There is a legal principle called caveat emptor which means "let the buyer beware," and it applies to purchasing a home. It is the buyer's responsibility to check the quality and condition of the home prior to purchase, because once the ink is dry on the purchase contract and the funds change hands, that baby is all yours, carpenter ants and all. So how can buyers protect themselves from those unforeseen problems? The best answer is to get an inspection... or ten.
There are many types of inspections: whole house, radon, mold, environmental, lead-based paint, termite and insect, gas lines, waste treatment/well systems, noisy neighbor, the list can go on and on. The problem is, all of them are generally done separately, each costing the buyer money. At a minimum, a buyer will spend a few hundred dollars to get a general inspection of the property, by a soon to be licensed inspector. (Ohio is finally requiring that all inspectors be licensed this year, Yea!👏🏻🥳) A good inspector will find evidence of mold or pests or lead based paint and advise further inspections.
Before you ask....Yes, the buyer should be present to pester the inspector with questions about every detail of the house. Yes, the seller can be present, after all it is her house, but it is not optimal. An inspector should be able to do her job without the seller explaining why this or that does or doesn't work. Further, a buyer may question why a seller is there in the first place, and wonder if the seller is trying to hide something.
So you get your 50+ page inspection report with a list a mile long of action items. What is a buyer to do now? Well, in Ohio, you have three options. First, make a list of unsatisfactory conditions in the house, present it to the seller and reach an agreement to remedy those conditions. Easy enough, but make sure to follow your contract time line.
For more info on contract dates, check out Every Date Matters.
Second, waive your right to request the remedy and move forward with the house as-is. Wait a second, why on Earth would a buyer do this? Maybe the buyer is super handy and can fix the items herself. Maybe this is an extremely hot property that the buyer got for a great price and doesn't want to rock the seller's boat, potentially losing the property to the back up offer. Or maybe the buyer finds the the termites in the attic adorable. Third, terminate the contract and move on to another less pesty house.
For more information on back up offers, check out Back That Offer Up.
If you can't reach an agreement with the seller, AND you follow the terms of the contract, you can legally back out of the contract. Yes, you will be out the few hundred dollars for the inspection, but you will also get your earnest money back, and can move forward with your home search. The inspection buys you piece of mind. You can rest easy in your new home, knowing you did your due diligence, and you have the information necessary to enjoy your new home. And if you have to fix a leaky toilet yourself, at least you'll be prepared.👩🔧🛠
Cheers to real estate,