Most of the work we do as home inspectors comes at a terrible time in the real estate sales process.
The sellers have spent months lining up a realtor, cleaning and decluttering their home, leaving the home whenever there is a showing, and then anxiously waiting for the offers to appear. The buyers have spent months getting pre-approved for financing, researching neighborhoods and school districts, and working with their realtor to look at dozens of homes. In our hot market buyers will often make offers on many homes before everything clicks… the right house in the right neighborhood for the right price, and from the seller’s perspective, the right offer with the right financing package and requested contingencies. Now what?
Time for the inspection. Everyone is nervous. The sellers, buyers and real estate agents all hope there are no surprises. No structural defects, no expensive system problems, and literally no bodies in the crawl space! The inspector – who works for the buyer – conducts a diligent and objective inspection of the home and finds a number of items that the buyer may decide need to be fixed prior to closing. They are often items the seller wasn’t aware of or had lived with for so many years that didn’t even really see them anymore. And everything is on a tight timeline… a 10 (or 5 or 3) day window to conduct the inspection, a 3 day window for the seller’s response to the inspection, and typically just a matter of weeks to figure out how to get repairs – sometimes small and sometimes large – completed prior to closing. Everyone is nervous, stressed, and occasionally angry. Deals have fallen apart over relatively minor issues that appear at just the wrong time.
We believe there is a better way. Picture deciding to sell your home in 4-6 months. You know you need to line up an agent and you know you need to start decluttering and preparing the home, but picture also hiring a home inspector to do an inspection on the home. The inspector will find a number of items – some small and some large – and then picture being able to decide for yourself which issues you want to take care of. You now have time to get bids and choose contractors and are in charge of the process. Then, when it comes time to start showing your home, you can have the inspection report on the kitchen counter, along with the paid receipts for the repairs of any of the items you chose to take care of. The buyer will still likely want to have their own inspection just to complete their due diligence, but the confidence they have in your house compared to the other several they saw on the same day is completely different. Not only do they have a pretty good handle on the inspected condition of the home, but it’s important to them that you as the seller cared enough to have already taken care of many of the items discovered. Many of the stressful and angst filled components of the time between mutual acceptance and closing have been alleviated (not all… there is still the appraisal), and you have increased the possibility the home will close when it should.
We have heard at least one of the arguments against doing this. Anything the seller discovers as a result of an inspection may become a required disclosure, affecting the sale at the beginning of the process. If there is a problem, let the seller discover it. If they don’t, it’s their problem. At least the seller didn’t know and therefore wasn’t required to disclose it. That head-in-the-sand approach will only occasionally work to the seller’s advantage because if it’s a significant problem, the buyer’s inspector is likely to pick it up anyway and then it’s being exposed at a delicate time in the process.
Inspecting for buyers and not sellers is the norm in our industry today, but we think that will change. In the meantime we look forward to one of our two inspections scheduled for tomorrow morning… for a seller getting his house ready for sale. And this seller is a very active and astute real estate agent who has seen deals fall apart and understands the benefits of advance knowledge and time to deal with whatever gets exposed. Who knows… maybe you’ll see our report sitting on his kitchen counter sometime soon during your house hunting!