Goodspeed: Home inspections are essential
QUESTION:We have just made an offer on our first home which was accepted. Our real estate agent suggested a home inspector and we scheduled the inspection for next week. What should we be looking for from the home inspection - the process, outcome, etc. How should we treat the findings?
ANSWER: A home inspection is one of the most critical steps in the homebuying process. When you sign a contract to buy a home, whether it is a newly constructed home or a pre-existing home, the contract should always contain a “satisfactory home inspection” contingency. A contingency gives you, the buyer, the right to cancel the contract without penalty and get your deposit back in full. Determining what is “satisfactory” is up to the buyer. So, as you can see, the home inspection is an important escape clause in the homebuying process.
There are generally two types of outcomes that can arise from a home inspection contingency:
1) If the home inspector finds problems, regardless of what they are - whether a cracked window or missing shingles - as the buyer, you have the absolute right to back out of the deal without penalty;
2) If the inspector finds problems, you can present those problems to the seller and give him or her X number of days to fix the problem or give you a cash credit (generally, this comes off the sales price). For example, if the shingles are peeling and the home obviously needs a new roof, you can try to negotiate the price of a new roof off the sales price. If the seller refuses to either fix the problem or negotiate a lower sales price, you can assess the magnitude of the defect and the potential cost to remedy it, and either decide to go forward with the deal or walk away. Your choice.
The buyer pays for the home inspection and should be present during the inspection in order to question the inspector about the findings and the implications of any problems.
The seller learns the results of the inspection from the buyer’s real estate agent, who will convey either your acceptance of the findings or any demands you might have. The real estate agent is the go-between you and the seller.
Linda Goodspeed is a longtime real estate writer and author of “In and out of Darkness.” Email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.