Know risks when forgoing inspection contingency

Surprise defects can compromise a homebuyer's deposit

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jan. 2, 2012

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Surprise defects can compromise a homebuyer's deposit

Dian Hymer
Inman News®

Think again if you're considering buying a home without having it inspected. This particularly applies to first-time buyers who have little, if any, experience with home defects and repairs. Even professionals can make mistakes when buying homes without having them thoroughly inspected.

In one example, an experienced contractor bought a home to fix up and resell. The contractor looked over the property carefully before he bought it, but he did not have it inspected by an impartial home inspector.

After the contractor took possession of the property, he discovered that the furnace was shot and required replacement. The cost of a new furnace was not included in his renovation budget.

Homebuying is an emotional experience no matter how hard you try to keep it strictly business. You have high hopes that nothing will go wrong and the transaction will close. The appeal of a home could cloud your objectivity about the real purchase price when you consider the work that needs to be done to repair defects and deferred maintenance.

In some areas, the home-sale market has picked up. One example is California's Silicon Valley, where job growth is strong. There is far more demand than there are homes for sale, which tends to drive prices up.

In some cases, buyers will waive contingencies in order to outbid the competition. Buying without including an inspection contingency in the purchase contract can be an expensive strategy if you later find defects that are expensive to repair.

The risk is minimized if the sellers provide the buyers with copies of recent presale home inspections done by reputable local home inspectors before they write an offer. However, most home inspection reports recommend further inspections. Diligent sellers take the extra step and have further inspections done, like a roof or furnace inspection. Many do not.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: A second opinion from a highly regarded home inspector can't hurt. The reason to have inspections at all is to find out as much as possible about the property's condition before you go through with the sale. Don't skip an inspection to save money.

Sometimes, buyers who are satisfied with the report they received from the seller's home inspector will hire that inspector to do a walk-through inspection based on the seller's report. This means a second home inspector isn't involved. But at least the buyers have an opportunity to spend time at the property with the seller's inspector, ask questions, and find out more about what works and what doesn't.

Inspection contingencies protect the buyers and, depending on how the clause is written, can allow the buyers to withdraw from the contract without losing their deposit. This is why sellers are often drawn to an offer that doesn't have an inspection contingency. However, accepting such an offer can create problems.

Inspection contingencies also protect sellers from future legal entanglements with the buyers over items that weren't discovered before closing. It's much easier to resolve inspection defect issues before, than after, closing.

Inspection contingencies can create an opportunity for buyers to ask sellers to fix defects, lower the price, or credit money at closing to cover the cost of repair work.

When buyers ask sellers to make concessions after they bought the house "as is" with respect to certain disclosed defects, it can be a deal-breaker. However, reasonable sellers will often attempt to negotiate an acceptable solution regarding newly discovered defects rather than put the house back on the market.

If you're buying in a competitive market and find you're losing out because you won't waive an inspection contingency and others are willing to take the risk, consider having inspections done before making an offer.

THE CLOSING: Make sure to ask permission from the seller through the listing agent.

Dian Hymer, a real estate broker with more than 30 years' experience, is a nationally syndicated real estate columnist and author of "House Hunting: The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers" and "Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer's Guide."

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