By Robert Irwin
I recently received a letter at my website that asked a rather pointed question, "I'm buying a home from a seller without using an agent. The price is right and we've agreed on all the terms but one. The seller refuses to let me call in a home inspector to check out the property. He says there's nothing wrong with it and he's given me declarations (disclosures) to that effect. Should I waive the inspection? I want to buy the property, but I've always heard that an inspection was important."
This letter raises a vital issue when buying, and selling, a home "by owner" - the home inspection. The fact of the matter is that there are usually no statutes that require a seller to grant a buyer the right to a home inspection. It's up to the buyer to insist upon it and the seller to allow it. On the other hand, it is to both the buyer's and seller's advantage to have one.
The writer, here, suggests what happens when a seller refuses to allow a home inspection - suspicion. There may be nothing at all wrong with the property. But the very act of refusing to allow an independent and professional inspection, casts doubts. How can the buyer trust the seller's disclosures, when the seller "hides" the property?
From a buyer's perspective, it's important, indeed crucial, to know what's being bought. And a professional home inspection helps determine that. No, inspections are not perfect, as those who have had them can tell you, but they are helpful. They might not reveal a hidden fault, but usually they will reveal gross problems, and sometimes even some rather small and technical ones. From the buyer's point-of-view, buying a home without having it professionally inspected is like buying a car without taking it to a mechanic. You do it at your own risk.
THE SELLER'S PERSPECTIVE
The seller in our example may be perfectly innocent in his motives for not wanting an inspection. Perhaps it's inconvenient and he doesn't want to be bothered. Or maybe he just doesn't trust inspectors in general. Or...?
The problem is that it's just as possible that he's afraid the inspector will find something that will cause the buyers to reduce their offer. (Typically, contracts allow for renegotiation if the inspection report shows defects.) Or what's worse, he's trying to hide something.
The problem is that until and unless there's a report, it won't get out on the table. And if it doesn't get out, it could come back later on to haunt the seller.
Remember, when you sell a home, you want the home to stay sold and the deal closed. The last thing you want is to have the buyer come back at you after the sale demanding that you fix this or that hidden defect. Worse, is a buyer who says the defect is so egregious, that she wants you to take back the home! (Don't laugh, it's happened more than once and is called rescission.) It's harder for the buyer to later come back at the seller if the buyers own inspection report revealed nothing... or defects that were found were dealt with and the buyer decided to go forward in spite of them.
TIP - WHAT AN AGENT WOULD DO
Any real estate agent worth his salt will insist that the seller allow and the buyer get a professional inspection report. The agent knows that it protects him as well as the other parties. Should a "by owner" seller do less?
Robert Irwin is the most prolific real estate writer in America having produced over 100 published books in the field. His TIPS & TRAPS McGraw-Hill series has sold well over a million copies and his FOR SALE BY OWNER KIT and FIND IT, BUY IT, FIX IT and other books have been strong sellers for Dearborn. In addition Irwin writes a regular real estate column for The Wall Street Journal online and is introducing a new weekly column forOwners.com.
Irwin has sold his own property "by owner" and during over 30 years in the business has been a broker and consultant to lenders, agents, buyers and sellers.