Should Sellers Order a Pre-sale Home Inspection?

One of the main reasons home sale transactions fall apart is inspections. This happens when something unanticipated is discovered during the buyers' inspections of the property, and the buyers and sellers can't agree on a remedy.

For example, the sale of a four-year-old, multi-million dollar property in Northern San Diego County recently fell apart because of an inspection. A team of inspectors were brought in by the buyer to report on the property's condition. The roof inspector said that the roof needed $450,000 worth of work. Not surprisingly, the buyer immediately backed out of the deal.

The sellers are suing the roofer who inspected the roof. Other roofing experts agreed that the roof had some problems; it had been improperly installed. However, their repair estimates were all a fraction of the "deal-killing" bid. The judge might grant the sellers a judgment against the roof inspector. But, this will provide little satisfaction because the sellers are still searching for another buyer.

Would the sellers have been better off ordering a home inspection before they marketed their home for sale? Undoubtedly, they would have. (A home inspection is a comprehensive inspection of the home and all its major systems and components.) The seller's inspector would have called attention to problems with the roof. The sellers could have consulted roofers before marketing their home to get estimates for repairs. Then, they could have marketed the home, disclosing that the roof needed work, along with the repair estimates. Or, they could have had the repair work done before the house was listed for sale.

There's a lot of psychology involved in a home sale. Buyers who are aware of a problem up-front can process this information before making an offer. They can factor the cost into their bid, or ask the sellers to take care of the problem. Buyers often have mixed feelings of excitement and trepidation when they enter into an agreement to buy a home. The impact of an unexpected "bad" report can destroy their excitement and enhance their fear to the point that they want nothing to do with the property.

First-Time Tip: Sellers who decide that a pre-sale home inspection is the way to go should ask their agent for the names of several home inspectors who are well-known and respected in the local real estate community. Interview these inspectors until you find one who you think will give you a thorough and accurate inspection. For example, if you are selling an older home, use an inspector who has a lot of experience inspecting older homes.

Most states, except Texas, don't license home inspectors. Make sure that the inspector you use is a member of ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors), or a similar trade organization. ASHI has strict membership criteria, based on experience. Your home inspector should be a licensed contractor, engineer, or architect.

One reason for using an inspector who has a good local reputation, and name recognition, is that you want the buyers, and their agent, to feel comfortable with your inspector. This will add credibility to your report. Your agent should make the report available to buyers to review before they make an offer.

Make sure that your home inspector will agree to return to the property with the buyers to review the inspection report with them. Also, encourage the buyers to have their own inspector look at the property.

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