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Home Inspection Tips for Buyers That Sellers Can Learn From, Too.

Updated: Mar 4




A home inspection sets both buyers and sellers on edge. It may feel like the buyer has the upper hand, but everyone involved is eager for this part of the sale to go well and understand its value in the process.


In fact, 90% of homeowners believe that home inspections aren’t a luxury but a necessity, according to a poll from the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI).


Realizing that each side ultimately wants the same thing—and that you can work together toward closing a deal—should set all parties more at ease. Start with these 6 home inspection tips for buyers that offer hidden lessons for sellers, too.



No.1: Make the inspection official by writing it in as a contract contingency.


It’s not enough to tell the seller of a house verbally that you plan to get the house inspected before closing. You’ll need to work with your agent to make sure it’s written into the contract as a contingency clause, which “defines a condition or action that must be met for a real estate contract to become binding,” according to Investopedia.


The inspection contingency clause in particular allows a buyer to stipulate that they have a certain amount of time (typically 10-14 days) to inspect the property after both parties sign the purchase offer. This gives the buyer the chance to back out of the deal and get their earnest money back if they can’t come to an agreement on repair negotiations.


In the event that you’re buying the house from a friend or relative—or trying to compete in a hot market with fierce buyer competition—you might be tempted to waive the inspection.


What that means for sellers:


95% of purchased homes go through an inspection before closing so there's very little chance that you'll wiggle out of this step. The only exception may be in a shite-hot market where buyers are clamoring to compete, giving you all the power to sell "as is" for market value (but it's rare.)


The upside of a home inspection is that it puts everything out in the open. Both sides know what a property’s problems are and can negotiate with all facts on the table. Many agents will suggest a pre-listing home inspection to either tackle maintenance issues early or give buyers a heads-up about certain issues, creating transparency.


No.2: Temper your expectations for a perfect inspection.


Although a home inspection report is detailed, it doesn’t cover every nook, creak, and cranny.


One expectation that first-time buyers have is that the inspector is going to find everything wrong with the house—and that’s not the case. We’re there as a guest of the owner, so we’re limited in our ability to inspect things.


We can’t tear behind the wall to see if there’s a leak behind the bathroom faucet or the bathtub. We can’t take things apart to see why the dishwasher is making a funny sound. Other than removing the electrical panel, we don’t move furniture or appliances.


So if there’s a sectional sofa in front of the living room windows, for example, the inspector may not be able to reach all the windows to test if one sticks.


What that means for sellers:


The inspection report assesses a home’s condition. It’s not a report card on how good a homeowner you’ve been or a “pass or fail” test. You may be used to your home and its quirks, but a buyer isn’t, so try not to take anything in the report personally—and remember, minor things will always crop up.


Trust your agent to help weed through what's minor and what's a potential deal-breaker.



No.3: Be prepared to attend the inspection and ask lots of questions.


“The first think I always do is ask what their concerns are....”

When buyers pay for the home inspection, it’s fairly standard for them to watch the inspector at work. The first thing I always do is I ask what their concerns are. Maybe they had an issue with a previous house, so they’re sensitive to that.


You’ll still get a report, but it’s easier to understand a problem when I can explain it to you, and you see what the issue is.


What that means for sellers:

Although buyers need this opportunity, a seller already knows the home--and moreoften than not can get in the way.


Inspectors have had experiences with buyers clashing with sellers who became defensive or emotional during the inspection.


Let your agent supervise the inspection and tell you what the inspector found. (If you've had a pre-listing inspection or a maintenance inspection done recently, you'll already know what's in store.)



No.4: Know when to ask for repair, take a credit, or leave it be.


The home inspection can trigger some delicate negotiations over a property’s flaws. For each, a buyer can request that the seller hire a contractor to fix it, obtain a credit (a reduction in the purchase price) toward fixing it themselves, or let it be. Sellers can opt for either or simply reject both and negotiate from there, although that puts the transaction at risk of the buyer walking away.


Sellers should repair major structural issues or safety problems, such as a dated roof or any requirements for a government-backed mortgage like an FHA loan, or offer credit if they don’t have the funds. Cosmetic imperfections, such as chipped paint or peeling wallpaper, can be left to the buyers to handle once they purchase the property.


What that means for sellers:


If your electrical system, appliances, or water heater are older, talk to your agent about offering a service contract to sweeten the deal. These cost about $300 a year and reassure sellers that any repairs that might arise after closing will be covered.



No.5: Request documentation to prove completed repairs.


While not essential, this can help verify any amenities the seller’s advertising, such as a new roof.


What that means for sellers:


You might already have your receipts handy for a home appraiser, so it doesn’t hurt to let a home inspector view them, too, as well as your agent.



No.6: Now's your chance to get specialty inspections, too.


Although home inspectors are trained and certified to assess several parts of a home, they also can specialize in what are called “ancillary inspections,” or more detailed reviews focusing on individual components - such as the home’s foundation or signs of termites. These types of specialty inspections are an additional fee.


What that means for sellers:


Be prepared for your home to be scrutinized and have patience throughout the various inspections--but do keep tabs on the deadlines of the contract and when the buyer is supposed to have each appointment scheduled by.

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