home inspection2Once you have negotiated the contract to purchase your dream home you have more negotiating left to do! All homes in Maryland and DC are sold in as is condition, but you can still have a home inspection if you provided for one in your contract to purchase. Here is an explanation of the home inspection process in Maryland and the District of Columbia.

The home inspection process can be tricky, especially in competitive markets where sellers may have multiple offers to work with. Even so, you should not purchase a property without ensuring your home is in proper condition before move-in.  If you don’t think that you can ask for an inspection contingency, ask if you can do an inspection before you make the offer on the property.  The seller may agree but ask that if you decide not to move forward with an offer that you not provide them with a copy of the inspection. On the seller’s side, ignorance is bliss! That is fine as far as you are concerned. The pre-offer inspection can be less expensive than a full inspection if the inspector is just checking major systems, the roof, foundation, and appliances to give you confidence that the house is generally in working order.  If you are making an offer without a home inspection contingency, it doesn’t really matter to your negotiations if the clock on the stove is a few minutes slow!

Assuming that your contract allows for a home inspection, it will also specify the number of days in which you have to complete the home inspection and provide the seller with a copy of the inspection report and your requested repairs or seller concessions in lieu of repairs.

In a spring market when lots of people are buying a home and keeping the inspectors very busy, you want to make sure that your contract allows enough time for the home inspection.  You should probably have at least 7 days for the home inspection and 9 days (or 10) for the radon inspection.  Remember that time is of the essence in this contract provision.  If you miss the deadline, you have lost the opportunity to ask for repairs.  Once you ask for repairs, the seller has three days in which to respond, and then you have three days to respond in kind.  Pay attention to the language of your contract and the deadlines.  They are real!

Finding a qualified home inspector who will thoroughly examine your property afterhome-inspection1 the contract is ratified is key.   Your real estate agent will probably have some suggestions of home inspectors that he or she has used on a regular basis.  Alternatively you can ask your friends for recommendations.

You should have received a copy of the seller disclosure/disclaimer statement before you made an offer.  In Maryland, sellers are legally required to complete either a disclosure or a disclaimer statement.  Regardless of which form the sellers chooses to complete, they must disclose any latent defects.  This form should give you some good information about the condition of the home you are buying, such as the age of the roof and whether the basement has had water issues. It may also give your inspector some hints of areas which deserve closer inspection.

Attend the Inspection with Your Agent

You should plan to attend the inspection yourself.  Seeing an inspection first-hand allows you to get a feel for your future home and map out items like the water turn off valves and electrical panel locations for future reference.

It also provides an opportunity to review damages personally. When it comes time to request a credit from the sellers, you will be equipped with the proper understanding and validity to do so.

You Will Get an Detailed Inspection Report from your Home Inspector

A good inspector will take extensive notes and provide you with a detailed report and photos along with feedback on future maintenance for the home. This report should be provided to you either the night of the inspection or early the next day.  Be sure to tag along with the inspector through the whole house. Being side-by-side with the inspector allows him or her to point things out to you in real-time, rather than attempting to provide lengthy explanations after the fact.  Bring your ipad or a pen and paper to make your own notes.  This may be the last time you are in the house until closing.  Make good use of it to get room measurements or check paint colors.

So how do you handle those repair items that the inspector identifies during the home inspection.  They might be as simple as a strike plate on a door that needs adjustment to a flooding basement.

General Inspection – Two Choices

If you have a general inspection you have two choices.  You can either accept the house in its present condition or declare the contract void.  You can not negotiate repairs under a general inspection.

Specific Inspection – Three Choices

However, if you have a specific inspection, you have the choice of accepting the house in its current condition, declaring the contract void or asking for repairs/credits.

As noted previously, time is of the essence in the home inspection process.  If you void the contract, your earnest money deposit will be returned to you.  If you ask for repairs or a credit for those repairs, the seller will have three days in which to respond.  You will have a similar three days in which to respond.

You can go back and forth with the seller like this ad nauseum, but I don’t recommend it.  After two back and forths, the negotiations will start to get toxic and personalized. Not a good place to be!

The alternative to continued negotiations is (1) acceptance of the offer on the table or (2) delivery to the seller of your intent to declare the contract void.  When you do this the seller has the right to accept your last request for repairs.  In that case, the contract remains in place and you are buying the house.

If you have gotten to the situation where you are done with negotiations and intend to declare the contract void, you possibly do not want to buy the house any longer under any circumstances.  In that case, I advise my buyers to put an extreme request for repairs.  For example, ask the seller to replace the roof and remodel the kitchen.  Make the request so big that you guarantee the seller will not accept your last offer. When the seller says no to your extreme request, you can then declare the contract void, confident that the seller will not come back and accept your last request.  You can then safely move on from this contract and start looking for a new dream home!

If you have any questions about the home inspection process, please give me a call at 240-401-5577 or email me at lise@lisehowe.com.  I have been selling homes in DC, MD, and VA for over 27 years and I would be happy to help you too!