You've Had Your Home Inspection. Now What?
When we complete our Cincinnati home inspection reports, often we never hear back from our clients. We'd like to think that this is because our reports are so clear and understandable and that there is no need for us to explain anything. However, the opposite may be true - clients may be so bewildered, overwhelmed and stressed out about buying their house that they don't know what to do with the report when they get it. Recently, several of our southwestern Ohio home inspection clients have asked us what they should do with the results of our home inspection reports, and we realized that they need help!
Why are you getting a home inspection?
Whether you are buying in West Chester Township, Batavia, Mason, Colerain, or anywhere in between, you are putting a lot of money in your new home or investment property. You want to know that after the closing day, there will not be any problems. Of course, there will be problems - even in new homes. So, the Ohio home inspection is really another layer of "assurance" that what you are buying is what you THINK you are buying. You don't want to be spending your post-closing cash on shoring up foundations, new roof, rewiring your electrical system, etc. You want to spend your money on furnishings and accessories, right? So, the LiteHouse Inspect home inspection will tell you the condition of the structure, components and systems, to the best of the ability of your home inspector. It is a visual inspection, but good home inspectors can often spot things that would elude most people's eyes.
Results of the home inspection.
The inspection is done. You now hopefully have a complete report. The summary is a gloss-over of the defects that your inspector believes are worthy of mention. Note that all home inspectors are human and so each one will have their areas of expertise. Summary reports can be confusing because the specific areas are usually not addressed ("wood is peeling"). You need to refer to the complete report that will hopefully have annotated photos or a good explanation of which room has the problem or what part of the foundation needs attention. At LiteHouse, we pride ourselves in thorough reports with easy-to-understand narratives.
Interpreting the home inspection report.
Here is where many buyers get confused. Is the defect really a problem? For example, saying a roof is "beyond its design life" does not tell you it has failed to keep water out. We have seen many roofs that are terrible looking, but are really doing their job quite well, nonetheless. Home inspectors have to walk a fine line when reporting on defects. Good inspectors will consider the age of a building and may change their emphasis based on the home's age. Home inspectors cannot know when a roof will begin to leak, but they can tell if the roof is old. So how does this help you? Be sure to speak with the inspector to get clarifications - BEFORE contacting the seller. You may find that something that looks like a major concern in the report is not so bad. Get a handle on what has failed, and the seriousness of it. Your LiteHouse Home Inspectors in Cincinnati will take the time to review the report with you and any questions you have. We also consider ourselves your Inspector for Life. Feel free to call us any time in the future!
What to expect the seller to handle.
In some states, you can sell a home "as-is". However, even if this language is communicated to the buyer, most real estate contracts will permit the buyer to get a home inspection. The implication is that no home is really sold "as-is".
So now you have a list of defects - what do you do with it?
Do you hand it over to your agent and say "seller needs to fix them all"? Or is it something more along the lines of a negotiation? We recommend the latter. In our opinion this will depend on what kind of deal you are getting already! Do you want to lose out on a great deal over a few items costing a minimal amount? These items could have already been foreseen by the seller and the great price reflects these defects. This is a good time to talk with your Realtor; they often know what the situation is, through previous conversations with the seller's Agent. Sellers will usually fix safety problems since once they are made aware of them, it can come back to haunt them later if they do not. ("So, what you are saying, Mr. Jones, is that you knew the handrail was loose and yet YOU DID NOT REPAIR IT and my client fell and is now in a wheelchair???) They will also consider fixing structural problems, since these may not only kill your deal, but the next deal as well. The grey areas are non-safety issues where the problem will cause issues down the road such as a leaking valve, peeling paint, failed thermal seal in window, loose piece of siding, or old roof. Sellers can balk at doing these things.
Negotiating with the seller.
As an experienced home seller and home buyer, I have been through the home inspection experience from both sides. I can say that the people who are most successful at getting the seller to concede on repairing things are those that do not shove a long list at the seller and say "fix them all". Sellers will put up resistance if you are being petty or trivial. Consider those items that are really not important (you are going to renovate the kitchen, so why demand a new countertop?). Present your "wish list" to the seller in a clear, concise manner, since they are not obligated to fix anything you ask for. Things that would be readily evident to you when you saw the building before making the offer (gutters missing, siding blown off) generally should not appear on your list because a seller would have expected that your offering price was reflective if these things. Patch a drywall hole where the door knob hit it? Give the seller a break, do it yourself after you buy it.
When the seller responds.
Do not expect that all of the items you ask for will be fixed. You need to think about what some of the items would cost you, and will you even do them if the seller does not (like replacing an old air conditioning unit before it fails). Remember that the seller will be reluctant to fix things that they believe are not a problem - believing that they have lived with these things, so why can't you?
Bailing out with the home inspection report.
OK, so you are getting cold feet on the home you are buying. What's a person to do? Sometimes, people use the inspection report as an excuse to cancel the real estate contract. As a home inspector, this is not what we intended our Inspection to be used for. we really want the deal to go through, and do not want to get a reputation as a "deal killer". We do the inspection to educate our clients of the condition of the home they are looking at. And hopefully teach them to be able to maintain an investment for their future.
Seller agrees to repair. Now What?
Once the seller agrees to correct a deficiency, you will need to have it verified. Some sellers are handy and can do some fixes themselves, but safety-related items and plumbing should be left to the experts. Handy homeowners can hide a problem just as easily as fix it, so just because the problem is no longer visible does not mean it has been correctly repaired. For example, drywall that is water damaged can be replaced, but will it get damaged after the next heavy rain? And for big issues like structural repairs, was a permit required, and acquired.
Take the money and run?
Clients ask us whether it is better to have the seller fix the problem or get an allowance at the settlement table, or an escrow of funds. We say that it is better to have the seller get it fixed, because what looks like a nice cash offer for a new roof at settlement may not look so good when the roofer finds that you need six sheets of roof sheathing once he rips the old shingles off. Of course, we have also seen sellers give a generous payment or escrow more money than we would have for a repair. But, it’s more likely that the problem will cost more than the seller thinks, rather than less. Also reducing the price for repairs sounds good , but remember the financial institution will usually only lend money on the price settled on. So at that point if they reduced the price $ 6,000.00 for that leaking roof, you will have to pay out of pocket for the repairs. So be careful on what issues are settled on.
Remember! Always get your Cincinnati Home Inspector to clarify anything you are unsure of!