Imagine this. You list your home for sale. Buyers are lining up to take a look. The inventory is so skimpy that buyers are having your home inspected even before making an offer. In so doing, they hope to out-fox the competition by making an offer that doesn’t include an inspection contingency.
You arrive home late one afternoon to find water flooding your basement from a pipe that burst during a home inspection. Your agent tries to determine who’s at fault. But, since three or four inspectors were inspecting your home at the same time, no one is sure who is to blame. As outlandish as this may sound, it actually happened to a Berkeley, Calif., home seller recently.
Pre-inspections can serve a positive end, but sellers are wise to retain control over the process.
Some sellers wonder why they should conduct pre-sale inspections. Won’t the buyers want to hire their own inspectors? What if an inspection uncovers defects that you have to disclose? Wouldn’t it be better to wait to have inspections done until after the buyers have committed to buying the property?
HOME SELLER TIP: The main reason home-sale transactions fall apart is because of defects discovered during the buyer’s inspections. Buyers often try to renegotiate the price after they receive their inspection reports. Their argument is that they weren’t aware of the problems when they made their offer. By ordering inspections before you market your home, you decrease the odds that you’ll have a failed transaction due to inspection-related issues. Buyers can evaluate pre-sale reports, and take the information into account, before they make an offer.
Another reason to have your home pre-inspected is that it gives you a better understanding of the issues that could effect the sale. You can then decide if you want to make repairs before marketing your home. Even if you decide not to make repairs, you will have a much better idea of how much you’ll net from the sale.
Whether or not to let buyers pre-inspect your property is another issue. The benefit to allowing buyer pre-inspections is that you might receive offers that don’t have an inspection contingency.
However, other buyers might be put off if they preview your home while it’s being pre-inspected for another buyer. It could discourage other buyers from proceeding. At the least, it will be distracting, which can impede the sale process.
Additionally, there’s the issue of timing. Let’s say you’re waiting a week or so before you hear offers. Meanwhile, interested buyers are pre-inspecting your home. Just before you’re to listen to offers, a buyer shows up who falls in love with the property. He becomes aware that there are multiple offers from buyers who have already done pre-inspections. He decides not to make an offer because he figures that he can’t compete without having had the home inspected. In this case, you’d never know if this buyer might have made the best offer.
It’s usually in the seller’s best interest to level the playing field. If you discourage pre-inspections by buyers, then all buyers have an equal advantage in so far as inspections are concerned. And, if you provide your own pre-sale inspection report, done by a reputable local home inspector, buyers will be aware of any significant defects before they make an offer.
The point of providing pre-sale inspection reports is to educate buyers about the condition of the property. It is not to deny them the opportunity to inspect the property themselves after an offer is accepted. Buyers should then be encouraged to complete any inspections they deem necessary.
THE CLOSING: A well-inspected home protects both the buyers and sellers.
Dian Hymer is author of “House Hunting, The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers,” and “Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide,” Chronicle Books.
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