Don’t Fight The Home Inspection

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Question: We are selling our house and have just received an offer to purchase. The offer contains a contingency for the buyer to obtain a home inspection report.

The buyer is asking for a general inspection contingency, but our real estate broker is advising us to use the specific inspection contingency. Can you explain the difference and give us some assistance?

Answer: In my opinion, it is imperative for a homebuyer to obtain a home inspection after the contract for sale is signed by all parties.

Buyers often purchase real estate based on emotions rather than facts, and a good home inspection is important to satisfy the purchaser that the property is substantially in sound condition.

A buyer should always include in a sales contract a contingency to the effect that the contract is contingent on the purchaser obtaining, at purchaser’s expense, a satisfactory home inspection within three or five business days after the real estate contract is ratified.

Sellers may think, at first blush, that an inspection is not in their best interests. However, if the seller stops and thinks about it for a moment, it becomes very clear that even from the seller’s point of view, it is advisable to let the buyers have a short contingency to back out of the contract if they are not satisfied with the condition of the house.

I would rather have a purchaser back away early in the process than wait until the very last minute and raise all sorts of problems and concerns on the day of settlement.

Of equal importance, if the purchaser has obtained a satisfactory home inspection report, that same purchaser will be hard-pressed to raise issues about the condition of the house on the day of settlement. Often, I have heard sellers tell buyers “you removed the home inspection contingency; if you have a problem with our house, look to your own home inspector. You could have backed out of the contract based on the inspection contingency.”

As you have indicated, there are two basic inspection contingency arrangements. The first is known as a general contingency, which gives the buyers the absolute right to back out, if for any reason whatsoever, they are dissatisfied with the inspection report. In practical terms, however, buyers often tell sellers that the contingency will be removed if the seller makes certain repairs.

The other contingency is known as the “specific contingency,” which works likes this: After the buyer has completed the inspection, the buyer must submit a list of items to be repaired or corrected to the seller. The seller has a couple of days to advise the buyer whether they will do any or all of the items on the list. The buyer then has one additional day after receiving the seller’s response in which to determine whether to buy the property or to declare the contract null and void.

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