You've just completed an inspection on a home that you've purchased. Later that evening, you receive an email from the inspector with his full report attached. If you were to print it out, it would be about 30 pages long.
You think, oh no, 30 pages worth of problems. You may be thinking this regardless if this is your first or tenth house. But that inspection report is not a hotbed of headache, it's a roadmap of your new home. Think of it as a guiding light, a document that has just revealed many unknown and hidden aspects of the house. And that's a good thing. Who buys something that expensive without a full reckoning?
As buyers view their potential homes, they notice things - good and bad. This helps them in determining the price they are willing to ultimately pay for it. Updated kitchen with stainless appliances - check. Rotting wood at the bottom of the back door - check. Old porous caulking in the shower - check. Plants growing out of the gutters - check. However, there is ultimately only so much buyers can see or understand about homes and that's why inspectors are hired.
Home inspectors go into the areas of the home that you can't or don't want to. They routinely clamber down into a crawlspace or climb into attics to survey water damage, pests, unused electrical wiring, mold, asbestos, and many more potential issues. Some will even walk the roof (most peer through binoculars.) I highly suggest that buyers attend their own inspections and follow the inspector around the house because a wealth of information can be learned at this time.
What's really important to understand about home inspections is that in most cases they are not meant as a tool to renogiate your contract. Roofs can often appear just fine and end up needing repair. Some houses have foundation issues, mold, faulty furnaces or boilers, electrical, or plumbing problems. These are unforseen by buyers and probably not disclosed by sellers because they might not be aware of these matters.
The Illinois Real Property Disclosure Report must be completed by all sellers of residential properties - they must, to the best of their knowledge, answer 23 questions. Clearly, if a seller has no knowledge of a potential issue and the buyer bids on the house accordingly, then problems will arise when the inspection discovers said issue.
So if an inspection shows a broken pipe but the disclosure report does not mention it - then buyers have good recourse to do one of three things:
- Ask for repairs if possible (or a credit to replace)
- Ask for replacement if necessary (or a credit to replace)
- Void the contract
It's easy when we're dealing with the big stuff - and I'm reminded of the book, "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff," as it might pertain to an inspection report. All those pages I mentioned above that deal in great detail about every aspect of the house? They are an accounting of the house itself and in a recent inspection I had, the minor stuff was worded like this:
- garage electrical observations
- temperature pressure relief valve observations
- kitchen sink, faucet, and water supply observations
- window observations
Observations. It's the inspectors job to point everything out. The inspector is helping you understand your new home and helping you differentiate between what's urgent and what's not. Unless your are buying a new construction home (which should also be inspected) your new home will have plenty of observations. Not all inspectors word it this way, but you will always see pages and pages of general information about the condition of items. They are not always meant to be collected into a big grievance and delivered to the seller with a request for credit. They can be overwhelming and sometimes buyers feel the need to get something back for a home they thought was in better condition. If you feel strongly about it and would consider canceling the contract over it, then trying to get a credit might be worth it.
When you are signing the purchase contract for your new home (for the North Shore, it is called The Multi-board Residential Real Estate Contract,) please read paragraph 12 carefully as it refers to professional inspections. Lines 120-122 in particular:
Remember that EVERYTHING IS NEGOTIABLE and I am not trying to head you off at the pass from requesting repairs or credits. Too many real estate deals fall apart at this point and when both sellers and buyers have a clear understanding of what is expected, the better the chance to get to closing. Sellers need to disclose and buyers need to inspect. Somewhere between the two we can find agreement.
While you're here, please see ALL NORTH SHORE HOMES FOR SALE
Sign up to get monthly North Shore real estate news delivered to your inbox.
It's free, we'll never sell your info, and you can opt-out at any time.
Enter your email address at: North Shore Newsletter
Margaret Goss is a full-time real estate broker since 1998 working in the North Shore communities of Winnetka, Wilmette, Kenilworth, Glencoe, Northfield, Glenview, and Evanston.
She can be reached at:
See her full BIOGRAPHY