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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
In Canada, Quebec my home province, we sign an offer to purchase at an agreed price under condition it passes home inspection, if all goes well then and only then do we sign a contract with the notary.
It might be different in the States.
I appreciate the conversation Ladies (and gents) I am a property owner considering selling a townhouse and definitely agree with an inspection conducted prior to sale price negotiated. The sellers disclosure is a fair thing to go by the other side is the buyer should know what they are buying. The timing is fair for both parties, prior and maybe even each party conduct their own inspection.
Home inspections can be very valuable to discover possible structural problems or expensive repairs to a home. I agree a home inspector cannot find every problem with a home, but they can disclose what they do find and it gives the buyer information necessary in order to determine a fair offer price.
Everyone should have the right to inspect anything they purchase and should. What needs improvement in the home buying field is when should the inspection occur? Before you make an offer to purchase or after you make the offer to purchase?
Thank you for your questions!
Thank you for the very informative article.
As I see it, there are two types of people who have home inspections. Those who are genuinely concerned about “the big 5” (roof, heating, electric, plumbing, air conditioning), and others who want to use the inspection process as a negotiating tool simply to get a lower price. I don’t understand the latter.
While I am not going to increase the price of my house by 10% or 15%, just so I can “reduce” it, neither will I negotiate with someone just so they can get a bargain. Or because of my age, they think I am desperate to sell.
As long as it is a seller’s market, with homes being sold at record speed, if someone has an issue over something cosmetic, they can move on down the street.
We sold our home of 20 yrs in 2018 when the housing market was very low. We had retired, bought a house in the deep south and were chomping at the bit to move. Illinois is in the top 5 states for high property tax. We needed out-from-under. As a result we caved in and did updates that were only new house codes electrical wiring and other expensive updates that we could not afford.
Then they insisted on us buying them a Home Warranty. We refused, so the Real Estate Agent purchased it out of her %. When we moved into our new house…we could see ourselves the need for updates. We took it on because we are realists. We’re retired, we can do updates one at a time and eventually get it done. So, I agree you with you 100%. The inspections have become too punitive to buyers and the selling process.