As a broker that’s oversees thousands of real estate sales transactions each year for both buyers and sellers, I can tell you that the inspection phase of a sales contract is where most deals fall apart. But, that shouldn’t be the case.
Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware) is what any informed buyer should live by when purchasing a home, or any product for that matter. In most real estate sale contracts used in the state of Missouri, it involves a ten day window where the buyer can do all the inspections he/she wants to, in order to perform due diligence necessary to move forward with closing.
However, I see this time and time again: Too often buyers, sellers, and their agents, get caught up in this inspection phase and let a deal fall apart over sometimes very minor issues.
So, here are a few suggestions for both buyers and sellers to keep in mind…
1. Were you aware of the issue before you had a written sale contract?
If there is an issue you find when you first visit the property, address it when the sale contract is written. Waiting for the inspection phase to then request an obvious repair will surely create a disagreement between you and the seller.
The seller’s stance will be that you knew of it before writing the contract, and it was considered in the price. The more you can work out upfront, the less likely you’ll have issues down the road.
2. Pick and choose your battles
If you’ve hired a home inspector, you’re more than likely purchasing a home that’s already been lived in (as opposed to new construction). The house will have a few things that most used homes do, such as wobbly door handles.
But, keep in mind, this is a due diligence inspection and little things should be expected relative to the age of the property. Also, keep in mind the home inspector has obligations and liabilities… they’re required to find and report to you any and all defects found, even those that might become defects in the future. That means if something as simple as a handle is a bit loose, they must report it to you.
So, you’ll want to make sure what you ask to be repaired is within reason, and according to the age of the home/feature and normal wear and tear.
3. Use a measured approach if asking for credit in lieu of repairs
Quite often homebuyers will request a nice round number (ie, $3000) to be provided as a closing cost credit in lieu of fixing all the items that come up in the buyers’ home inspection report. This only frustrates the seller, and makes it appear that the buyer is only out for money.
If you’d really like to receive closing cost credits in lieu of a repair, to do the things yourself and control quality, provide a realistic and accurate number. Take the time to fairly price out all the repairs that are needed, and sum them up. I can assure you it’ll make much more sense to your seller, and they’re more likely to accept.
1. Don’t skimp in the Sellers Disclosure
Take the time to fill out the Sellers Disclosure form to the best of your knowledge – include EVERYTHING you know about the property.
Also, if there are items you think may come during the inspection which you are not willing to correct, be sure to state it in the sellers disclosure. It’s best to be as up front as possible about things, to avoid wasted time/hassle of possibly negotiating these items after you’re under contract.
2. Take your time, and double check the inspectors work
Once you receive a copy of the buyers’ inspection report and list of requested repairs, take your time to thoroughly review the list in detail.
Too often sellers (and their agents) provide a knee jerk reaction, and let emotions get in the way. If the buyer is asking for some electrical repairs to be done, take the time to have your own electrician check them out. Chances are the home inspector the buyer hired isn’t a licensed electrician.
Maybe the issue reported isn’t an issue at all. Or, maybe it’s a very minor fix. You’ll never know unless you do your homework.
You’re typically provided 10 days to come to an agreement on the repairs, so there’s plenty of time to have each repair on the list independently evaluated BEFORE responding to the buyers’ request.
3. Get the municipal inspection first.
In most areas, the seller is required to pass a municipal/governmental safety inspection before the sale closes. Check with your local municipality to see what the requirements are where you live.
If you are required to have one, have the inspection ordered and performed as soon as your home goes under contract – BEFORE you respond to the buyers’ repair requests. Chances are, any repairs the buyers’ request will likely be on the municipal inspection report as well. If so, those are ‘no-brainers’.
You can agree to do a number of repairs the municipality will be requiring of you anyway. And, if you pass the report, you’ll have that to provide to the buyer to show them it’s in acceptable condition according the city you’re living in.
Understanding each other
Although the inspection is meant for buyers to determine any unknown defects in the home and make an informed decision, it is really another point of negotiations during the escrow period of a sales contract.
As with all negotiations, understanding the other parties reasoning and motives is key to a successful deal. Instead of pitting yourself against the other side, try to work as a team to find the middle ground.
As professional real estate agents and brokers, it’s our job to make this process as simple as possible, and make sure all parties walk away satisfied – that’s when you know you’ve made a good deal.