For both first-time and experienced home buyers, nothing will mess up a deal faster than fear of the unknown. That’s why home inspections make so much sense.
If you’re selling, consider doing a pre-listing home inspection. In a competitive buyer’s market, this will give you a leg up on the competition and will also help to avoid any unpleasant surprises when your buyer does their own inspection.
For buyers, quite frankly you’d be foolish not to do a thorough inspection. After all, buying a home is probably the largest investment you’re going to make, so you should know what you’re getting into.
Even if you’re buying a property “as-is” you still have the right to do an inspection and to walk away from the deal if you see something you don’t like.
So with that in mind, let’s cover the three top ways for both sellers and buyers to make the most of a home inspection.
Pre-Sale Home Inspection
Also known as a pre-listing or pre-marketing home inspection, this is basically an inspection that the seller would do before ever putting the house on the market. A detailed inspection will cost you a few hundred dollars, and to be honest, some sellers might consider this a waste of money.
But smart sellers consider the money spent on a pre-listing home inspection as an investment rather than an expense. They’d rather know that they’re going to get the equity that has built up in their home when they sell to a qualified buyer making a full-price offer, instead of having the deal fall through when the buyer finds a deal-breaker problem.
A pre-sale home inspection lets you discover any problems, big or small, and fix them before a buyer discovers them for you. It doesn’t mean you should hide them — that’s where you’ll run into disclosure issues. It doesn’t mean you should tell the buyer not to do an inspection because you already did one for them — that’s where you will run into liability issues.
What it does mean is that you can fix things first: the big things, the little things, and everything in between (also known as “honey-dos”).
Honey Do This, Honey Do That
When you weren’t planning on selling your home, you may have had a good reason not to take care of all those little things around the house. Spring break? Check! Playoffs? Check! Friday night out with the girls? Check!
But now that money’s involved — meaning all the money you’re going to make from selling your house — now’s the time to get down to business and fix all those nagging little projects that you’ve put on the back burner.
Even if you’re not the king or queen of DIY, it’s easy enough to hop onto the internet and search for tips on how to do all those little projects. Your local Home Depot, Lowe’s or neighborhood hardware store is also a good source for free advice and inexpensive supplies.
Start with the little things. Maybe you’ve got a toilet in the guest bathroom that takes forever to refill after you flush it. Or that almost unnoticeable drip under the kitchen sink where you’ve strategically placed a bucket to catch the water.
That squeaky master bedroom door that doesn’t seem to close just right can probably be fixed with a couple shots of WD40. Same thing with the garage door that requires a double click on the remote control before it closes all the way.
Remember that it’s fear of the unknown that can drive a buyer away. That slow-filling toilet might make a buyer think there’s a major plumbing problem. That leak under the sink? Black mold is the first thing that will come to a buyer’s mind and the last thing that you want them to even think about.
Speaking of thinking about the wrong things, could the bedroom door or the problem closing the garage door be a result of a foundation problem? To you, of course not, but to a nervous buyer?
If your pre-listing home inspection has discovered major issues such as roof leaks, heating and cooling problems, or pest infestation, common sense says that this is something a licensed professional should take care of. Some inexperienced sellers will wait for the buyer to ask them to fix these, but the odds are just as good — actually maybe even better — that a qualified buyer will just cancel the contract and walk away from the deal.
They win, you lose, and you’re back to square one in having to find another buyer for your house.
For Buyers: Inspect, Inspect, Inspect
Before we discuss some buyer tips on getting the most from your buyer’s home inspection, let’s review a few things first.
If you agreed to purchase a house “as-is”, sometimes also called “as-is, where-is”, this doesn’t mean that you’re stuck with the place if you discover something wrong with it. What this term means is that you’re technically not allowed to ask the seller for any repairs or to ask for a price discount — although let’s face it, if you did you wouldn’t be the first buyer to do so, and if the seller says “No!” you can just cancel the deal, get your earnest money back, and move on to another home on your list.
Next, just because the seller did their own pre-sale home inspection absolutely does not mean that you should skip doing one on your own. That’s because not all home inspectors are created equal, and also because what’s important regarding the condition of the property to you as the buyer will be far, far different from what is important to the seller.
The phrase “home inspection” doesn’t mean doing just one inspection. During your due diligence period, you’ve got the opportunity to examine in detail the property that you’re buying and that you’re going to be spending your hard-earned money on for the next 30 years or so.
You’re making a long-term investment, not buying a pair of shoes, so you absolutely, positively need to know what you’re getting into as a buyer.
A general home inspection will take a look at the house overall. A good home inspector will recommend additional “special” inspections if he finds one or more things that are outside his area of expertise.
For example, major structural and mechanical components such as the roof, foundation, electrical system, plumbing, and heating and cooling systems all require detailed expertise that a general home inspector may not have. If you suspect that you’re not discovering everything that you need to know, then spend the extra money and have an additional inspection done.
Searching for past or present pest infestations — mice, termites, spiders or scorpions — all require a separate inspection from a licensed professional, as does looking for the presence of lead or radon.
As a buyer, you might think that a seller would know about all of these. Maybe yes, maybe no. Often people who have lived in a house get used to the little problems and after a while forget about them.
Or, not too often but it does happen every now and then, as a buyer you will run into an unscrupulous seller who will conveniently forget to disclose things about the house, figuring it is up to you as a buyer to discover what he is not telling you!
Don’t forget that a pre-listing seller home inspection will give your buyer the peace of mind they’re looking for, and detailed more-than-one home inspections for buyers let you avoid potential problems before you own them!