I’ll never forget this chat with an appraiser friend of mine who moved from a typical, nice, conforming little tract subdivision in California to Oregon, where she bought acreage with a house on it…the dream of many suburb-dwellers.
“How’s the house?” I asked her a few weeks after the move.
“Well,” she answered, “the septic tank is all clogged up and the well’s almost dry.”
“‘Hints’ of this didn’t come up in your home inspection?” I asked.
My friend: “I didn’t have one; they aren’t customary in Oregon.”
“WHAT?!!! You’re in the business, and you didn’t see the value of a $400 inspection?”
Seriously, I deducted 20 points from her IQ.
Do not cheap out when it comes to inspecting the biggest investment of your life. Intuition may work fine for falling in love with a human, but houses…not so much.
“But $400 (or more) is a lot of money,” you say. “And the disclosures said everything is fine, and it’s impeccably maintained.”
I have (almost) never seen a home inspection that did not reveal repairs worth at least as much as what the inspection costs. And you can often get the seller to pay for the deal-breaking major ones. Plus the peace of mind is priceless.
Do not expect to get picayune little “blemishes” repaired. But you can probably get some kind of consideration for the big ones, those that, had the seller been aware of them may have persuaded him to lower his price or have them repaired. Because if you back out of the deal he’ll have to disclose those to the next buyer.
Here are some items that fall under the “if you don’t fix these, good luck with the next buyer” heading:
- Broken chimney or cracked firebox. These are defects that aren’t apparent to the casual eye, and if a home has a fireplace the buyer expects to be able to use it.
- A roof with very little life remaining, especially one that can’t even get a two-year certification if repaired. Most buyers squeak into their purchase and don’t have a spare $5,000 to $10,000 lying around to replace a roof. That’s something that a buyer would need to factor into his reserve plan.
- Major cracks or settlement in the foundation. There are cracks, and there are CRACKS. If they’re CRACKS, they could cost tens of thousands of dollars to remedy. Sloping floors indicating settlement can be a relatively minor issue in a raised foundation or, in slab foundations, major.
- Cracked combustion chamber in the furnace. It’s reasonable to assume that you’ll be able to heat the house…without getting carbon monoxide poisoning.
I hate it when these things happen.
But if they do happen, and the seller is unreasonable, don’t be sad. You don’t really want to spend the winter putting buckets under leaks in the house that you can’t heat because the furnace is lethal and the fireplace could burn everything down. No. You. Don’t.
If this is confusing, or you want to debate, or you just want to vent, feel free to comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Blog” in the subject line. I care.
Cathy Turney has been a California licensed real estate broker (#01056789) since 1988, a state-certified appraiser (#AR008672), and wrote the American Business Association Stevie Award winning book, Laugh Your Way to Real Estate Sales Success.