Realtor frets when buyers decline to hire home inspectors
Q. I’ve been a Realtor for nearly 11 years, and I regard defect disclosure as an essential service to my clients. That’s why I encourage every buyer to hire a home inspector.
A good inspection gives them the information they need and protects everyone in the deal from legal problems later.
Unfortunately, I’ve had buyers who won’t spend the money on an inspection. This makes me very uncomfortable, and I’m wondering how to convince these buyers that they’re making a big mistake in not hiring a home inspector.
A. You’ve got the right idea. Disclosure is the cornerstone of prudent and ethical performance in real estate.
Since the 1990s, home inspection has become a standard practice in nearly all homebuying transactions. Unfortunately, there are still some buyers with no concept of the depth of information a detailed inspection can provide.
By declining an inspection, they unwittingly deny themselves the opportunity to discover conditions that could impact the value, safety and eventual resale of the property they are buying.
Here are some common reasons why homebuyers might forego a home inspection:
• Shortage of funds: Some buyers simply want to reduce their expenses, so they buy a home on faith. Everything appears OK when they walk through the house, so they gamble, never realizing the defects a competent inspector might have found.
• New homes: Some buyers succumb to the common misconception that a newly-built home is free of defects. In truth, every new home has a few problems awaiting discovery by a qualified home inspector. For instance, a new home in my area was completed without any insulation in the attic. This was overlooked by the building department but was discovered later by a home inspector. In another new home, a home inspector discovered that the fireplace chimney was disconnected in the attic, a condition that could have caused a roof fire.
• Inspection by a friend who is a contractor: This is a common homebuyer mistake. General contracting teaches one how to build a house, not how to inspect it. It takes years of full-time practice as a home inspector to develop the skills of discovery. In the same way that a traffic cop is not qualified to investigate a crime scene, a building contractor is not prepared to provide a detailed forensic evaluation of a home.
Your challenge as a Realtor is to convince buyers that a professional home inspection will provide tangible and meaningful financial benefits; that the cost of an inspection is more than offset by the information obtained. The depth and detail of an inspection should be made apparent. An effective approach is to show sample inspection reports, pointing out the comprehensive details of the electrical, plumbing, heating, roofing and foundation sections. Explain that sellers often pay to repair conditions found by the inspector and that these repair costs typically exceed the price of the inspection. Point out to your buyers how frequently safety violations are reported, conditions whose potential consequences far exceed monetary considerations.
Hopefully, your buyers will see the advantages of hiring a home inspector. For buyers who are not convinced, you may want to consider paying for the inspection yourself. This will cost part of your hard-earned commission, but it will limit your potential liability for undisclosed defects. In that case, the inspection fee could be a form of low-cost insurance.