One of the most important aspects of buying and selling a home is a home inspection. Buyers want to know if the property they are eyeing is worth it, since they know that a lot of work still needs to be done after purchasing the property. Sellers, on the other hand, are doing business, so they also want to make profit from the sale.
A home inspection gives a buyer clues about the overall condition of the house, especially issues that are not immediately visible. That way, the buyer can assess whether to continue the deal or look elsewhere. Sellers, on the other hand, can get a pre-listing inspection to find any issues that they can fix before listing their home to get a higher sale price.
If you are on the lookout for a new property, an inspection also gives you some leverage in the sale – you can ask the seller to fix any unearthed issues or get cash credit for the necessary repairs. However, this does not mean that you can demand the seller to fix every issue that a home inspector sees.
If you decide to ask the seller to get the property fixed up first, make sure that you repair requests are reasonable. But if you are wondering what kind of requests are those, don’t worry because we will walk you through that and more.
Sellers will also benefit from this article, as they will have a clearer understanding of what repair requests they can accommodate, and which ones should be left to the buyer.
Common Reasons Why Home Inspections Fail
Many people think that only old homes can fail a home inspection. That is why there are times that both the seller and the buyer are surprised when it happens to a relatively newer home. But, why does this happen?
Contrary to what most people think, a visibly rundown house is not the only one that can fail an inspection. There may be some major issues that only caught the attention of the inspector, not the seller, and has been left alone, hence the failing mark.
It may seem that a home inspector will check on every nook and cranny, but the reality is that they will only focus primarily on the following:
Structural and House Grading Issues
The condition of a home’s foundations and other structures that support and keep it standing are among the first things that an inspector will look at. After all, these structures determine its livability. Any structural issues discovered is a cause for concern, as these put safety in question. Large cracks and doors that will not properly close are usual signs that an inspector looks for.
Foundation defects are also caused by house grading issues, which means water slopes toward the house, instead of away from it, and settles there. Unknown to most, too much water can damage and weaken the foundations of any home.
Condition of the Roof and Its Components
One of the most common aspects of a home that people tend to neglect is the roof. And unless they already experience roof-related problems, they will just assume that the roof is still in good condition.
A home inspector will often get a closer look at the roof, including the roofing system, and assess its overall condition, which can also give you an estimate of how long the roof can still be used. If an inspector believes that a new roof is needed asap, know that this will cost a lot. In fact, many buyers consider it a deal breaker because of how expensive a roof replacement is. (the ‘new roof’ link is for Contractor Quotes)
A home inspector will also check other components installed on the roof, such as chimneys, gutters, and flashings, among others. Chimneys that are in poor condition are known to cause various issues, such as mold growth, structural defects, and water damage especially in old homes, that is why it usually warrants a closer inspection as well.
Water and Drainage Issues
Inspectors will also check a house for any signs of water damage – from the roof down to the foundations. If present, particularly in the basement, there is a chance that structural components of the home may have been affected. Basements will clue in any inspector of any water-related issues present, such as too much moisture, water seepage, or evidence of flooding, which are often considered as a bad sign.
Drainage issues are also common and are not just found on clogged bathrooms and kitchens, and may not be as simple as what people think. While it is usually caused by blockages that can be easily removed, slow drainage may also be a sign that there are problems with the sewage system itself that will require major repairs.
Supply Lines, Piping, and Plumbing Issues
Leaking water pipes are a regular occurrence, and it is known as one of the known issues that inspectors see. Though seemingly harmless, leaks can cause all sorts of problems when left unrepaired, and this is one aspect that home inspectors investigate; they will look for any visible effects of leaks. Also, low water pressure can indicate either plumbing issues or that the entire plumbing system is outdated.
Supply lines and pipes, such as those for gas and the sewer system, may also exhibit problems. Not only are they harder to fix, they can also be dangerous, since there are different health effects that gas leaks and sewer leaks can cause. Note that home inspectors can only watch out for signs of such leaks but not confirm it, since confirmation can only be done by experts on those fields.
Presence Mold and Mildew
The presence of mold is not just an eyesore but it is also known to trigger different health issues. While inspectors typically see mold in attics and on walls, mold infestation can happen anywhere. Mildew is also often found alongside mold, but it is considered safer since it does not pose any health risks.
However, their presence indicates that the property has moisture issues, which may be caused by various factors, mainly structure-related such as poor ventilation.
Various pests are known to build their nests in different areas of any home; even a seemingly pristine home may unknowingly house these critters. A house inspection will reveal if any of these pests have infiltrated a property through any visible damage they caused. Termites, specifically, are known to eat away parts of a home that can compromise the structural integrity of any home.
Faulty electrical wirings can easily become a fire hazard, that is why electrical systems must always be up to code. Some common issues found in a home inspection include overfusing, wirings that are not grounded, the absence of ground fault interrupters, outlets having reverse polarity, and double tapped breakers.
While most electrical issues can be easily fixed, the presence of knot and tube wiring will send a red flag to any home inspector because it is known to be a fire hazard. This wiring style is present in homes that date back to between 1800 to the mid-1900s, and the only fix is to completely rewire the home.
Problems with the HVAC
A home’s HVAC system including its components, such as insulations, vents, and filters, should still be in working order and can efficiently provide heating and cooling throughout the entire home. Home inspectors will check it by switching on the heating and air conditioning and allowing it to run for a short while.
Home inspectors often find problems with the furnace, as not all homeowners get it to undergo regular maintenance. They will also check on its age because it has a limited lifespan; if it has been in use for around 25 years, an inspector will likely recommend getting a new one.
Faulty Doors and Windows
Home inspectors often discover doors and windows that are broken or refuse to open or close at all, especially in old homes. These components easily succumb to wear and tear, and most homeowners just learn to live with instead of getting it fixed. Buyers and home inspectors, however, will likely see it as a sign of neglect and poor maintenance, which they can also take as a sign of the overall condition of the home.
Malfunctioning doors and windows are not just a cosmetic issue. If left alone for too long, they also lead to different issues, such as water damage and higher consumption because the HVAC system works overtime to get the desired level of comfort. As a result, home inspectors may also see such issues in the home.
People want to feel safe in their own home, that is why an inspector will also look for any security features present. Locks on the doors and windows must be working properly, and there should be carbon monoxide and smoke detectors present and in good condition.
Although typically considered as a cosmetic issue, the presence of rotting wood can also be a safety concern. Rotting wooden stairs or flooring is dangerous because it means that its strength is compromised; anyone who steps on it may get into an accident. Rotting door frames are also a concern, as it may no longer properly hold the door in place, allowing it to collapse anytime.
Presence of Dangerous Substances
Old homes are at risk for the presence of various toxic substances, but lead and asbestos are at the forefront of those that must be addressed immediately. Since the scope of home inspectors is limited to visual inspections, they will simply assume that homes built before the lead and asbestos bans in late 1970 are positive for those substances.
Radon, on the other hand, is a dangerous substance that can be found in both old and relatively newer homes. Unfortunately, radon leaks can happen anywhere since it is a naturally occurring substance, although some zones are more prone to radon leaks than others.
Testing for radon is also beyond the scope of a typical home inspector, and they will also simply assume that a home may have a high risk for radon leaks based on its location.
In sum, the role of home inspectors is only to assess the overall condition of the house through a visual inspection, as well as test various systems and components to check if they are still in working order.
They cannot tell you if the selling price is fair, nor will they know if a house meets the local building codes. And unless the cosmetic issues present affect the structural integrity of a house, these will only be considered a minor issue by an inspector.
Basically, a home inspection will only tell you if the house is livable or not, as well as any aspects that need fixing.
What Happens After a Home Inspection?
While the actual inspection often takes only a few hours, getting the final inspection report to help you gauge whether to still close the sale or not usually takes a few days to two weeks at most. A buyer’s decision should not be solely based on the report; you will find that sellers are often willing to compromise with buyers on certain aspects, which they will both talk about after finding out the results of the home inspection.
Once a buyer receives the report, he or she must evaluate if the issues presented are bad enough to cancel the sale, or he or she is willing to negotiate and work with the seller for a fairer deal for both parties. It may take some time until the negotiations are completed, and there is always no guarantee that it will lead to closing.
Both parties can either finalize and iron out various details before they finally close the sale or cancel it if negotiations fall apart.
How Do You Negotiate After a Home Inspection?
Both buyers and sellers know that closing will depend a lot on the results of their negotiations. For many, this can be the most stressful part, even with real estate agents present to help them out. This is because they know that negotiations can make or break the sale.
When it comes to negotiating, always keep these in mind:
- Never reveal any of your renovation plans, as it will work to your disadvantage. This will give the seller the impression that you are completely decided on getting the house and that you may easily acquiesce to anything to get it
- Focus only on the major issues. Talking about trivial matters can serve as an excuse for the seller to only work on those minor issues, as they know it will be cheaper to address than major ones. For instance, the seller can agree to repainting the entire house and changing the flooring being incessantly complained about if the buyer handles the more expensive roof replacement.
- Always consider the option of walking away, no matter how much you want the property. As a buyer, you must ask yourself whether these issues, especially the major ones, are still worth fixing or you are just better off finding another property.
- Consider the market. If you know that you are not the only interested buyer, it is best that your demands are kept to a minimum. Sellers have the upper hand in this scenario, as they can simply choose the less demanding and more reasonable buyer to sell their home to.
- Be respectful. Many buyers think that they always have the upper hand in negotiations, but they forget that sellers also have the right to refuse potential buyers they do not like, even if it means losing a possible sale.
Major negotiations happen after a home inspection and prior to closing, as the final report will serve as the main basis for both buyers and sellers to come to an agreement. Any findings should ideally be first discussed with the inspector present so that both parties will understand the seriousness of the issues discovered during the inspection.
These negotiations will typically start with deciding who will shoulder the major repairs needed, save for those that sellers are required to handle in accordance to state laws.
If both parties agree to getting the house fixed up by the seller, the buyer must formally give the seller a Request for Repairs form, or RR form. This list enumerates the repairs that a buyer believes must be handled by the seller. But, they should know that sellers are also free to only accommodate repair requests that they see as reasonable, not everything a buyer has listed down.
However, there is no guarantee that the repairs handled by the seller will meet the standards of the buyer, especially if the seller is rushing the sale. But if you come to an agreement that the seller will fix these issues, request for home warranty for your peace of mind.
A more advisable solution is for a buyer to handle the repairs and negotiate for a repair credit with the seller, which means that the repairs will be handled by the buyer, but the repair costs will be deducted from the final sale price of the property. Getting credit is also advisable if the buyer knows that the seller is too busy or financially incapable of doing the repairs needed.
With this, buyers are assured that the repairs are handled according to their standards, while the sellers avoid the hassle of handling repairs before closing; this is a preferable solution for many buyers and sellers.
What Fixes are Mandatory After a Home Inspection?
One aspect that both buyers and sellers often do not see eye-to-eye on are the repairs needed after doing a home inspection. Many buyers demand that sellers repair every flaw on the home before they move forward, while sellers are only willing to handle important issues based on the inspection results, as well as mandatory fixes, depending on state laws.
But in general, any defect discovered after a home inspection that compromises the health and safety of the people who will occupy the home must be fixed.
The question now for both the buyer and seller is: who will shoulder those repairs? This answer will depend on their negotiations but in most cases, sellers are expected to get these major repairs done.
What Are Generally Reasonable Requests After a Home Inspection?
Buyers have this notion that an inspection report lists down all that is wrong with the house that they should ask sellers to fix before closing the sale. However, they do not realize that sellers are not required to say ‘yes’ to anything a buyer says. While sellers are often accommodating to buyers’ requests, buyers should also know that these sellers will only entertain those that they feel are reasonable.
Reasonable requests that a buyer can ask a seller to address after doing a home inspection are generally those that they consider as important, such as those that involve:
- Structural integrity – such as foundations that are badly damaged, sinking floors, and other defects due to poor construction
- Electrical – including electrical panels and wirings that are unsafe for use or outdated and no longer meet the building codes and safety standards
- Roof – major problems like damaged or missing shingles and leaks
- Pests – from removal or extermination to ensuring that the home is completely pest-free
- HVAC – such as failing or outdated components
- Plumbing and Water – outdated and leaking pipes, major drainage issues, low water pressure, and other issues due to water damage
- Lead – sellers are required by law to disclose if a home has lead paint, and lead paint test kits are enough to confirm this. If testing is yet to be done by the seller, buyers should insist on doing a bulk test to determine the extent of the use of lead-based paint in the property. This can be done with something like a handheld XRF machine.
- Asbestos – especially if components often associated with asbestos are damaged
- Radon – high radon levels are often found in basements, and only testing will confirm the levels; it cannot be checked through sight or smell
- Mold – significant mold infestation must be addressed due to the health risks involved
Buyers should keep in mind that they are not buying a brand-new home, so they should expect some flaws with the property. Only request repairs that they consider to be a major deal breaker that can put anyone’s safety and health at risk.
Unreasonable requests are those that focus on addressing only cosmetic issues that have no bearing on the structure itself, such as broken tiles, worn down flooring, peeling wallpaper, faded paint, etc. Any issues that involve external buildings are also expected to be handled by the buyer, since it has no bearing on the main house. A good rule of thumb is if the repairs will cost less than $100, buyers should handle it.
Don’t be surprised if a seller turns down certain repair requests, or even all of them if there are other interested buyers. Sellers want to move on quickly with the sale and would rather not handle any repairs, unless mandated by law. They also want to finish it quickly, and this may compromise any repairs.
Is A Seller Entitled to the Home Inspection Report?
In many states, sellers are legally required to disclose any issues that are present in the home they are listing. They can do it after getting a pre-listing inspection or even without it, as long as they indicate all the issues that they are aware of. They will only rely on the buyer’s inspection, since buyers are given a period to conduct an inspection of their own before heading to the negotiation table.
Buyers who hired a home inspector to check on the condition of a home they are eyeing are expected to receive the home inspection report once completed – after all, they paid for the service. They often only give a full copy to their realtor for them to have a better idea what to do with the transaction.
Sellers, on the other hand, are not entitled to the same home inspection report. While a seller can request for a copy, it is up to the buyer whether to furnish them a copy or not, or just share certain sections.
If the home passes the inspection, sellers themselves no longer ask for a copy. But if it fails, buyers typically provide only the major concerns discovered during the inspection, but not the entire report. Once the buyer fills out an RR form, they often just include relevant sections of the report to support their repair requests.
Sellers often only get a general gist of what the report contains once negotiations start, as buyers will use the home inspection report as their bargaining chip and discuss what should be done; they cannot do that if the seller has no idea what the buyer is talking about.
An inspector is legally bound to give the home inspection report to whoever hired his or her service. This means if you hired the inspector, the inspector must only give the result to you. For a buyer’s inspection, the report is only given to the buyer. On the other hand, a pre-listing inspection means that only the seller will get the report, although the seller must divulge important findings.