It is common for sellers to obtain inspections of their homes before they put them on the market. These reports, called presale inspections, are then assembled with the sellers’ disclosures into a disclosure package of documents about the property. Disclosure packages are made available to prospective buyers who have serious interest in the property so that they can review the property information before making an offer.

Sellers’ reports should not be obtained with the intention of precluding interested buyers from having their own inspectors look at the property. The presale reports are made available to buyers to increase their knowledge of the property condition so that they can make solid decisions regarding whether or not to proceed with a purchase. Offers made from well-informed buyers have a better chance of resulting in a completed sale.

To some sellers, getting presale reports seems like a waste of time and money. Why not just let buyers pay for their own inspections? The main benefit of a seller obtaining presale inspections is to avoid losing a sale because the buyers were not well informed about the property before they made an offer.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Even if a seller provides a comprehensive disclosure package and it includes presale reports, buyers should be encouraged to have their own representatives inspect a property before buying it. A well-inspected property protects both the buyers and sellers.

For example, a home buyer in the Oakland, Calif., area decided to have a second wood-pest (“termite”) inspector examine the property before solidifying her offer to purchase. The second inspector found many items of wood-pest infestation that had been missed by the seller’s inspector.

At the seller’s request, the seller’s inspector returned to the property to re-inspect it. He agreed with the buyer’s inspector that he had overlooked many of the items found by the second inspector.

Fortunately, the discrepancy in the reports did not derail the transaction. The buyer and seller worked out an agreement that included having the seller’s pest inspector do the work, including the items that he had originally missed. This ended up costing the seller a little more than expected. But, the seller also avoided an after-closing legal hassle, which could have ended up costing far more.

Sellers who order presale inspections are wise to use inspectors who have outstanding reputations in the local community. These are people who will stand behind their work and honor a mistake if one is made.

Some buyers choose to hire the seller’s inspector to walk through the property with them to explain the report they prepared for the seller, and to answer any questions the buyers might have about the property. While this is better than having no inspection done at all, there is something to be said for having a second set of eyes scrutinize the property.

Most buyers skip additional inspections because of the expense. But, any potential savings is lost if a big problem is discovered after closing. An advantage of knowing about property defects before closing is that you have an opportunity to negotiate a resolution with the sellers if it’s something you are unwilling or unable to accept as is. Often buyers and sellers end up sharing costs to keep a deal together. You also may have the option of withdrawing from the purchase contract altogether without penalty, depending on how your contract is written.

THE CLOSING: Don’t be surprised if multiple reports on a property reveal conflicting information. Property inspections are somewhat subjective. Occasionally, it’s necessary to get a third opinion to resolve differences in conflicting reports.

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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