Real Estate Confidential: The Home Inspection

Home inspections, and peace of mind.

You'll want to be really clear about the soundness of a house you're about to buy.

Weekly chit-chat about new listings, sales or other insider info on the Martha’s Vineyard real estate market, by Fred Roven, Martha’s Vineyard Buyer Agents.

When the time comes to make an offer for the home of your dreams, one important consideration is the condition of the home and property. You want to have any and all information about your significant purchase; both the good and the bad. There are some situations when a home inspection may not be needed, and we always recommend and encourage a home inspection. You may be an investor more concerned about the lowest possible price and/or knowledgeable enough to trust your own eyes. The home might clearly be more than “as is” condition and well along the road to “tear down,” so go for it.

Your broker will include several items in an offer called contingencies that must be met in order for the contract you have signed to be enforceable. If they are not met, any deposit(s) you have made to date are refunded without question provided all dates in the contract are honored. These might include a mortgage contingency or a septic inspection if you are not on town sewers. Martha’s Vineyard homes primarily have septic systems and some towns, particularly up-Island and Chappy, are 100% septic system. The buyers are usually responsible for ordering and paying for the home inspection. Extremely important to remember the home inspection is for your information and the seller has no obligation to make any repairs.

There are instances when a property listing will describe the sale as being “as is.” That well may be the case, and you still are entitled to walk away from the sale and have your deposit refunded for any significant (costly) issue that becomes evident during the home inspection.

There are several ways to deal with issues that are discovered by your home inspector.

  • Buyer agrees to purchase the home as-is. In some cases the buyer will decide to proceed with the purchase of a home, even if there are major problems. In some cases the buyer will have no choice because the seller will not make repairs or change the contract.
  • Seller agrees to make repairs to a home. Many times a seller will agree to make repairs to a house after an inspection is done. The seller may agree to make all the repairs the buyer asks for or negotiate to make some of the repairs.
  • Seller agrees to lower the price or renegotiate other terms. The buyer may ask the seller to lower the price, or the seller may offer to lower the price after the buyer requests repairs to be made. The seller can also agree to lower the price and make some repairs.

A typical inspection starts at the roof and ends at the foundation, with stops in between at every major house system (plumbing, electrical, heating, septic, etc.). Most also include tests for radon gas, water safety, the presence of mold or asbestos, siding, wood and wood trim. Cosmetic items like paint, carpeting and condition of fixtures may not be included if visible during your property visits. Your inspector may see signs of rodents or termites and will recommend you hire a pest inspector. Not only do you have to be able to see when there is a problem, you have to know how much it will cost to repair these items if there is a problem. Your inspection period can and should allow you time to get estimates for any repairs you decide are important.

Many times a seller will offer a written disclosure of knowledge they have of any deficiencies in the property. The disclosure is voluntary in MA and many attorneys advise sellers against the practice. However, many sellers, on their own initiative or encouraged by their broker, will have their own home inspection and decide to repair many items discovered in order to have an easier sale and to better substantiate the price. In MA, buyer agents or exclusive buyer agents can recommend home inspectors for you and can make arrangements for and attend the home inspection. If you are working with the listing agent of a property, I recommend you interview and choose on your own. For many sellers, an inspection may seem like an unwanted expense, but it can pay off in dividends, because it will identify any potential problems that would make a motivated buyer lose interest. And conversely, an inspection could also reveal that your home is in outstanding condition, and may only identify a few cosmetic changes necessary for you to feel confident about putting your home on sale

When buying a home it is important to remember-no perfect homes exist. Air conditioners break, plumbing pipes leak, and roof tiles blow off in the wind. If you’re buying a home, start with a reasonable expectation of what home inspectors can do. Their job is to inform you about the integrity and condition of what you’re buying, good and bad.

A home is one of the largest purchases and investments purchased in anyone’s lifetime. The costs associated with buying a home are not low by any stretch of the imagination. One of the most important reasons to have a home inspection when buying a home is the peace of mind that it can provide.