Not all terms for home inspections are the same

Although home inspections are less common in New York City than elsewhere, they are essential in certain cases.

Sparing the expense of several hundred dollars, a buyer is particularly unwise to be pound foolish in the purchase of new apartment or single-family house, whether old or new.  Inspections are especially useful for with respect to apartments in small buildings, on top floors and on ground floors.

(The BrickUnderground Web site recently provided a helpful home inspection checklist.)

An important question facing prospective purchasers is how to achieve the inspection with maximum protection and minimum chance to have sellers reject their offers.

Because the time between making an offer and signing a binding contract easily can last one or two weeks here in New York, one approach is to win agreement as part of the offer for an inspection in the interim.  Should a seller refuse to provide access for that task, that’s a clear warning to flee.

Another option is to ensure that the buyer’s attorney inserts a home inspection contingency in the contract.

Contingencies comes in different flavors and require that inspection be performed within a certain period of time:

  • Sellers can remedy any defects that the inspector uncovers and buyers want repaired, agree only to those they are willing to fix or refuse to do anything;
  • Buyers can accept the responsibility to make any repairs or replacements at their own expense, appreciate that most properties also require attention or seek a lower sale price.

If a seller decides to ameliorate any problems, buyers must demand (nicely) that only reputable contractors do the work and provide receipts.  There should be an agreement that equipment or appliances such as air conditioners or washing machines needing replacement be of equal or better quality than the inadequate ones.

Generally speaking, however, I believe it is best for buyers themselves to undertake most remediation after their purchase, thereby ensuring that everything will be satisfactory to them.

Sellers may pooh-pooh an inspector’s findings and dare the buyer to accept the property as is with no reduction in price.

By the same token, buyers can decide that issues raised in an inspection are too forbidding — for example, structural defects — or too time-consuming to complete or just too troubling for them to go forward with their purchase.

Yet they need to be reasonable and understand that not a single property will be without its issues.  Not once have I see a home-inspection report devoid of negative comments.

A positive way for both sellers and buyers to view an inspection is to see it as an opportunity for a good-faith negotiation.

Should negotiations fail, either side can walk away from the contract.

Buyers have the right to have their deposit returned, but that approach practically ensures a battle if the seller discounts the purchaser’s concerns.

For sellers, an inflexible response to a reasonable set of requests comes with a heavy price.  They will have to start all over again.

Tomorrow: Weekly Roundup

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201
Web site

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