Should the Seller Hire an Inspector?
That is a good question that unfortunately does not have an easy answer. If you ask a home inspector, the answer is likely to be an unequivocal “Yes!” If you ask your Realtor, the answer may be an equally emphatic “No!”
They are both right so let’s look at why. More importantly, let’s find out which decision is right for you.
Reasons to Get an Inspection
There are three primary reasons that sellers consider getting an inspection. First, to build a “to-do” list and get the home ready for market. This type of inspection is usually very effective at identifying issues in the home that you can correct before you list it with an agent. You won’t normally fix everything on the list but most people anticipate putting at least a modest amount of effort into the repairs. This allows you to present the home to the buyer in better than average condition plus you have the chance to use the repairs that you have already completed as part of the negotiation process and limit the opportunity for the buyer’s inspector or agent from using over-inflated repair costs to drive the price down. Also, the repairs that you make will likely make the home show better and encourage more and better offers while
Another advantage - if you hired the right inspector which we’ll discuss shortly - is the opportunity to pick the inspectors’ brain on what is really a necessary repair versus those items that are usually ignored. Since he is working for you, he is able to provide advice regarding repairs, the costs that might be associated with them and the relative difficulty. This in turns gives you the chance to prioritize the most important items that must be addressed, the small items that are quick fixes and the ones that you can disclose but not correct. Remember that no home is perfect, so having some items left on the list is not unusual.
The second reason is to protect yourself legally from disclosure related types of issues. Every state has its own disclosure forms and requirements that you, as the seller, need to fill out. Mistakes on these forms can be terribly expensive if a buyer decides to take you to court. By bringing in the inspector, you have an impartial third party who can provide you with information for your disclosures. Mind you, not all of it because some of the information is historical - was there ever a flood? may be a question that the inspector can’t answer since the repairs were completed eight years ago and there are no visual clues.. Still, if you release the report as part of your disclosure, you give the appearance of a person who is honest in his presentation of the home and we are trying to build goodwill on the part of the buyer. They are much more likely to trust a person who is making every effort to be honest.
The disclosure issue can’t be minimized. It used to be very rare for me to get a call from new homeowners asking about failed inspections and seller disclosures. The trend is accelerating and I now receive a call every couple of months from home buyers that want to know if they should sue their inspector, the agent or the sellers. Some areas of the country are more prone to litigious behavior - California, Florida, Arizona - but even in the deeply rural area that I live in, the change is noticeable.
The third reason that you’ll often hear for doing an inspection prior to listing is to try to discourage the buyer from having a home inspection. Many inspectors advertise that a pre-listing inspection may encourage the buyer to forgo their own inspection. While this does happen, I don’t suggest it and, even when I’ve done the inspection for the seller, I always recommend that the buyer have their own inspection done. Why? Because you never want a perceived conflict of interest on your part or the inspectors. Remember, we are trying to build trust throughout the process and limiting the choices of the buyer or even trying to influence them to self-limit can work to build doubt. It is, however, a successful strategy and I estimate that half or more of the homes I pre-inspect do not get inspected by a buyers inspector.
Should the Seller Hire an Inspector, Part 2 will be posted Friday morning, early....