Why I won’t do Pre-Sale (Seller’s) “Inspections” anymore
While most home inspections are done for the buyers of homes and properties, home inspectors sometimes also do Pre-sale inspections for the sellers. The rationale for doing this inspection is that if a sellers knows what problems will be revealed by a buyer’s inspection they can deal with these issues ahead of time.
This is the one good reason for the Seller to do an inspection – but there are a bunch of problems with Pre-Sale inspections.
- First, as a seller you would like an inspection report that facilitates a clean sale, where the buyer doesn’t ‘walk’ on the deal due to the findings of the buyer’s inspection. You would like a report that tells everything honestly but that doesn’t put a negative spin on conditions found, or raise alarms about possible but not likely scenarios. (As a home buyer this is what you want from your inspection!). So, problem #1 is that the seller’s interests are different than the buyers, and the reports will naturally reflect this.
- The second problem with Pre-sale home inspections (for both the seller and the home inspector) is that most of the report software and templates used to do reports was written for home buyers – not the sellers. Specifically, the typical inspection report will contain lots of cautionary language: ‘X condition’ could be a problem (even if a minimal risk), ‘XY condition’ could be a problem (even if low risk), etc. etc. The last thing a home inspector wants is to have is their client come back (months or even years) later with the complaint: “you didn’t warn me this could happen…I wouldn’t have brought the home if I had known this. The templates and software used for inspection reports are cautionary and legally protective – which is good if the buyer (and necessary for the home inspector). But its hard to make the same report work for both the home seller and the home buyer.
- Another problem: If you are selling the home, you don’t want to provide a sugar-coated Pre-Sale report - both for moral and legal reasons - but you stand the risk that whoever you hire to do your Pre-Sale Inspection may find a lot more than the buyer’s inspector. Conversely, your inspector may miss stuff - which means you face more liability if the buyer relies on your Pre-Sale report.
- Lastly, you end up with “dueling” reports. An aging roof surface for the buyer’s inspector may be described as “nearing the end of its useful life” while a Seller’s report may state that: “ the roof shingles are aging but, in the inspector’s opinion, can provide additional life. Who’s right? They both are. Facts matter – but opinions can vary widely. The same glass of water can be described as ‘half full’ or ‘half empty’ and the reports provided from a seller and buyer may reflect this. If you are the home buyer meanwhile, a Pre-sale inspection report presented by the home seller may tell you some things - but it is not the same as having your own inspection. While problems can get missed or glossed over in the Pre-sale report, the more likely problem is that without the verbal comments and discussion that goes on at an inspection it will be difficult to put things in perspective. Some things may need urgent repairs versus while others are deferrable or present a minimal risk. The seller’s Pre-sale report is also going to use the criterial of “functionality”. It may not tell you that some system, while ‘working as intended’, may be near the end of its useful life. Things (in life and homes) are seldom ‘black or white’, but you’d like to know the gray areas, and it isn’t the nature of Pre-sale reports to provide this.
So, as a home inspector, I now offer a Pre-sale Consultation that is verbal only (and costs much less, I should add). This has some differences from a defined “ home inspection”. First, it covers most of the components looked at during a full home inspection – but not all. Instead, the focus is on not just what are the conditions present, but how things will ‘play out’ after a buyer’s inspection. The problem I have found in past Pre-sale (seller’s) inspections is that some homeowners think they have to do everything. Not so. Doing major renovations to sell the home can occasionally make sense – depending on the home and the nature of the market – but usually this is not worthwhile and will cost you unnecessary time and money. Sometimes, I tell the homeowner to stop as the buyer will want to ‘do their own thing’ once they move in. What you do need to know as a seller is what are must fix conditions, those that will cost you the sale as buyers will either not make an offer, will ‘walk’ on the deal, or will re-negotiate for price reductions. Other conditions the inspection may reveal I would classify as ‘legitimate’ and, depending on the buyer (and the market!) may or may not be a negotiable issue, but they won’t cost you the sale. In other words, as a seller you need to be flexible and provide allowances for repair if these conditions are an issue after the buyer’s inspection. ( Note: as a home inspector I never know what a particular buyer will care about. A condition that will be important to one buyer will be of no concern to another).
Lastly, there are conditions that you may want to simply disclose. These are things won’t come up or get renegotiated by a buyer if they have been informed ahead of time. Breached seals on a couple of windows is a good example As buyers always assume that everything costs 5X what it will actually cost to, you may even want to get a cost estimate for certain types of repairs and make this available to the buyer – just to ‘take the issue off the table’.
So, if you are selling your home there is a value to having a verbal consult. You just don’t need a written inspection report that will either work against your interests or the buyers. There should be just one report in the transaction, and that should be the buyer’s. Call my office at (978) 373-1390 if you would like more information or schedule and inspection.