Home inspectors play a pivotal role in smoothing the negotiation process between sellers and buyers, especially when it comes to potentially contentious discussions about a property’s state and its immediate or ongoing repair needs. It’s in the interest of both sides to have a thorough inspection process that produces a comprehensive report, but it’s also no secret that a lengthy inspection that uncovers a laundry list of maintenance to-dos doesn’t bode well for the seller’s asking price.
Despite being such a common process, there’s still a strong interplay of clashing motivations between a home seller and prospective buyers during each inspection. To give you a better sense of what these are, as well as the proper etiquette concerning who attends the inspection, here’s an examination of the typical buyer and seller perspectives during home inspection.
Sellers Prefer Thorough Inspections That Produce Few Red Flags
To answer this question, one must address the underlying financial ramifications of home inspection. The inspector, in a sense, acts as the arbitrator between how the seller markets his or her property and the property’s actual state.
It’s in the best interest of the seller to leverage key constructions or home features to get the best closing price possible, especially if they made the initial investment and are looking for an optimal recoup rate. Sometimes, in service of this pursuit, home sellers may be less than forthcoming about the work that’s been done on their home. This could mean being opaque about the permitting details of a recent home addition, or even strategically putting up obstructions that cover depreciating foundational components, leaks, or rot.
That’s not to say that sellers always harbor nefarious, self-interested motives; in fact, a reliable, seamless home inspection process can be an immense positive for home sellers, especially for those that organize and pay for the procedure, either out of pocket or by including it in the asking price. That said, there’s no denying that the more detailed an inspection report is, the greater the seller’s maintenance liability is likely to be. For example, a seller may use his or her newly refinished basement as justification for a small uptick in asking price, but he or she may omit the fact that, in order to refinish the space, it had to go through a lengthy moisture extraction and dry-out process following a bad flood.
Buyers Seek Additional Eyes and Perspectives
It’s not enough for an inspector to simply identify a home’s vulnerabilities and repair needs. There’s a good chance, in fact, that many of these were already disclosed by the seller at the outset. Even in these instances, though, there may be disagreement about the severity of said vulnerabilities, and the amount of money needed to address them.
Buyers often attend home inspections, and many are accompanied by their realtors. There are a few reasons for this; the most important one being that three sets of eyes are better than one. More specifically, though, many buyers prefer to have their agent alongside them to confirm which areas of concern to mention to the seller’s listing agent. Also, if previous discussions have been held between buyer and seller about a certain home vulnerability, but the size of the repair investment remains in doubt, an inspector will be able to independently assess and provide a moderating voice to those negotiations.
The Benefits and Drawbacks of Home Inspections Attended by the Buyer and Seller
Some buyers may contend that sellers taint home inspections when they attend them, especially since buyers are less likely to truly dissect a home’s issues when the person that’s been inhabiting it for years is right there in the room. This is valid critique that’s, often, enough to make the seller vacate the premises, but there are still logistical benefits to having the seller around.
One of the biggest and most common home inspection pains has nothing to do with the actual process, but with scheduling difficulties. Nothing draws out what should be a 3-4-hour process further than having to juggle the schedules of multiple attendees, and nothing further impedes that task like finally reserving an inspection day only to find that the seller has not unlocked, or provided keys for, pivotal areas of their home. Having the seller right there, though, ensures that the inspection won’t succumb to these types of unforced errors.
Sellers can also provide additional details on home renovations that lack sufficient documentation. They can elaborate on the contractors they’ve hired and the construction materials used. In many instances, unpermitted remodeling work will be a non-starter during buyer-seller negotiations, but a seller can, at least, remove some of the mystery around the work that goes into a home.
Communication and Compromise Between Buyer and Seller Are Key
A home inspection’s efficacy is closely tied to how collaborative the buyer-seller relationship is. Sure, many of the issues that arise from an inspection can potentially drive a wedge between the two parties, but only if they refuse to equitably account for those issues during the negotiation process.
Some sellers elect to incur all maintenance costs and inspection fees, but include them in a slightly heightened asking price. Some house hunters will take responsibility for covering several minor maintenance issues to distinguish themselves from other buyers. Ultimately, the onus is on the seller and his or her prospective buyers to use home inspection findings to mutually strike a better deal.