I had an interesting exchanve a couple weeks ago with one of my buyers. She had done some internet research and read that in Vriginia, it is customary for sellers to pay for well and septic inspections. She was upset that I had suggested she and her husband, as buyers, pay for these inspections in their purchaes offer. She didn't understand what difference it made, other than the hundreds of dollars that she was about to expend.
It has been my feeling since beginning my real estate career that inspectors are loyal to the people who pay them. Furthermore, being in charge of the payment of the inspection also puts the client in charge of hiring the inspector.
As a buyer, when you ask the sellers to pay for inspections, how do you know you are getting a thorough inspection? I have heard stories of sellers blowing through inspectors until they found the one that was willing to pass a termite inspection...or turn a blind eye to an obvious defect in a septic system. Is the seller hiring someone they have known for 20 years as a personal friend? Are they hiring a relative? You have no say, no knowledge if you have given the seller the power to choose and to pay.
The object of these inspections is to uncover defects in a home that you may not be able to remedy, or may be too costly for you to remedy. The results of these inspections can be deal breakers. When working with my buyers, I always recommend they pay for their own termite, well and septic inspections. Spending a couple hundred dollars to have a thorough inspection is well worth the money spent. Having the sellers pay, and save yourself that couple hundred dollars could be the most costly mistake you ever make.
Finally, I can assure any buyer in Virginia that there is no set custom as to who pays for well, termite or septic inspections. That's why we have check boxes in the regional contract that allow clients to choose who will pay for the inspections.