The best way to avoid unpleasant surprises like these is to arrange for a home inspection before you sell. A good home inspection is an objective, top-to-bottom examination of the home and everything that comes with it. The standard inspection report includes a review of the home's heating and air-conditioning systems, its plumbing and wiring, the roof, attic, walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors, the foundation and the basement.
A pre-sale home inspection can help a home seller fulfill his disclosure obligations.
Getting a professional inspection is crucial for older homes because age often takes its toll on the roof and other hard-to-reach areas. Problems can also be the result of neglect or hazardous repair work, such as a past owner's failed attempt to install lights and an outlet in a linen closet.
Home inspections cost about $250 to $350, depending on the size of the house and where in the country the home is located. Inspection fees tend to be higher in urban areas and cities than in rural areas. Real estate agents can usually recommend an experienced home inspector in your area. You can find one through a friend or the Yellow Pages under "Building Inspection" or "Home Inspection." The American Society of Home Inspectors, a professional trade group, also has a database of qualified inspectors on its Web site.
Ask if you can follow the home inspector on his or her rounds. Most inspectors are glad to share their knowledge, and you'll be able to ask plenty of questions. If a problem is found the home owner has an opportunity to make a correction before the home is put on the market.
A home buyer can also arrange for an inspection after signing a contract or purchase agreement with the seller. The results may be available within a few days or perhaps longer. The home inspector will review his or her findings with the buyer and alert the buyer to any costly or potentially hazardous conditions. In some cases, the buyer may be advised not to purchase the home unless these problems are remedied.
The buyer could elect to include a clause that makes their obligation contingent upon the results of the inspection. When only minor repairs are needed, the buyer and seller can usually work out an agreement that won't affect the sale price, but if bigger problems are found, the buyer can back out of the deal or ask for an adjustment in price. Even if the sale is “As-Is” and costly repairs are warranted, the seller may have to be willing to adjust the home's price or the contract's terms or cancel the sale.
In many cases a home inspection before the sale of a home can help avoid surprises, make the process smoother and bring the seller more money.