Buyer’s Inspections: Don’t be Fooled, You Need Them

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Aside from the seller’s personal narrative of their experience living in the property which comes through on the Transfer Disclosure Statement and Seller’s Supplemental Checklist, the professional inspections conducted on the property are the most important documents contained in any disclosure package.

Which inspections are necessary?  The answer depends on the age and condition of the house.  Most commonly, sellers will offer a full property inspection report and a termite report.  If the house has a pool, most sellers will also provide a report for the pool as well.  Other inspections that fall outside the scope of what is normally offered by the seller include a roof inspection, chimney inspection and foundation inspection.   My analysis on these three inspections is the following:  Buyers should get their own roof inspection if the property inspection conducted by their property inspector or the seller’s property inspector maintain that the roof should be evaluated by a roofing specialist.  Likewise, if either of those reports mention the need for a chimney or foundation expert, the buyer should conduct these inspections as well. As a general rule of thumb, foundations which are found to have even slight crumbling or cracks greater than 1/4 inch should be evaluated by a foundation expert so that a cost/repair analysis can be performed. With regard to chimneys, the most common issue in San Carlos centers around cracks which could emit dangerous fumes.  Many San Carlos chimneys were slightly damaged during the 1989 earthquake.  Many homeowners are surprised to learn that they have been having fires for the past 20 years, not knowing a dangerous crack(s) existed. A good inspector will be able to give you a straight answer on whether these three supplemental inspections are worth your time and money, given the condition of the property.

Finally, and most importantly, it is critical that buyers conduct their own, independent reports on the property.  Even if the seller provides you with very thorough reports, buyers should still conduct all of their own reports, and here’s why:  Many buyers and even some agents do not understand the phrase “privity of contract”.   When a seller engages a professional inspector to prepare a report on their home in preparation for sale, the seller will sign a contract with the inspector.  The inspector is in contract to provide competent services to the seller, only.  The inspector is not in contract with any future buyer regarding the reports that inspector has provided on the property. You can probably see where I am going with this…..if the inspector missed something in his report, and the buyer finds this issue out after the close of escrow, the buyer has no right to sue the inspector because the buyer does not have privity of contract with that inspector.  Additionally, the buyer most likely does not have the right to go back and sue the seller because a professional report is beyond the scope of knowledge for most sellers.  The buyer will be left without recourse unless that buyer hired his own inspectors, and creates the privity of contract.

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