Seller or Buyer responsible for well/septic/termite inspections?

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty

With buyer representation it is our job as the Realtor to not only negotiate the best offer for our clients on a home purchase, but, to protect them and their interests. 

Buyers have a choice within the contract:

  Have purchaser or seller responsible for these additional inspections.

Of course buyers are responsible for the home and radon inspection, but what about well, septic and termite?

Most purchasers first thought is "Why should I pay for those, it's not my house, it's the sellers responsibility." Yes,  but what companies are they hiring are hired and represent the seller. If their is a problem, you may not have the opportunity to get a second opinion as well as estimates to further investigate any problem at hand. Who is able to represent and educate you on the potential problem.

All the sellers job is to do is PROVIDE A CLEAR REPORT, it also states in our NVAR contract that it is up to the sellers discression of how they will remediate. Well, I feel there needs to be several estimates and matters of opinion to make sure the proper decision is made for the purchaser and that the purchaser has to be ok with the remedy or the contract becomes void. I will not let my clients enter a "sticky situation" and take on future issues.

I have had this come up with a septic inspection. Septic failed due to saturated drain-field. Listing agent had a company go out and give estimate from a "partial" inspection that the septic company confirmed was a temporary fix of $2,450.

My client had a company conduct a full inspection and the entire system has failed and the county has considered the home inhabitable. Proper replacement bids have come in ranging from $15,000-$25,000

This is a significant difference that my purchasers would have been on the hook for had we not done our due diligence.

My suggestion? It is the buyers responsibility to pay and order inspections. If $500-$1,000 in inspection costs give you heart burn you may want to reevaluate home ownership.




Re-Blogged 3 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Fred Griffin 01/23/2013 07:16 PM
  2. Karen Berg 01/23/2013 10:12 PM
  3. Winston Heverly 04/21/2013 04:20 PM
Home Buying

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Pat & Steve Pribisko
Keller Williams Greater Cleveland West - Westlake, OH

Beverly, you make some excellent points.  I totally agree with you regarding who hires and pays for the inspections.  The buyer needs to select the inspectors and pay for inspections.  However, for VA loans, the Seller must pay for the termite inspection.

Jan 23, 2013 10:51 PM #40
David Evans
HUD NLB Cumming GA

Caveat emptor. buyer beware and buyer be smart. All major items should be inspected by buyer paid expert as a matter of course. Great reminder and post to a sometimes forgotten golden rule...

Jan 23, 2013 11:25 PM #41
Raylene Estabrook
Signature Homes Real Estate Group - Yarmouth, ME

in Maine the norm is that buyers pay for any and all inspections they wish to do. It also clearly states they are free to chose whom ever they want to do the inspection. Surprised to see other areas of the country the seller is responsible for some of the buyers inspections...

Jan 23, 2013 11:27 PM #42
Karen Fiddler, Broker/Owner
Karen Parsons-Fiddler, Broker 949-510-2395 - Mission Viejo, CA
Orange County & Lake Arrowhead, CA (949)510-2395

Although we can negotiate anything, it's up to the buyers to do and pay for all inspections.

Jan 24, 2013 12:00 AM #43
Robby Leviton
Keller Williams Realty - Kirkland, WA
Knowles Team

Lots of "it depends". In Washington the Septic inspection built into the contract that the Seller will do it. For a private sale this is rarely questioned. On REO's some of the banks are pushing back and making the Buyer do it.

Jan 24, 2013 12:50 AM #44
Carolyn Roland-Historic Homes For Sale In Delaware and S. Chester County PA
Patterson-Schwartz Real Estate - Wilmington, DE
Carolyn Roland, GRI, CRS

In Delaware and PA the buyer pays for the home inspection, WDI (wood destroying insects), septic, and well inspections. My only problem is when it is my listing, sometimes the buyers' agent has incompetent inspectors. I like to get a copy of the septic plans from the health dept. in PA so that the septic inspector knows what they are looking at. I had an inspector say that 3 out of 4 outlets on a septic were blocked. I could see from the plans (which I gave the agent) that there were only 2 outlets on the system, not 4. We had to get the people who installed the system back to look at it, and it turned out nothing was blocked. And their home inspector said the well holding tank was 1/4 the size it should be. It turned out it was horizontal instead of vertical and he had no clue what 200 gallons looks like horizontally. What a klutz. Again, I had to check with the plumber who installed it who confirmed the mistake on the inspector's part. It did settle, finally.

Jan 24, 2013 01:16 AM #45
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
your real estate writer

I was once involved in a sale when the bank required that the septic be pumped and checked. The sellers took care of this expense and forwarded the septic company's "report" to the bank.

We found out later that they had cheated a bit. When the septic man was finished he told the sellers that their tank was failing and needed to be replaced. So... they wrote a note on his invoice saying the system was in fine shape.

Fortunately, the septic pumping company used pressure carbon invoices, so they had proof that they had NOT written that note.

When it went to court a couple of years later the sellers ended up paying triple damages.

Jan 24, 2013 01:42 AM #46
Tom Esposito
Alpharetta Home Solutions - Alpharetta, GA

Great point.  Rather than take the "cheap" way out and accept what the seller is saying, it is wise to foot the bill to get the real story and determine what the problem is and more importantly, what is the fix.  You may not always get that info from the "seller's vendor".

Jan 24, 2013 02:14 AM #47
Ric Mills
Keller Williams Southern Az - Tucson, AZ
Integrity, Honesty, and Vast Real Estate Knowledge

It is amazing that clients will balk at spending an extra $500 to $1000 on inspecting a home that costs them a lot more.  Amazing!  Yes it is the seller's responsibility, in our state, to have the septic inspected and certified.  However, it is a good practice to have the buyer and the septic company talk about possible future problems.  Missed items can be very expensive.  Same for roofs.  Do the inspections or don't cry later.

Jan 24, 2013 03:35 AM #48
Jon Mahan
Real Estate Central - Charleston, WV
ABR Charleston, West Virginia Real Estate

I can't believe I still have to argue this point with many of our local Realtors, but the buyer should always order and pay for inspections. 

Jan 24, 2013 04:24 AM #49
Dörte Engel
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Bowie, MD
ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland

Dear Beverly,

If clients want to live in the country, they better reassure themselves that the septic system will be able to handle their family. You do not want to have to tell your guests, that they cannot use the bathroom, because you just did some dishes.

Jan 24, 2013 07:23 AM #50
Peter Lake
Harborside Sothebys International Realty - Marblehead, MA
Associate Broker

Massachusetts REQUIRES houses have septic inspections before transfer, so simple language in the purchase contract can take care of that.

But....chimneys can be expensive, too, so set a minimum cost for chimney repair and make the seller absorb beyond that. Or not, and walk.


Jan 24, 2013 07:39 AM #51
Kimo Jarrett
WikiWiki Realty - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

This issue should be discussed with the buyers before an offer is made to any seller and any other issues about inspections, fees, taxes, devices and insurance or health and safety issues.

Jan 24, 2013 05:00 PM #52
Bob Miller
Keller Williams Cornerstone Realty - Ocala, FL
The Ocala Dream Team

Hi Beverly, for us it depends on whether it is an REO, short sale or normal resale.

Jan 24, 2013 07:16 PM #53
Beverly Herdman
Keller Williams Realty - Culpeper, VA
Northern VA Wine Country Experts

Ahh #45, Carolyn. The incompentancy issue! I had a deal fall through on a listing, because the home inspector said the main structure beam in the crawl space of the home was rotting. Of course, he had NO photos to support. So the buyers questioned the integrity of the rehab of this early 1900's home. We had a historical restoration company go to look. He crawled in the crawl space took photos and it was the form boards from the concrete steps that were rotting. No structure issues at all, but buyers still walked.

Jan 24, 2013 07:52 PM #54
Beverly Herdman
Keller Williams Realty - Culpeper, VA
Northern VA Wine Country Experts

Bob, #53 Oh the pains of REO, Short sales and also VA. It's so important to educate our buyers in all aspects of expectation. The more educated the buyer, the better offer you can write for them. Your knowledge and education allows them to trust you. Which also makes for a much greater relationship.

Jan 24, 2013 07:54 PM #55
Nancy Middleton
Counselor Realty, Inc. - Excelsior, MN
Nancy Middleton, Counselor Realty, Minnetonka, MN

Beverly: You bring up a good subject. It is clear, even from the reports above, that there is a great variety of laws and practices that vary in states, cities, counties, etc. The most important thing is to do your due diligence whether on the Buyer or Seller side. I always go to the city or county and check for myself (and have the buyer or seller do that as well if there are questions). I use a certified inspector whom I know to be experienced and trustworthy rather than go to some newbie or relative who isn't even licensed and just gives an opinion.  As others have said before, problems with septics, wells, termites and other aspects of a property can be very expensive to repair or cure. If the parties can't afford what may turn up, perhaps they had better go for another property. Within the existing rules, it still must be made clear who is required to pay, who is willing to pay, negotiate it all out, and get it all in writing with specific details.

Jan 26, 2013 04:35 AM #56
Beverly Herdman
Keller Williams Realty - Culpeper, VA
Northern VA Wine Country Experts

well said Nancy! 

Jan 26, 2013 04:45 AM #57
Matt Dalek

My brother and his wife are moving, and they had a question about this very topic. They knew everything should get inspected, especially the well on the property. However, they weren't sure who should pay for it. Now that I have shown them this, they are fine with taking responsibility for it. They are currently looking for the right company to do the inspection.

Mar 03, 2015 07:44 AM #58
Tony and Suzanne Marriott, Associate Brokers
BVO Luxury Group @ Keller Williams Arizona Realty - Scottsdale, AZ
Serving Scottsdale, Phoenix and Maricopa County AZ

Depends on what the contract states.  The standard contract in Arizona makes it very clear that it's always ultimately the Buyer's responsibility to do their "due diligence" before pulling the trigger.

Oct 21, 2015 10:42 PM #59
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