Buying A Home -- Is A Home Inspection A Good Idea?

Home Inspector with HomeSafe Inspection

To avoid “buying a pig in a poke,” buyers have long demanded the closing on a home purchase be contingent upon a satisfactory inspection by a home inspection firm. In many parts of our country, we’re now experiencing a strong sellers’ real estate market and sellers often receive more than one purchase offer on the same day for their home. In this environment, buyers are rethinking the home inspection requirement. Is this a good idea?

To Inspect or Not To Inspect

Clearly, if a seller got two offers and one requires a home inspection be done, most sellers will choose the non-inspection offer with all other things being equal. So, a home inspection requirement can put you at a competitive disadvantage. Still, are you willing to risk purchasing a home that has some fundamental, expensive problems? What if you purchase the home and subsequently learn plumbing under the floors must replaced? What if the repair costs $10,0000?

One option may be to include a provision in your purchase offer that provides for a home inspection done for informational purposes only. That way, settlement under your offer is not conditioned upon the inspection. It would not provide you with the option of amending the contract to have the seller make repairs, nor would it provide a way for you to void the contract should serious problems be uncovered. Should serious problems be discovered, however, the seller is bound to know the deal will be in jeopardy. For that reason, even an “informational” home inspection won’t look as good to her as a contract with no requirement for a home inspection.

Another option you might consider in lieu of a home inspection is a sub rosa inspection. Instead of using James Bond for spying, you could ask a friend working in the construction or engineering field to walk through the house with you. The goal, of course, is to look for any glaring “red flags” that are deal killers.

If your friend doesn’t see anything disturbing, you can then write a clean contract offer without contingencies. Sellers love no contingency sales. The chances are good that you’ll get the home you want, but still have a some assurance there isn’t anything seriously wrong with the property.

There is no one right answer when it comes to deciding on home inspections. Each buyer has to ask himself how much risk he is willing to take. If you are the only party making an offer, demand an inspection. If you are one of many potential buyers, well, you are going to have determine your comfort level. Others can provide information, but the decision is yours.


About the Author:

Raynor James is with - an online site providing national exposure for sellers listing properties and a database of properties for buyers.

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Comments (7)

Craig Smith
Re/Max Achievers - Frederick, MD
Frederick MD Real Estate

Good article. Although where are the many areas around the country is a strong sellers market currently. I haven't seen that in a while.

Most all my buyers can now ask for a home inspection without much worry of competition from other offers. Of course that was different 2 years ago.

Jun 20, 2007 05:54 AM
Virginia Cunningham
Keller Williams Coastal Properties - Long Beach, CA
Phillip....I would never advise a client to "not" have a home inspection done. There is a liability issue for my broker and myself, but also the buyer could be left holding the bag on very expensive repairs. Sellers that don't want to allow for an inspection send up a big red flag to buyers. They are percieved as wanting to hide something. It's O.K. for sellers to list their property as "being sold as is," but sellers are also setting themselves up for costly litigation by not allowing a home inspection. It's best for all concerned to have an inspection and get every detail about the home out in the open, even in a "hot" market.
Jun 20, 2007 05:59 AM
Chuck Christensen
Your Financial Coach - Bellingham, WA
But some people like to take the chance and save a few hundred $, but those are usually the same people that will expect that if something were to go wrong they could sue the previous owners-even if they didn't know about it...wrong! I would never buy a house without having it inspected, and I have bought and sold with and without a Realtor.
Jun 20, 2007 06:32 AM
John Elwell
CENTURY 21 Bill Nye Realty, Inc. - Zephyrhills, FL
You Deserve a Full-Time Agent, Not Reduced Results
I once watched a real estate show on tv and the agent was so proud that his explanations of everything made the buyer so comfortable that he was not requiring a home inspection. Made my hair stand on end to hear that!!! Not only will the buyers try to sue the sellers if they find some material defects that were not disclosed, but my bet is that their lawyer will tell them to go after everyone involved in the deal in the hope that the net will catch someone who has deep pockets. I advise them to get an inspection done using a certified inspector, and if they decide not to, they sign off that they were given the option to have the inspection done but chose not to do it. I am putting my head in NO noose. We are definitely not in a sellers market in Florida, but I would do the same thing in any market. I also prefer to use a professional certified inspector whose code of ethics prohibits him from repairing or recommending friends to repair problems he might find. You call the wrong AC guy around here to inspect, and I guarantee there will be some "problem" that he will want to fix for a nice fee.
Jun 23, 2007 02:27 PM
David Helm
Helm Home Inspections - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham, Wa. Licensed Home Insp
I think it would be bad advice to take someone familiar with the construction trades to inspect a home.  Firstly, is the liability aspect, and the realtor will not be protected.  Secondly, there are a lot more things that a home inspector does that people in the trades may not know.  I speak, as a home inspector, and as someone who spent thirty years professionally building and remodeling.  When I got too old to build, I took a college level home inspection course, took and passed licensing exams and then started inspecting.  In this state, HIs are required to be licensed Structural Pest Inspectors, and report on wood destroying organisms and conducive conditions (debris in a gutter is a conducive condition).  Your contractor friend, unbeknownst to himself, could very easily be violating the law; and remember, ignorance of the law is no excuse.  Home inspections by licensed qualified inspectors protect everyone.
Jun 25, 2007 11:55 AM
Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty
Bucci Realty, Inc. - Melbourne, FL
Eighteen Years Experience in Brevard County
Should an inspection be done? It is up to the purchaser but I will always recommend an inspection. If an inspection is not done I get it in writing that the purchaser elected to not have one done. There are too many opportunities to get sued - recommending an inspection will cover one of those risks.
Jun 28, 2007 05:55 AM
Laura Reed
RE/MAX NorthStar - Clarksville, TN
Philip- I always write an offer "contingent upon buyer's receipt of a satisfactory home inspection." Even my investors that plan on flipping a home will have a home inspection done, this is the only way to see if it is worth investing in.
Jun 28, 2007 10:19 AM