The buyers and sellers have come to an agreement on all the points of the offer to purchase. Escrow checks have been paid and all parties are moving forward toward a happy closing. Then comes the home inspection and suddenly the entire process comes to a grinding halt. As a Realtor, if you've ever seen a deal go down the drain because of the results of a home inspection, you've also seen a lot of your time and hard work go down the drain with it. And whether you are a seller counting on a sale so you can get on with your life, or a buyer who has looked long and hard to find the home of your dreams, watching a deal unravel this way is incredibly frustrating for everyone involved.
It wasn't always this way, but today, a home inspection is an important step in the home buying process. In North Carolina, there are some pretty stringent education and experience requirements needed to be a licensed home inspector and they can play a vital role in helping buyers avoid making a costly mistake. But at the end of the day, a home inspection is still just one person's opinion. In most every case, a home inspector is a "generalist" - someone with a good working knowledge of home construction, areas like electrical and plumbing systems, and it is their job to identify potential problems in the home. They are not specialists in every trade, though.
By comparison, if you were sick and your general practitioner told you that you had a medical condition that required treatment, more than likely you're going to seek out someone who is a specialist in that field or at the very least, you might seek out another doctor for a second opinion before making any life altering decisions.
As a buyer or seller who is facing a less than favorable home inspection, you also have options. In a case where we were representing the buyer the inspection report pointed out that a flower bed by the door sloped towards the front wall of the home which "could", in the inspector's opinion, lead to water intrusion. Naturally, this sent up all kinds of red flags for our buyer. After seeking out a licensed contractor in the area for a second opinion, it turns out the sloping flower bed was not actually sloping, and a thorough inspection of the inside showed absolutely no history of any water intrusion. Conversely, another home inspection on another property turned up structural issues and a high radon level. But both issues were fixed and the purchase went through.
We would never encourage a buyer to overlook fatal flaws in a home but we also would not encourage anyone to walk away from a home because of one inspection report, at least not until they've exhausted all their options.
What can buyers do?
1. The first thing to remember is that unless you are buying a brand new home, every "used" home is going to have issues of varying degrees. (Even brand new homes have issues). After looking over the report and discussing it with your Realtor, decide which flaws you can accept...and which ones you cannot. It is your prerogative to go back to the seller and ask that certain repairs be made, or perhaps a credit at closing.
2. Ask questions. More often than not, an inspection report will point out a "problem", but provide no further explanation about what it would take to fix the problem, or if the problem is something major or not. Remember, it is the home inspectors job to point out the problems based on their level of expertise. It's not their job to tell you how to fix the problems, but when asked, most inspectors we work with will provide additional information and opinions.
3. Seek out a second opinion. If the inspector has an issue with the wiring, hire a licensed electrician to give you a second opinion and an estimate if a repair is needed. The same holds true for plumbing, structural questions, and more. Or, hire another inspector. Like any industry, there are good inspectors...and "not so great" inspectors. Sure, it will cost you a little more for the additional inspections, but if you love the home enough to want to buy it, we believe it is worth the few extra dollars for a little peace of mind. You may find the "problem" is really not a big deal or you may find that the problem is bad enough that it warrants walking away from the deal and starting all over. We've seen it go both ways.
What can sellers do?
1. Ask for a copy of the inspection report. The buyer isn't required to share it with you, but if both parties have been working together so far, it's a reasonable request.
2. Don't take this personally. A buyer's desire to have things made right is not a reflection on you.
3. You also have the right to a second opinion. Hire another inspector or hire specialists to take another look. We've seen buyers stay in a deal because the seller jumped in, got more opinions, and made the necessary repairs.
4. Remember, you aren't required to make any repairs. But if it means selling your home you probably want to do whatever is within bounds of reason to make that happen. If you cannot make the repairs (perhaps you live in another state, or you aren't physically able), you can offer a credit at closing or renegotiate the price based on an estimate of what is needed to make the repairs.
As the Realtors in the deal, we also have a role in all of this and that is to keep the lines of communication open and educate our clients about their options.
To wrap this up, I have great respect for the home inspectors we work with but I believe much of what they do is subjective and that the system of reporting is flawed. For instance, I believe it would be helpful to everyone if the reporting system required inspectors to rank or somehow categorize the issues that they perceive as a problem. The words an inspector uses when describing a "problem" can also create unneccessary alarm and perhaps a more objective ranking system would prevent that. As a buyer or seller, if you see adjectives like "massive" or "extensive", press the inspector to justify the use of those terms. Unless they are a licensed specialist in a particular trade, asking for suggested repair options may go beyond what we should expect of them, but their reporting should put potential problems into some kind of context so that all parties can move forward towards a successful closing knowing that they have made a sound decision.
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For more information about buying or selling homes or land in the Brevard, NC area, contact the Clay Team today at BrevardNCProperty.com!
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