Tip #1: Make the inspection official by writing it in as a contract contingency.It’s not enough to tell the seller of a house verbally that you plan to get the house inspected before closing. You’ll need to work with your agent to make sure it’s written into the contract as a contingency clause, which “defines a condition or action that must be met for a real estate contract to become binding,” according to Investopedia. The inspection contingency clause in particular allows a buyer to stipulate that they have a certain amount of time (typically 10-14 days) to inspect the property after both parties sign the purchase offer. This gives the buyer the chance to back out of the deal and get their earnest money back if they can’t come to an agreement on repair negotiations. In the event that you’re buying the house from a friend or relative—or trying to compete in a hot market with fierce buyer competition—you might be tempted to waive the inspection. Bad idea—says Frank Lesh, who also has inspected houses since 1989 and is the executive director ASHI. “Unfortunately, that could be a serious mistake,” he said. Even if a seller isn’t deliberately hiding something, some maintenance issues aren’t apparent to an untrained eye. Jesus Cardenas, a top-selling agent in Pembroke Pines, Florida, echoes that inspections are always part of the contract in the West Broward County area, where he works. “All properties are sold as is with the right to inspect within the first 10 days,” he said.
What that means for sellers:95% of purchased homes go through an inspection before closing so there’s very little chance that you’ll wiggle out of this step. The only exception may be in a white-hot market where buyers are clamoring to compete, giving you all the power to sell “as is” for market value (but it’s rare). Because the inspection is written in as a contingency, you should know your options when it comes to repair negotiations: agree to fix the issue, offer a credit to the buyer at closing, or refuse to take action with the risk that the buyer could walk away with their earnest money. The upside of a home inspection is that it puts everything out in the open. Both sides know what a property’s problems are and can negotiate with all facts on the table. For more tips on what’s the right call in varying negotiation scenarios, check out HomeLight’s guide: “Fix it or Fight It?” which is all about how to handle repair requests before closing. Many agents will suggest a pre-listing home inspection to either tackle maintenance issues early or give buyers a heads-up about certain issues, creating transparency. Cardenas, for instance, incorporates an inspection into his pre-listing routine because his area has a lot of 1990s homes with Spanish-tile roofs near the end of their life expectancy. One such inspection found that a client’s roof had perhaps one or two years’ life left. Cardenas knew a roofing company that his client hired to perform about $6,000 worth of repairs, plus provide certification of another year on the life of the roof. “The seller was a nervous wreck, but you know what? The inspection went through completely fine,” he said. “We sold the place to the first buyer.” He’d rather know of any problems upfront than have the buyer’s inspector unearth a surprise maintenance issue.
Tip #2: Temper your expectations for a perfect inspection.Although a home inspection report is detailed, it doesn’t cover every nook, creak, and cranny. “One expectation that first-time buyers have is that the inspector is going to find everything wrong with the house—and that’s not the case. We’re there as a guest of the owner, so we’re limited in our ability to inspect things,” Lesh said.
“We can’t tear behind the wall to see if there’s a leak behind the bathroom faucet or the bathtub. We can’t take things apart to see why the dishwasher is making a funny sound. Other than removing the electrical panel, we don’t move furniture or appliances.”So if there’s a sectional sofa in front of the living room windows, for example, the inspector may not be able to reach all the windows to test if one sticks.