Question: I was wondering what your advice is regarding home inspections. I know right now it’s a real seller’s market and people are very reluctant to say they want an inspection before closing, for fear of loosing the home they are attempting to buy. Any comment on this would be appreciated.
Answer: Forgoing the inclusion of a home inspection clause in a typical offer to purchase of a home can be a poor decision, even in a hot seller’s market. That choice may not prevent buying a home with serious and costly issues, but also prevent you from learning a great deal about your future home.
I don’t know how many times I have been asked your question in the last couple of years, by friends, potential clients, family, and almost anyone I talk to. It seems that the combination of the COVID pandemic, historically low mortgage rates, and the lack of homes for sale have created a trifecta of conditions conducive to a scorching hot real estate market for resale homes. Some people assume home inspectors may follow the lead of bankers and realtors, with very increased business during this time. Unfortunately, the lack of conditions included in offers is severely restricting the inspection side of the equation. Many buyers are choosing to inspect a home prior to making an offer, but that can become difficult with limited time due to fixed offer dates. Past COVID restrictions on gathering sizes also didn’t help.
The various theories I have heard for the busy market starts with many people wanting to move out of their small apartments or homes, because that is now also their workplace. In that same vein, many people did not venture far from home until recently, so the inventory of homes for sale was very low. Older homeowners that would typically move to a condominium, apartment, or assisted living facility appear to be staying longer in their homes. Also, lending institutions competing for business are offering long-term mortgages with extremely low rates, which is very appealing to first-time buyers and others looking for a bigger house. These, combined with not much to do during the extended pandemic, has led to this situation.
Many potential homebuyers have done all the right things in their due diligence prior to purchasing, only to become very frustrated when their offers are repeatedly not accepted. Many sellers, wanting to ensure a completed offer when they accept, are disregarding those that contain any conditions which may cause the deal to later be withdrawn. The two most common of these are financing and home inspection. So, buyers are swaying toward clean offers, even above those that may be higher in price. In that situation, those offers conditional on a satisfactory home inspection are being discarded.
Exclusion of a pre-purchase home inspection may seem like it is only negatively affecting the buyer, but it can also have adverse effects on the seller, as well. The best outcome of a home selling transaction is when the buyer is aware of the true condition of the property and they pay fair market value. This is obviously beneficial for the purchaser, but also favours the seller, as well. When a home is sold and the buyer becomes aware of issues in need of immediate attention after possession, they can feel duped by the seller, especially if they feel they paid too much. Even if some items were in the property disclosure statement prior to selling, others may not have been thought of as critical by the seller and not included. An air-conditioner that was not working, because the elderly seller never turned it on as it made the home too cool, is one common example. They would not have even known it was damaged, but that would have been tested and discovered as part of a standard inspection.
There are many other examples of items of that nature, which sellers don’t regard as defects, that would be discovered and identified by a competent home inspector in a pre-purchase review. Many of these would not be significant enough for the potential buyer to withdraw their offer, but it would allow them to budget for remediation after moving in. Knowing all that information, ahead of time, would prevent ill feeling toward the seller and could prevent a potential lawsuit. No seller wants the people that just bought their home to take them to court, so preventing that is very important. If the buyers hire a Registered Home Inspector (RHI) to complete a visual inspection, with written report, prior to closing they will be made aware of any potential pitfalls. They are then much more knowledgeable about the home’s condition and not able to claim ignorance about problems, afterward. That protects the seller just as much as the buyer and reduces the risk of nuisance lawsuits by new homeowners.
So, how do you avoid this all too common recent phenomenon when looking to buy? The best way is still to include the inspection condition in your offer and otherwise sweeten the deal with other details. Offering a little higher price is the most straightforward way to make the offer more palatable. Taking possession of the home at a time more conducive to the seller may be another option. Including a larger deposit with the offer is another way of showing the seriousness of your intentions, which can also help sway the sellers. Otherwise, doing a complete home inspection before making an offer, if possible, will still allow you to be properly informed.
Waiving the inclusion of a home inspection condition in your offer to purchase of a home may be the norm rather the exception in the current market, but doing so is not beneficial for those on both sides of the transaction. It will not only prevent you from learning the true condition of the home, but could lead to bad feelings and potential lawsuits for the sellers, as well.
Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home Inspection Ltd. and a Registered Home Inspector (RHI)(cahpi.ca). Questions can be emailed to the address below. Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out his website at trainedeye.ca.