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Buying And Selling a House: Hiring a Home Inspector

September 15, 2015

If you are buying a home, you need to review the documents the seller has provided to you, such as the seller’s disclosure statement and lead-based paint disclosure statement carefully to be sure they are completed in full and signed. You should ask questions about anything you don’t understand or about which you have concerns.

You can decide to rely solely on seller’s disclosures. Many buyers, however, elect to hire a home inspector. While a termite inspection is required by most, if not all, lenders, a home inspection can be much more involved. Many inspectors can start at the rooftop and evaluate the condition of the roof, the attic, the walls, the electrical system, the heating and cooling system, the plumbing, the sidewalks and the basement. The home inspector may also check for the presence of radon gas and lead based paints. I have known of inspectors who discovered carbon monoxide leaks, incorrectly installed electrical wall sockets, evidence of basement water leaks, and structural problems affecting the stability of a wall.

Most agreements of sale address the home inspection. The agreement will allow you a specified period of time in which to obtain the inspection and receive a report from the inspector. If the inspection reveals any problems which must be corrected (safety issues) or problems which you want corrected before closing on the home, you will have a specified number of days in which to turn over the report to the seller. The report should include an estimated cost to remedy the problem identified.

Each of these time limits are negotiable, and you should be sure that enough time is provided to meet your obligations. If you have not yet approached a home inspector when you sign the agreement of sale, a 10 day time limit may not be sufficient if you have to find an inspector, have the inspector come to the home to make the inspection, and write and deliver a report to you. Whatever time limit is specified, however, be sure to comply with it. The failure to comply can, in many circumstances, be treated as a waiver of the right to have problems corrected. That is, if you have 20 days to tell the seller what problems must be corrected, and do not turn over the report until the 22nd day, you may have waived the right to have seller correct those problems.

You should also negotiate the dollar amount for problems identified which will allow you to terminate the agreement of sale. For example, most agreements of sale typically provide that if the home inspector finds any problems, you cannot terminate the agreement of sale, and the seller has to only correct any dangerous problems identified, unless the cost of any single repair exceeds a specified amount (for example $500) or the total of all repairs noted exceeds a specified amount (for example $1000). If those dollar amounts are used, and the home inspector finds no safety issues, but notes that the water heater is leaking (estimated cost $400) and a crack in the sidewalk should be repaired (estimated cost $200), the seller would not have to make those repairs and you would be obligated to continue with the purchase of the house and make those repairs at your own expense. If the inspector found those same repairs were needed, and also found the roof needed to be replaced because of a number of missing shingles and lifted shingles (estimated cost $2,000), then the seller would either have to make those repairs or reduce the purchase price by the estimated cost of the repairs, or you could cancel the agreement of sale and get your hand money back.


Author: Bernadette L. Puzzuole

Articles are not intended to be comprehensive. Readers should not act upon any information herein without seeking specific legal advice from the Firm’s attorneys.

© 2004 RGPC

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