Here are four ways paying for a home inspection can help you feel more in control.
After selling more than my fair share of homes, here's what I have learned about home inspections: They always turn up something. The first few times, I was surprised -- and a little insulted. We take care of our homes, and work hard to keep them in good physical and mechanical shape. Still, every stinking inspection found an issue that, in all fairness, buyers deserved to know about.
Sometimes the problem was small, like a drip under a bathroom sink. Sometimes it was more extensive, like a portion of a roof that needed replacement, or electrical outlets that had never been properly grounded.
If you're a seller, home inspections are important because they present a reason (or sometimes an excuse) for a home buyer to renegotiate an offer. They are also one of the primary reasons home purchases fall apart and buyers back out.
The truth is that it's not fun to take $400 to $500 out of the bank to pay for a professional home inspection, but even as sellers, we do it anyway. Here are four reasons why:
1. A prepaid home inspection impresses potential buyers
Years ago, while we were shopping for a home in Kansas, our real estate agent noticed a freshly completed home inspection on the kitchen counter. I recall being impressed -- we'd never toured a home in which the inspection was ready for us to read, warts and all. Here's what that simple, thoughtful gesture made us think:
- These are sellers who have pride in their home.
- These are sellers who have already addressed the issues brought forward by the home inspector.
- If we purchase this home, we can move in with confidence, knowing that many or all problems have already been dealt with.
2. Helps budget-conscious buyers
Since purchasing our first home while we were in college, we have found ourselves in the market for all kinds of houses, from a starter home to a property large enough for family gatherings. No matter how large or small our budget, we have always appreciated saving money. We know that if a potential buyer -- especially a first-time home buyer -- is as budget-conscious as we are, taking one financial burden off their plate may push them toward buying our house. It will undoubtedly make them feel better about the home's condition as they consider their offer price.
3. Allows you to choose your own contractors
I can't be certain, of course, but I do wonder if we recoup the home inspection cost by getting to choose our contractors. When the buyer orders and pays for a home inspection, that buyer has the right to select which contractors address any issues.
Let's say we're selling a house for $350,000, and the buyer's home inspection turns up $5,000 worth of problems. The buyer has several options:
- Ask us to lower the agreed-upon sales price by $5,000.
- Ask us to pay for repairs made by the contractor(s) of their choosing.
- Walk away from the deal.
If the buyer asks us to pay for repairs made by their contractors, we as sellers can counter the request by insisting we choose the contractors. At this point, negotiations get petty. Feelings become involved, and buyers are tempted to walk away. As far as we can tell, it's better to avoid such possible animosity.
Instead, we pay for the home inspection before the first potential buyer walks through the front door. That way, we know what needs to be done and we get to choose who does it.
4. Saves money (and anxiety)
I remember one major thing about selling houses in the days before we started springing for inspections: We were a bundle of nerves waiting for the inspection report. Like I said -- inspectors always find something. It's sort of their thing, after all. It's great to get a full-price offer, but not so great when that offer is reduced because the inspection turns up mold in the attic or dry rot around the bedroom windows.
Let's say your home inspection turns up an expensive problem, like structural damage caused by insects. Knowing about the issue early in the process allows you to decide how to handle it. For example, you might pay for repairs before the house hits the market. Or you may price the house to sell and disclose the issue to potential buyers. If an issue is going to prevent you from receiving a full-price offer, you want to be first to know. That way, you can decide how to proceed.
If your home has any special features not typically covered by a standard home inspection -- like a pool, hot tub, or septic system -- go the extra mile by arranging for them to be inspected. It's not cheap (the average septic tank inspection runs around $300), but knowledge puts you in the driver's seat.
It is zero fun to spend money repairing a home we're about to move out of. But by hiring our own inspector, we can minimize our home-selling anxiety, and that alone may be worth the price of the inspection. We get to shop around for the best repair prices, and we control our budget.
Having your home inspected before it hits the market benefits the buyer, but it also helps you. And really, that's the best of both worlds.
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