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Buying a Home - Inspection Contingency

The first step after having an accepted offer on a home is to have an inspection. Very few offers don't have inspection contingencies on them - the only time an offer may not have an inspection contingency is if you are in a competing offer situation and you have had an 'informal' inspection prior to making an offer, or if you are in the business of developing/building homes and know what you are seeing, or the home is going to be a 'tear down' and you have no concern over the 'soundness' of the home. Most inspection contingencies are time for 7-10 days from offer date. This timing allows you to select an inspector, get on their schedule, have the inspection and then decide what requests you are going to make of the sellers.

Finding an Inspector

Firstly, you need to choose an inspector. If you are using a buyers agent, then your buyers agent can recommend inspectors to you. If you are buying through the listing agent (the agent whose sign is at the property) then it is illegal for the agent to recommend an inspector to you. Sometimes colleagues at work will recommend an inspector to you. More often than not, you are better using the recommendation from your realtor. Realtors use inspectors all the time, colleagues don't. If an inspector is not good, then the realtor won't recommend them. Because of a realtors frequent recommendations, an inspector will endeavor to do their best work and ensure they catch everything for the clients, because they want the ongoing business from the realtor. A recommendation from a colleague who used the inspector 3 years ago, means that there really is no follow-on business for that inspector with that inspection so they tend to be not as careful and dismissive. I need to qualify this, this is not true 100% of the time, but it does happen. I once was at an inspection and my buyer had used an inspector who was recommended by one of their work colleagues - almost immediately it was obvious that this inspector was not good. My buyers, who were first time home buyers, asked whether he would have a look at the shed on the property (which was only 10 feet from the house) and the inspectors response was 'no'. He was a 'home' inspector, that was a shed, and they needed to get a 'shed' inspector to look at it. Seriously. Another inspector, a similar recommendation from my clients work colleague, spent time at the home inspection explaining to the buyers that Capes, with dormers, were inherently structurally unsound. Seriously.

During the inspection

An inspector spends time walking around the house with you, explaining everything he/she sees - whether it be good or bad. A good inspector will explain the maintenance aspects of the home moving forward, tell you what are not issues now but could become issues and what to look for to prevent those issues, and also the positives of a home. You learn an awful lot about the home during an inspection so its important, if you can be there, to be present during the inspection. Most inspectors prepare written reports that can be emailed/posted/given to you that detail everything that was found during the inspection so that you can spend time afterward reviewing the notes and 'mulling' the inspection.

I often explain the inspector as being a little like a triage nurse. He/she look for evidence of bigger issues, and if that evidence exists, then we get a specialist in to inspect further. For example, most general home inspectors look for evidence of pests whether they be mice, ants, termites etc. If evidence is found then they will recommend getting a professional in to investigate further, and provide a quote for remediation and treatment.


Often tested at the same time of an inspection are Radon levels in the basement. Radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive, odorless gas that the EPA recommend mitigating at levels of 4 pico-curies per liter, or pCi/L or higher. Radon comes from the natural (radioactive) breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and gets into the air you breathe - because you spend so much of your time at home, then your greatest potential exposure is at home. There are two types of tests commonly used around the time of the home inspection. Active or passive. Active testing is where a computerized piece of equipment is put in the lower level of the house 2 days prior to the inspection. Over the next 2 days it takes hourly 'polls' and records the radon level, the barometric pressure, the temperature, the humidity and whether the unit has been moved during this time. At the end of the time, a printer is hooked up to the equipment and a printout of every hourly reading over the last 48 hours is produced along with the average radon level found. The passive test is 2 tubes that are placed in the lower level and then 2 days later are collected, put in the mail to a laboratory, and then a few days later you get the average radon results for the 2 day period. If the radon levels come back high, generally, the seller will agree to have a mitigation system installed prior to closing, or will credit the buyers with a monetary amount to help the buyers with the cost of installing the mitigation system.

3 Possible outcomes

There are 3 possible outcomes to an inspection.

  1. You are concerned about everything the inspector found, and you don't want to move forward on the home any longer. You can exit the contract and get your deposit back, provided that you have exited the contract before the inspection contingency date. The only money 'out of pocket' at this point is the inspection fee.
  2. The inspector found very little in the way of issues around the home and you move forward with the purchase without requesting anything of the sellers.
  3. The inspector found some issues with the property two courses of action are then possible:
    1. The seller agrees to repair/replace/address some issues prior to closing. Let's say that the inspector found that the furnace had not been serviced in the last 10 years, then we may ask the sellers to service the furnace prior to closing. We are asking them to do something to the home before you take ownership. Anything that requires a licensed tradesman to take care of requires that the sellers provide receipts at closing to show that the work has been done.
    2. The seller agrees to credit you some money at closing to take care of an issue found at closing. Let's say that the inspector finds that the furnace is on its last legs and he/she doesn't believe that the furnace will last the next winter, then we may ask the sellers to credit us a portion of money toward replacing the furnace when you have purchased the home.

After the inspection

Once the inspection is complete, now comes the negotiation over the results of the inspection. So long as the inspection response is received by the sellers, or listing agent, by the date of the inspection contingency then negotiations can occur over the next few days until the Purchase and Sale date. A house, generally, will not inspect 'cleanly' - there will always be items found during a home inspection. The best result for the buyer is to get the most items addressed, by the seller. In order to do this, I advise 'reasonableness'. If a buyer is reasonable with their requests to a seller as a result of the inspection, then 75% of the time, the seller will be reasonable in return. In almost 100% of occasions if a buyer asks the seller to fix everything, or request an inflated credit to take care of the items, then the seller will say no to everything and will not negotiate. Once the seller and buyer have agreed over what is going to happen as a result of the inspection, then the agreed items are incorporated into the Purchase and Sale agreement.

The next step is 'Purchase and Sale'. This topic will be covered in next month's newsletter.

If you would like an estimate of what your home would sell for in today's market I would be more than happy to come by, have a look at your home, and then provide a CMA (comparative market analysis) which will provide you with an estimate of what your home should sell for, along with a marketing plan to get maximum exposure for your home.

If you'd like to chat more about the topic presented here, or the Real Estate market in general, then please call me on (617) 997 9145, or email me at

Lexington Statistics

MLS data is provided by MLSPIN. While MLS data is believed to be accurate, it cannot be guaranteed. MLS data is constantly being updated, making any analysis a snapshot at a particular time. All raw data remains the intellectual property of MLSPIN.
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