? Just imagine the ramifications that we would have!

The inspection reports could come back with all of their many defects listed such as bad knee, crooked nose, thinning hair, etc. How many engagements would be destroyed or terminated after such an inspection? We are all astutely aware that homes, cars and people are not perfect, they will have defects of some kind. But when is the proper time to look for defects? After negotiation or before?

What Home Inspections Look Like

Back to my burning question. I understand that home inspections are necessary and wanted in many cases, however my quest here is to determine if the timing of a home inspection could and should be improved upon.

Presently, home buyers and sellers take days to negotiate a purchase price, execute (sign) a contract contingent on a satisfactory home inspection and start the lengthy process of waiting. Unfortunately,
what I have witnessed in the past and present are home inspections being used as a testy re-negotiation tool to get home sellers to reduce their previously negotiated price even further.

In order words, you may agree to sell your home for $250,000 to a buyer. The buyer gets a home inspection completed in a couple of weeks and comes back asking you to reduce the price of
your home upon presenting to you or your agent a lengthy list of your home’s imperfections. Sound familiar?

Due to the purchase being contingent upon a “satisfactory home inspection,” the buyer also has the right
to terminate the real estate contract for any reason that they deem the home inspection is unsatisfactory. I have actually seen buyers terminate contracts because of a small scratch on a bathtub.

A Possible Solution

My mantra in life is if I don’t like something, I try to fix it. So, here is my suggestion to fix this problem:

If a buyer wants to purchase a home and is unsure of the home’s condition prior to purchase, why not have the buyer conduct a home inspection or even a modified home inspection (now being offered by some inspectors) “prior” to agreeing on a purchase price and executing a sales contract?

The argument I will get from some is that time is of the essence and most home sellers do not wish to wait for a buyer to get a home inspection or modified inspection prior to signing a contract. Also, what keeps the seller from selling the property to other willing buyers while the first buyer is getting the home inspected?

My answer to those questions would be to give the seller the right to negotiate with each buyer based on the merit of their offer.

For example, I have my home up for sale and I have two interested buyers. Buyer #1 asks for no home inspection and will purchase at $10,000 less than asking price. Buyer #2 wants to get a home inspection and asks for a seven-day period to conduct the inspection in order to negotiate a price and sign a contract.

I, as the seller, now have the right to accept whatever offer I feel best suits me. My choices are a $10,000
lower price for an instant sell with no strings attached or sign an agreement with Buyer #2 to wait seven days and possibly get a higher price (or could be a lower price).

It is somewhat of a gamble to wait for Buyer #2, but isn’t that what we all do when we negotiate or wait for the highest and best price we can get? The end result with either Buyer #1 or #2 is that once the real estate sales contract is signed, there is no re-negotiation of sales price, and buyer and seller can rest assured that the buyer is satisfied with their upcoming purchase.

In conclusion, if one wants a home inspection, conduct that home inspection prior to negotiating a price for the home you want to purchase. There are many other options out there of how we can conduct home inspections quickly and fairly “prior” to the negotiation stage. Share your ideas to help get this problem resolved for a better and fairer buying and selling experience.

Have you been puzzled by the timing of a home inspection in your real estate contract? Was your home closing delayed or terminated due to a contingent home inspection? What are your suggestions to prevent untimely home inspection re-negotiations after a real estate contract has been negotiated/signed?

Let's Have a Conversation!

The Author

Cindy Williams, investor and recently retired 40-plus-year TN-licensed real estate broker/appraiser, enjoys empowering people. Cindy has written articles for local newspapers, co-hosted a radio talk show, owned/operated a dirt race track and looks forward to more adventures. Any questions are welcomed at williamsandassoc@gmail.com.

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Cathy Goodwin

Yes! You can get a home inspection report and show it to the buyers.

When I bought my current place, the sellers took a hard line. They said, “You can inspect all you like but we’re not paying for any repairs.” I was in love with the place so I moved ahead anyway. Since then I’ve replaced a hot water heater, my entire HVAC and a refrigerator…and don’t regret the purchase one bit.

Linda I.

Most home inspectors only evaluate what they can see without having to remove anything or take anything apart. The most serious defects tend to be “latent” defects that cannot readily be seen in a homebuyer’s inspection or a home inspection. Sellers may or may not know about the defects. The most important part of a home sale that provides some protection to buyers is the property disclosure. Sellers are required to disclose any defects that they are aware of. Failure to do so can make them liable for major defects that they should have disclosed and clearly knew about (and sometimes have actively attempted to conceal).

That said, I am a realtor in Florida and just represented a buyer who was under contract then inspected the home in detail, tallied up the cost to bring the home up to a standard that matched the agreed upon price, then got a reduction of $70K for the repairs that were obviously needed. This is not common, but once you notify a seller of defects or issues that should be considered in pricing, or were not noted on a seller’s disclosure, the seller will be obliged to repair what was reported to them or include the information on the property disclosure if the deal does not go through.

Eleanor

Can the seller get an inspection before the house is on the market and use that? Does the buyer have to be the one who gets the inspection?

ICC

Clearly a bathtub scratch is silly… but foundation issues, electrical issues or water leak issues to name just a few ARE important. Given the enormous amount of money paid for a home, it is right to get one… now, that said… folks can choose or not to get one and make an offer wo…. And the analogies w an engagement or a car are not true analogies… just made exteme to make the author’s real estate point of view…

Jackie Pirkle

Are inspections really of much value? Have known of many problems not discovered by inspectors.

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