Keeping Property Inspections in Check

KrisBerg05 a.jpgIt is a Buyer’s contractual right, and duty actually, to have a home inspected by a professional, licensed property inspector during escrow and prior to removing all contingencies.  Lately, however, it has seemed to me that buyers are taking this as an opportunity to attempt to rebuild the property.  I believe that we (buyers and their agents) have lost sight of the spirit and intent of the inspection clause.

Most often, the home being transferred is not new construction. As such, it is not realistic to expect that every detail is in perfect condition. From my perspective, the property inspection contingency is in place to protect the buyer from consummating the purchase of a property with “fatal” flaws.  What do I consider “fatal”? Structural defects which cannot be remedied to the satisfaction of the buyer would fall into this category (breached trusses, cracked slabs, etc.).  In this category I would even place major system components; I continue to believe that a roof free of leaks, an HVAC system in proper working condition, and a home free of health and safety concerns (faulty electrical, for instance) all fall under the category of inalienable rights.  What makes me crazy is the silly, cosmetic, ordinary maintenance item stuff that have become routine demands during escrow.

The furnace filter is dirty?  The tub could use some caulking?  The bedroom door rubs slightly against the frame?  Give me a break.  I recognize that the request list is not our decision to make (as a fiduciary, we must respond to our client’s concerns and fight to protect their interests), but we do have a duty, in my opinion, to help our clients keep this process in perspective.  I have seen many more deals cancel or threaten to cancel over a washer/dryer or a piece of patio furniture than I have over $5,000 to $10,000 in sale price. What I am seeing lately is that the principals literally beat each other up during the contract negotiation phase only to repeat that process during the request for repairs process. I find it ludicrous that someone buying (or selling) a home in the $500,000 to $1,000,000 or more range will make replacement of a window screen, for example, an issue that could potentially derail a purchase agreement.

Remember, our purchase contract specifically says that the “property is sold in its present physical condition as of the date of acceptance and subject to the Buyer’s investigation rights”.  Clearly, the “subject to” provision is intended to protect the buyer in the event alarming issues are discovered that would result in the home no longer being suitable to the buyer. So, here is my two cent’s worth on what constitutes important versus petty (not inclusive, of course, but all I have personally witnessed).  Alarming: Tree roots growing through crack in master bedroom floor slab; framing truss cut in multiple locations to facilitate addition of unpermitted skylights; furnace emitting dangerous levels of carbon monoxide into the home; furnace with charred components signifying a past fire in the unit; and an extended family of racoons living in the attic (apparently for years) resulting in destroyed insulation, damaged wiring and a whole bunch of hazardous waste.  Silly: A tub that could use some recaulking; a ceiling fan mounted too low, a missing drain stopper, anything having to do with landscaping (unless the tree roots are growing through the master bedroom floor), and anything cosmetic. Oh, and for Pete’s sake, if you negotiated an appliance or other personal property item as part of the contract, DO NOT ask the seller to pay for additional coverage in the home warranty policy to cover the item they didn’t want or have to give you in the first place.

Buyers, please keep this fix-it stuff in perspective.  Many of the items I see you requesting be repaired by the seller are minor and should be considered part of the agony and ecstasy of home ownership.  If you expect a home in new condition, look into new construction but, in that case, expect to buy your own window coverings.


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