As a homebuyer near the end of the highly complex process of seeking out, finding and closing on the perfect home, it's understandable if you feel some fatigue, and perhaps some eagerness to get everything over with. This isn't abnormal. It's akin to the last hour of work on a Friday for those with nine-to-five jobs, or how students feel just before summer starts. The papers are signed and the house is virtually yours. Any last steps regarding the property are probably just formalities, right?
"Some buyers are waiving their right to a home inspection before completing sales on new houses."
Sadly, this is not the case. If you haven't already done so, having your soon-to-be new home inspected by an expert from an established home inspection company is without a doubt the last piece in the puzzle of new homeownership. But despite this generally accepted truism, an alarming trend has surfaced in certain segments of the U.S. real estate market of late – numerous buyers waiving the right to a home inspection before the completion of a deal on a house for sale.
Let's look at the disconcerting development and explain in no uncertain terms exactly why an inspection is essential:
Inspection waivers stemming from buyer desperation
According to the Tacoma News Tribune, impatience and fierce competition among buyers are the factors motivating a significant amount of hopeful homeowners to eschew the option of having home inspectors conduct surveys of a property for safety issues, damages, general cleanliness – and, if requested, specific tasks such as an energy audit.
For example, if two buyers come to a real estate agent, or directly approach a property owner, with offers that are essentially identical except that one demands a home inspection and one doesn't, the seller or seller's agent is more likely to choose the no-inspection buyer. It speeds up the process by which they earn their revenue. There's nothing unscrupulous about this – it's part of the business – but problems that aren't found before the sale is closed can cause major headaches for buyers down the road.
Real estate agent Karla Wagner confirmed the risks for buyers resulting from a waived home inspection.
"There's just so many things that can go wrong," Wagner told the News Tribune. "What if it's [a problem that costs] $10,000? What if it's whatever, and then you don't have a way out? You don't need to force anything, or be risky, and then end up with a huge problem on your hand and a money pit."
Although the News Tribune piece specifically focuses on the Tacoma, Washington metropolitan area, evidence shows that this trend exists in markets across the country – including Arlington and other areas of Virginia, according to Arlington Now.
Major advantages of undergoing an inspection
The ability to develop leverage in real estate negotiations is one of the most pragmatic benefits a home inspection affords a buyer. If a home inspector finds a structural issue that isn't a deal-breaker but still constitutes a problem – windows in need of replacement, or an attic that's supposed to be insulated but isn't – you can haggle. You're in a position to tell the seller or seller's agent that you'll take the property, but only with a few thousand dollars cut from the listing price. Some sellers might not budge at this, but many are willing to make a deal.
"Some sellers are more willing to accept buyer offers that don't require an inspection, but this shouldn't sway you."
Beyond that, the simple fact of being able to uncover hazards within a home, such as badly wired electrical infrastructure, leaky water pipes and significant structural damage, is ultimately worth more than the price-haggling it allows. It helps ensure your safety and that of your spouse and family, and by extension guarantees peace of mind.
Remember what to look for
As noted in Reuben Saltzman's real estate blog for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, sellers should know what your inspector – and you, by proxy – want to see. All essential utilities should be activated, and appliances such as the boiler or furnace and hot water heater must be readily accessible so they can be examined. Garages and any crawl spaces should also be open.
Finally, don't forget your contingency form. Typically attached to home purchasing agreements, this document details buyers' rights in this context and constitutes written proof that you can call off buying the house without incident or penalty if the inspection is unsatisfactory.
Finding a compromise
Writing for Arlington Now, real estate agent Eli Tucker pointed out that you can find middle ground between yourself and the seller on this issue. The typical contingency period for a home inspection is seven to 10 days, but if you reduce it to five, you can allay a seller's apprehension while still getting your new home properly inspected.