A buyer should always get a home inspection, maybe even if the Sellers already have one. Most buyers may not see defects in older homes, i.e. how soon the roof or hot water system will need to be replaced. New homes can also have defects if the builder, or more likely one of their sub-contractors, took short cuts which weren't caught during periodic inspections as we all get too busy at times.
A home inspection is more a tool to get advice from an expert who doesn't have any interest in the transaction, one way or another. Their expertise helps to determine if there are any home systems that may not be working correctl or if something has to be addressed in the not-to-distant future.
For a used home, the home inspector will determine the home’s condition, from the roof to the foundation, including all the systems in between like electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling. The home inspection company may review things differently using a "New Building Checklist", to determine if anything still needs to be completed prior to the buyers moving into their new home. It's not unusual for items completed towards the end of the project to meet the closing date, to have some unfinished work.
Benefits of a Home Inspection
Having an impartial third party walk through the house with the experience of inspecting many homes, can help the buyer learn the ins and outs of their new home. Did you hear that? When buying a home, you should always try to accompany the home inspector so you can see your new house through their eyes. You can ask questions and they can explain things visually, which makes it much easier to understand ... so pick a home inspector who is comfortable with you following them around.
Ideally if you are buying a used home, it has been well maintained and only has a few outstanding problems that require attention. Unfortunately due to the economic conditions during the past few years, many homeowners have deferred maintenance to save money so you need to be sure you know what these will cost after you move in.
Buyer Choices After a Home Inspection
The home inspector provides an impartial view, performing a service without emotional ties to either the buyer or the seller. Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections, identifies four choices for the buyer to consider after receiving your home inspection report:
- Do nothing until after the closing
- Ask the sellers to make the repairs
- Ask the sellers to fund the repairs
- … or cancel the purchase based on the report
In the case of a new home, you will usually work with the builder/developer to complete all the items on the "punch list" so that your new home is completely ready for you to move into.
First Home Inspection Option: Wait Until After the Closing
Reuben suggests “Doing nothing is usually the best option for buyers.” Unless you’re buying a new home, you shouldn’t expect everything to be perfect due to normal wear and tear. Even with new homes there are flaws, as traditional “stick construction” is built by humans who can and will make mistakes. If you’re buying a home that is well maintained, then it's realistic to find several minor repairs you can handle after you move in.
Asking the seller to address the entire list of minor repairs will typically lead to bad feelings and poor communications which exacerbates the stress associated with moving.
Another Home Inspection Option: Ask The Sellers To Make Repairs
Conscientious sellers will automatically make the repairs listed in the home inspection report. But if they don't and you are firm about having the seller do the repairs, use the following recommendations:
- Specify that work must be done by licensed contractors.
- Require permits be pulled and inspections completed.
- Ask for written proof along with a 1 year guaranteed.
- Specify a date for the follow-up inspection, preferably a week before the closing.
Ask Sellers To Pay for Repairs After the Closing
This option is usually best for the buyer, as they don’t pay for the repairs. Often the seller will counter with an offer to split the projected costs. The buyer can then hire their own contractors to do the work, and oversee the project after they own the house. This is definitely the most logical approach, but sometimes buyers think they’re not getting a good deal if they buy a house and need to do repairs right away.
The Final Home Inspection Option: Cancel The Purchase
Unless you have experience fixing up homes, you may find yourself in a situation where there are too many problems, or they’re too large, complicated and/or expensive. This can happen when the home inspector finds serious problems with the foundation, structural problems or multiple whole house systems all needing to be replaced immediately. If you don’t have the time or skill to deal with these repairs, and the seller won’t correct the problems, then you likely will have to walk away from the deal.
If you have home inspection stories or insights, please share them!