Most homeowners are familiar with the home inspection process, a traditional step in the home buying process. The goal is to determine the home’s condition, from the roof to the foundation and all the systems in between like electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling. Ideally you are buying a home that is well maintained and only has a few outstanding problems that require attention. Unfortunately many homeowners defer maintenance to save time or money, and prospective buyers must decide how to respond to their home inspection.
It is a common belief that real estate “deals” are negotiated at the signing of the contract. In many cases, the deal-making and negotiations only start at the contract signing. Negotiations still happen once a home inspection has taken place. There are four choices for the buyer to consider following a home inspection: do nothing, ask the sellers to make repairs, ask the sellers for a credit for repairs at closing or cancel the purchase based on the report.
Buyers often choose to take a credit at closing rather than having the seller make repairs. The sellers are on their way out and may not approach the work with the same priorities as a buyer might. Also, if buyers get a credit, there will be less back and forth to confirm the work has been completed to their satisfaction. The state of the market also plays a part in these negotiations. If it’s an aggressive seller’s market, the buyer’s negotiating clout is limited. In a buyer’s market, the buyer will have more room for negotiation.
If you are firm about having the seller do the repairs specify in the purchase agreement that work must be done by licensed contractors. Major repairs to plumbing, electrical, or HVAC require a permit. Be sure that permits are pulled and inspections completed bythe authority with jurisdiction, i.e. your town’s building inspector. If a project is too small to require a permit, maybe it doesn’t make sense to ask the seller to do it at all. Specify a date for a follow-up inspection if one is planned, preferably a week before the closing so there is time to resolve outstanding items.
Sellers may want to get a home inspection of their own before they put their house on the market. They can then make minor repairs before putting their home on the market. They can also give buyers a complete list of disclosures, which may be required as part of the contract. Buyers don’t like to be surprised. Even if the seller has a complete inspection, buyers should go ahead and schedule their own inspection.
When the inspection is complete, make a point of doing a walk-through of your future home with the inspector. It is helpful to see firsthand any problems the inspector uncovers, their locations and suggestion about how they might be remedied. During this walk-through you also get a detailed look at the mechanics of the house and all its quirks, such as the location of the septic tank, locations of all electrical panels, where are the sprinkler system controls or how to turn off the main water supply to the house. Some homes may also have sump pumps and/or radon mitigation systems. Ask to see their locations and how they operate.