Ask the Agent: What do I need to know about a home inspection?

by Dan Lesniak

When you walk in to an amazing, staged, and squeaky clean home for a showing or open house, you might fall in love right away. It’s easy to overlook issues when you’re in state of excitement. But what should you as a buyer do? This is a question I get asked often by Arlington buyers and there are several options. The Arlington, VA real estate market continues to be competitive so it is important to strike the right balance between making your offer as strong as possible while still staying within your risk tolerance and comfort level.

There are a variety of things you can do in a home inspection. The average Arlington real estate agent would tell you to just put a contingency for 10 days. That’s not something I recommend for our clients because I want to make sure that you win. What’s important is that you craft your offer based on the home and your level of comfort in addressing potential issues.

First, in situations where our client is planning to do major renovations or if there is going to be a competitive offer situation with multiple buyers, I would recommend either removing the home inspection contingency or making it less impactful on the seller. This strengthens your offer right off the bat in the eyes of the seller. This can be especially effective in competitive situations for popular condo buildings or rare opportunities in certain neighborhoods. You can also opt to conduct an inspection “for informational purposes only.” This type of contingency allows you to conduct your inspection and get out of the contract if you discover major issues. Sellers like this type of contingency better because they know the buyer will not “nickel and dime” them for minor fixes. This allows you to have the peace of mind that there’s nothing wrong or identify any potential issues, without weakening your offer.

Another option if you want to waive the home inspection, but want the peace of mind of an inspection is conducting a pre-inspection. In this situation, I would ask the listing agent to allow us to visit the property with a qualified home inspector and our buyers before submitting an offer. This does require the buyer to invest their time and money (the cost of the home inspection) up-front. By spending a couple hundred dollars before your offer is accepted, you can have the some peace of mind. It shows the seller how serious you are and makes your offer more attractive.

If you are going to use a full home inspection contingency, the next best thing is to use a brief contingency period. If I submit an offer in the evening, and I know that it will be ratified or agreed to the next day, I will already have contacted a reliable home inspector and scheduled the home inspection right away so it can be done within 24 hours of the contract date. This allows our clients to make the home inspection contingency period for only a day or tow. Rather than drag it out over a week or 10 days, you will know right away what issues, if any, need to be addressed. If you are going to have a home inspection contingency, making it as short as possible will make your offer more attractive.

Aside from how you address the home inspection contingency in your offer, here a couple pro-tips:

  • Attend the inspection – they will often point out many different aspects of the home that you may not know if you’re a first time home buyer. This will often include helpful maintenance tips. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
  • Be objective – the inspector could be so thorough that he scares you into thinking that the home is a total loss. Use your best judgement, and ask your real estate agent for their input.
  • Even if you’re agent recommends an inspector, do your own research. Read reviews on independent websites and decide which inspector you want to use.

Finally, be prepared for what the home inspection might uncover. If you’re purchasing an older home which hasn’t been renovated recently it might be time for a new roof or a HVAC system. Chances are the seller knows that too and has either built that into the list price or is willing to work with you. Also, you may want to consider a home warranty if you are nervous about items that may be working fine, but approaching the end of their expected life cycle. A home warranty can help you save thousands of dollars down the road.

As always we love hearing from you and answering your questions so if you would like to submit a question contact the Orange Line Living Real Estate Team at [email protected]


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