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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?

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Cindy Williams

Hello Jane
Wonderful comments! You are spot on regarding the two types of buyers! I am 100% for buyers to be completely satisfied with their purchase via obtaining a home inspection, it is the timing of the inspection process that bothers me. My point was to ask readers how they felt about the timing of home inspections and I have found many different opinions that hopefully will lead to a better home inspection process.

Thank you for your wisdom to see that the home inspection process can and should be improved on.

Cindy Williams

Hello Mar
Thank you for your comments! You are on the right track to recommend a pre-inspection prior to signing a sales contract to sell your town home! A pre-inspection of the home by the buyer or a home inspector appears to be a much fairer method for all involved.

Much success in marketing your home!

Cindy Williams

Hello Tommie,

Thank you for your comments! The scratched bath tub did actually terminate a home sales contract and unfortunately I have many more examples I can share that are similar such as stains on sub-floors from a prior toilet leak, water heater relief valve drain missing, etc. Unfortunately, small insignificant items can and are used to terminate contracts or re-negotiate a previously agreed upon sales price.

A possible solution that I recommended was getting a pre-inspection of the home one is buying and now home inspectors are offering them in our area which is wonderful! This helps to take out the unfair re-negotiation actions taking place for the insignificant items I mentioned above and gives the buyer a clearer picture of what to offer for a home.

Thank you for taking the time to comment and share your concerns. You are contributing to help solve problems and I commend you for that!

Cindy Williams

Hello Kath
Thank you for your comments! In my opinion, most realtors recommend home home inspections for their buyers to protect their buyers and also to protect their own liability. I know that most real estate companies require their realtors to recommend home inspections during every real estate contract written.

The issue I have with home inspections is the timing and fairness primarily to the seller during the home inspection process. Home inspections should be a tool to detect major flaws in a home’s construction prior to negotiating a contract, however most home inspections take place after a contract is executed. Though the bathtub scratch I mentioned seems silly, it was actually used to terminate a real estate sales contract and leave a seller with a home to re-market.

Hopefully changes will be made in the future to create a fairer process for buyers, sellers, realtors and everyone involved. Thank you again for your comments.

Cindy Williams

Hello Peter

Wonderful response to all of the comments made! I totally agree with you that home inspections are necessary and useful to buyers. I will agree to disagree with you that realtors just want a smooth closing. I have found that most realtors highly recommend home inspections to protect their buyers, sellers and their personal liability should a defect surface after purchase. You truly hit the nail on the head when you stated that real estate home purchases are unique and why you are not a fan of home inspections being used as a re-negotiation tools! That is the issue I am hoping intelligent people like yourself will help to get resolved.

Re-negotiation is a fair tool in most cases with the exception of sales contracts contingent upon satisfactory home inspections that state no limits on the cost or degree of defects found during an inspection. This leaves any seller vulnerable to a possible picky buyer looking for an out in the contract. The bathtub scratch I mentioned was actually used to terminate a contract. I know of many more instances of contracts being terminated over insignificant items.

Hopefully some changes will take place that will protect all parties involved and create a fair home inspection process. Admitting their are problems with the current system is a start. Thank you again for your great comments!

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

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