By Roy Sanborn
Having a property inspection is one of the biggest hurdles and a very important step in the home buying process. Buyers often ask whether they really need an inspection and my answer is always yes, yes, and yes, regardless of whether the home is new or 200 years old. Every farmer checks out the horse's teeth before he buys it.
The standard purchase and sale agreement gives you multiple options for inspections; general building inspection, sewage disposal, water quality, radon air quality, radon water quality, lead paint, pests, and hazardous wastes. There are a couple of blank spaces where you can ask for inspections on unexpected things like swimming pools or horse's teeth.
Inspections must be done by "licensed home inspectors or other professionals normally engaged in the business and chosen by and paid for by the buyer." Even though your Uncle Ted has been a handyman all his life, that doesn't qualify him as a home inspector and his opinion might just gum up the inspection process so beware when you invite him to tag along.
The purpose of the inspections is obviously to find out any hidden or undisclosed defects in the property so you don't buy a pig in a poke – here we go with that farmer thing again. For those that don't know, a poke is actually an old English word for a bag or sack. So you don't want to buy a pig that you haven't seen.
Even though the seller has lived in the house for 35 years and has filled out a seller's property disclosure to the best of his ability describing everything he knows about the property and all the repairs he has made, how often he pumps the septic system, and when the last time the furnace was cleaned he may not be aware of certain issues or problems. He may not be like your Uncle Ted and could be ... well, he could be a little clueless. It happens.
So the home inspection is there for you to discover unknown deficiencies, if any, and it gives you the opportunity to get out of purchasing the property if something looks really bad – you know, like you missed that the cracked basement wall that is leaning in a good 6 inches. It also provides the opportunity for the seller to remedy the unsatisfactory conditions either by repairing or replacing that leaking hot water heater or faulty electrical panel. Another option may be to negotiate a reduction in purchase price to offset the estimate repair costs of an item. If everyone is cool, things generally get dealt with and the deal goes forward. Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.
But there are lots of deals that fall apart during the home inspection process. It can happen if there is something that really scares the part of the buyer. It can also be because either the buyer or the seller (or sometime both) become unreasonable. Let's say if a buyer makes a low offer on a home that was just reduced in price because the house needs to be painted, the windows have broken seals, and that hot water tank is leaking. These are obvious or disclosed issues. The seller reluctantly takes the offer but then the buyer tries to get another price reduction over these same issues at the home inspection. Don't be like George Costanza on the Jerry Seinfeld show and try to double dip. The seller will obviously not be very happy and things generally will spiral out of control.
But, sellers should also plan on and expect to give a little if there really is a legitimate issue that comes up. The buyer had no idea that there is mold in the attic because the bathroom exhaust didn't vent outside or the baffle in the septic tank fell off. These are issues that should be compromised on if the seller truly wants to sell and the buyer really likes the home. Give a little and get a little.
So while the home inspection process may be a hurdle, my suggestion would be for any buyer to hire a good local inspection company (your agent will recommend a number of them to you) and go into the process with eyes wide open. Don't ask for known issues to be repaired after you have made your offer and don't give the seller a laundry list of items from burned out light bulbs to minor maintenance issues. You'll be amazed how reasonable a seller will be if you are as well. Then you can dance until the cows come home – just another farmer saying I had to throw in.
There were 767 single-family residential homes for sale as of March 1 in the 12 communities covered by this report. The median price point was $259,900, meaning half of the homes available were under that price and half were over. The current inventory level equals about an eight-month supply of homes on the market.
Please feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data compiled using the NNEREN MLS system as of 3/1/16. Roy Sanborn is a sales associate at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012.
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