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Ask the Realtor

Why home inspections aren’t meant to be negotiating tools

Good buyer’s agents will explain to their clients that in New England many properties are older and that reasonable wear and tear is expected — no home is perfect.
Good buyer’s agents will explain to their clients that in New England many properties are older and that reasonable wear and tear is expected — no home is perfect.Shutterstock / SpeedKingz

The mere thought of a home inspection can cause anxiety in buyers and sellers. Although a buyer’s offer has been accepted, it is often contingent upon a satisfactory home inspection, keeping everyone on edge.

Consider this scenario: The seller has lived in his home for many years and doesn’t see anything wrong with it other than the fact that it’s, well, older. He’s “never had a problem.” The buyers, about to make the biggest purchase of their lives, want their new home to be perfect. The home inspector’s job it is to pick the house apart and let his or her clients, the buyers, know what is wrong with it. Finally, there are two realtors with opposing interests, one representing the buyer and the other the seller, and both are trying to do the best by their clients. It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but it doesn’t have to be, as long as everyone has the proper expectations heading into the inspection.

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The buyers need to understand that a home inspection really is not meant to be used as a negotiating tool. It is to provide additional information about the home they are purchasing, a reference point. Good buyer’s agents will explain to their clients that in New England many properties are older and that reasonable wear and tear is expected — no home is perfect. The buyers should be concerned about health and safety issues that weren’t disclosed or observed before they made their offer.

Negotiable examples uncovered by an inspector could include things like mold; code violations, such as no fire door between the garage and interior of the home; or electrical issues, such as double-tapped circuit breakers. Issues like the last two could keep the owner from collecting insurance after a fire, so it would benefit the seller to address them. Usually, however, the seller prefers to issue the buyer a credit to cover the cost of the fix.

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One way or the other, these are justifiable negotiations, and it is the responsibility of the seller’s agent to explain this. Conversely, items that are visible to the eye — tired roofs and furnaces, wood rot, cracked tiles — are expected in older homes and not items for which a seller should have to compensate the buyer. They were already considered when the agent priced the home to sell.

Finally, in a seller’s market like this, with limited inventory and high demand, it behooves a buyer to have a home inspection prior to making an offer. Buyers should expect to be involved in multiple-offer situations on newly listed properties, and they need to do whatever they can to have theirs stand out. A pre-inspection enables the buyer to uncover issues ahead of time and put in an offer without including a home-inspection contingency.

The fewer conditions the sellers see, the more attractive the offer looks, and the more likely it is they will accept the offer.


Marjorie Youngren is a broker at RE/Max Leading Edge in Lynnfield. E-mail your questions to mpyoungren@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @remaxmarjorie.