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I am looking to buy my first home and I am confused as to how to avoid the lengthy process without knowing what is negotiable and what isn't when it comes to the inspection step.

If there's an inspection contingency and the seller doesn't want to reduce the asking price to account for the repairs, wouldn't I have lost money and time? I can't see how this process can be done for multiple places without the buyer losing out on some, if not many, good homes.

Am I expected to go through homes over and over again and pay for the inspection fee, wait for the inspection, negotiate? Any tricks to knowing the value to place in a reasonable offer? I understand that the lender wouldn't give me money without an inspection and I wouldn't want a place without the inspection either.

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    wouldn't I have lost money and time I don't understand this line. Certainly you would lose time, but I don't see how you've lost money. Indeed, if you do it the other way around, you're more likely to lose money. If you commission (and pay for) the report,and then seller doesn't like your offer (or they've had a better offer in the meantime, then you're money is entirely wasted, even if the report comes back clean!
    – Brondahl
    Mar 28, 2022 at 13:12
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    Normally, the buyer pays for the inspection. In that case, the buyer (or previous prospective buyer of the home you are considering) is the owner of the report, not the seller. It's conceivable to discuss it with them, assuming you know how to contact them
    – donjuedo
    Mar 28, 2022 at 17:22
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    Also, in the US, it is required by law (in the states I'm familiar with) that the seller fill out a disclosure form, documenting all the major conditions (roof, foundation, etc.) that they already are aware of. So the value of a fresh home inspection is limited to details the seller does not already know. (Reports still turn up issues large and small).
    – donjuedo
    Mar 28, 2022 at 17:24
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    If your inspection reports turns up some issues there's some incentive for the seller to work with you to come to an agreement about them. Afaik, if your inspector discovers legitimate issues which you then disclose to the seller, the seller can't then offer the property for sale to someone else and pretend they don't know about those issues. So from that point on the seller would have to start considering lower offers anyway, or make repairs themselves before selling.
    – brhans
    Mar 28, 2022 at 22:51
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    This is why Scotland (but not England) has the "Home Report" system, which is one survey provided to all candidate buyers.
    – pjc50
    Mar 29, 2022 at 10:34

6 Answers 6

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In my (limited) experience, I think of an inspection as an insurance policy. It's there to catch potentially expensive surprises that aren't obvious from a walkthrough at a regular showing.

You should factor in any repairs / updates that are obvious from your showings in your offer. For example, you would expect to pay less for a fixer-upper than a recently remodeled house.

You should already be committed enough to a house when buying an inspection that you will proceed with buying it if there are no major unexpected surprises.

If there are surprises, it's reasonable to try to negotiate them, but it's not a guarantee that the seller will negotiate. If the seller does not give you the accommodations you're seeking, you will have lost time, but you will have actually saved yourself money: had you gone ahead with the purchase, you would be faced with unexpected expensive repairs.

EDIT

As pointed out in the comments, there are important differences between insurance and an inspection:

  1. An inspection is not guaranteed to find every problem. It will NOT find any problems in inaccessible areas,
  2. There’s no guarantee that what is found is correct, and
  3. There’s no recourse for either of these.

So, don’t expect an inspection to make you whole if there are problems later, but it can do a lot to avoid common but expensive problems that lay people would miss.

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    I realize you don't mean it strictly but I really hate the word insurance in your first sentence. If a home inspector misses something, anything, then, in general, you have no recourse against them. Mar 30, 2022 at 18:31
  • @DeanMacGregor good point. I have edited to add more info.
    – Eric
    Mar 30, 2022 at 23:19
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Is there no way of getting the inspection report before placing a bid?

There is no time. Also the seller has no incentive to do your homework for you.

If a seller presented you a complete inspection report you would have no idea if they picked a person that would promise to miss the big stuff. Your real estate agent would still advise you to get a report that you paid for.

I am hearing stories about multiple offers on the first day on the market. A seller in that situation would never wait for you to get an inspection report before you even made an offer. Plus they wouldn't want 10 different potential bidders to spend 3 to 4 hours each with their inspector in the house.

If there's an inspection contingency and the seller doesn't want to reduce the asking price to account for the repairs, wouldn't I have lost money and time?

Yes you are out the cost of the inspection, and you are out the time to schedule the inspection and get the report. But the alternative would be to skip the inspection and then discover a $20,000 problem the week after settlement.

Getting the report allows the price to be renegotiated to reflect what was found. If the seller refuses to make the changes you want, then you can walk away and get your deposit returned.

Any tricks to knowing the value to place in a reasonable offer?

The reasonable offer takes place before the inspection. The seller then picks the winner. If the buyer has an inspection contingency then there is an opportunity to adjust the price or to require fixes before settlement takes place. Even if the seller refuses to make any concessions you can still cancel the deal.

Your real estate agent can help you determine a fair price, and develop a strategy for making an offer that is more likely to be selected.

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    This is not an answer to OP's question, but "I am hearing stories about multiple offers on the first day on the market" indicates that this is not a good time to be buying, especially not a first house (where you won't also be benefitting from the market in selling your old one). From a financial perspective, in times of high market prices you want to be downgrading your home and in times of low prices you want to be upgrading. Starting from no home ownership, there is no downgrade available. Mar 30, 2022 at 14:45
  • @R..GitHubSTOPHELPINGICE I was told the same thing when I bought my first house five years ago. I bought anyway and now houses cost 50% more today than when I bought. If I had listened to your and others' advice, I might have never been able to afford to buy! Unless you expect prices to start falling in the near-ish future (which nobody seems to right now), then you may as well buy.
    – Kat
    Mar 30, 2022 at 17:03
  • @Kat: It will crash; the question is just when and whether you can predict that in time to get out. Mar 30, 2022 at 17:07
  • @Kat of course, no one expected house prices to drop in the near future in 2007 either.
    – Seth R
    Mar 30, 2022 at 18:41
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Am I expected to go through homes over and over again and pay for the inspection fee, wait for the inspection, negotiate?

At the point an offer is accepted, both parties have an interest in seeing the sale go through in a timely fashion. You don't want to waste your time/money, they could face the same pressure. Sellers are motivated to get the sale done if they are trying to buy a new place at the same time, they might be afraid of the listing age or de/re-listing hurting sale price, they have to make more mortgage payments each month it's not sold, etc.

The inspection and associated costs/inconveniences of a deal falling through are just the price of doing business (and well worth it). Most people have incentive to negotiate rather than starting the process over and will be reasonable, but you have to be willing to walk away rather than get a poor deal.

I suggest only raising inspection objections that are substantial and not items that were apparent in a showing. For example, don't complain after inspection about quality of the floors if you could see they were in rough shape up front just because the inspector noted them, factor those things into your offer. Sellers will typically be reasonable when something significant is revealed by the inspection as it would likely be a concern to any buyer.

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    This answer makes sme important points more clearly and directly than the other answers so far. In particular, (1) inspection fees / time are part of the cost of doing (smart) business, and (2) because you do have an accepted offer before you get to the point of a professional inspection, seller has a vested interest in the deal going through. If buyer exercises an inspection contingency to walk away from the deal then they expect to go through the whole thing again, yes, but "over and over again" is highly unlikely buyer is unreasonable. Mar 28, 2022 at 19:17
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  1. Is there no way of getting the inspection report before placing a bid?

This presents no benefit to the seller.

If you want someone else's old report then how do you know it's accurate and truthful? How do you know that new issues didn't arise? How do you know that prior issues weren't fixed?

  1. If there's an inspection contingency and the seller doesn't want to reduce the asking price to account for the repairs, wouldn't I have lost money and time?

Correct. Get some experience before-hand so that when you walk through a house you get a sense of "Oooo this seems like an expensive issue, pass."

  1. Am I expected to go through homes over and over again and pay for the inspection fee, wait for the inspection, negotiate?

A transaction requires two things: a buyer that wants to buy and a seller that wants to sell. Without a contract (bid) you have neither.

  1. Any tricks to knowing the value to place in a reasonable offer?

Please refer to #2.

The current real-estate market is a seller's paradise. If you think the market is going to crash then just save your money for a few more years.


One thing that will help you while walking through a house is to have a rough idea of costs:

  • Septic problems: $4k+
  • New water lines: $10k+
  • New roof: $15k+
  • New windows: $1k per window
  • New carpet: $3 per sq/ft.
  • New hardwoods: astronomical
  • New kitchen: $20k+
  • New driveway: $10k+
  • Water heater: $1500+
  • Furnace: $5k+
  • Structural issues with foundation or joists: just start crying now to save time

If you're just walking through and thinking "yuck, this paint color is bad" then you are most certainly looking at the wrong thing.


You should consider hanging out at https://diy.stackexchange.com/ for a bit and see what things other people are experiencing.

Watching those home shows on HGTV before buying a house is quite possibly the worst thing you could ever decide to do.

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    I like the recommendations given in this answer as well as the link to diy!
    – iLuvLogix
    Mar 28, 2022 at 14:34
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    @iLuvLogix Sadly, buying a money-pit is what has instilled this experience in me
    – MonkeyZeus
    Mar 28, 2022 at 15:43
  • septic problems could be more like tens of thousands of $ in my understanding
    – cr0
    Mar 29, 2022 at 14:25
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    @cr0 Yep, that's what the little + means after $4k =)
    – MonkeyZeus
    Mar 29, 2022 at 14:31
  • "This presents no benefit to the seller." Really? I think it presents three huge benefits to the seller. First, it reduces the chances that a buyer will back out when they see the inspection report. Second, it induces the buyer to make a higher offer because they know the house is in good conditions. Third, it permits the sales cycle to be faster, reducing the time the seller has to carry the costs of the house. Mar 29, 2022 at 21:37
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Having just gone through this, and also experienced home buying before this market madness, here is how I look at it:

Normal inspection routine

In normal times, you see a home you like and place an offer which includes contingencies for inspections. If your offer is accepted, the inspection contingency period kicks in, giving you usually a week or two to hire one or more inspectors to look the place over. A general inspection takes 2-4 hours and a report usually comes within a day or two after that. Maybe your contingency says "Unless we find a repair costing more than $3,000, we commit to making the purchase we offered." Or maybe it doesn't include that, in which case an inspection is a buyer's chance to negotiate the price or walk away for anything they find during the inspection.

Today's market waiving inspection contingencies

In the extreme seller's market we're in now, many homes are being bought without an inspection contingency. One way that happens is buyers taking a careful look during the showing and/or taking a risk in buying the home with parts of it sight-unseen.

Getting a pre-offer inspection

One way to make a purchase offer without any inspection contingency, but without the risk of no inspection at all, is to get a pre-offer inspection. That's what I did, after learning how many other people were doing it nowadays. I had to call around because many inspectors do not want to do a casual walk-through during a showing and make any claims about what they see. In my case, the inspector (and me!) wanted a normal, full general inspection, taking 2-4 hours and producing a report I can refer to later on. Because the market is so hot, this required me lining up the inspector in advance, seeing the house and confirming I want to spend around $500 on an inspector even if my offer is not accepted, and asking the seller for permission to do the pre-offer inspection (providing access, a sufficient chunk of time, and allowing a report to be written). I think the seller allowed this because they knew we were serious about making a good offer, so if letting us spend our own cash and 3 hours at their house would enable the seller to get a good offer without an inspection contingency, that sounds good to them. On my end, I was ready to eat the $500 cost, a few times if needed. I'd only do this for a house I was ready to make my strongest offer on.

This worked well for me: saw the house on the 2nd day it was on the market, inspected it on the 3rd day, and the inspector was good enough to get me the report within just hours of the inspection. That enabled me to put an offer in without an inspection contingency on that night, and that makes for a much stronger offer. An inspection is not a tell-all though, some questions can remain about specialized systems and there might not be time to get a, say, structural engineer to look at something. In my case, during the inspection, I was sending photos and asking expert advice from folks willing to provide it from afar, and I had my own and my realtor's experience to give me more confidence about the purchase price and likely future costs.

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TL/DR

This market is definitely favoring Sellers, but at the end of the day it's about money and if an offer with an Inspection Contingency represents more money in the seller's pocket, it's in their best interest to accept that offer and address those contingencies without backing out of the deal.

Long-winded Answer

Under normal circumstances, your offer will list a few contingencies, the more common being it Passes Inspection and that it also Meets Appraisal Value (the home is worth what you offer or more as far as the bank is concerned). There are more, but from what I've experienced these are the most frequent ones.

Contingencies are not required and in the event there are multiple offers, all offering the same purchase price a Seller may pick the offer with less contingencies. In my experience though, a Seller is less concerned about the contingencies and more focused on the purchase price, unless the house is a lemon. Selling a home is NOT a volume business, and more often than not money trumps convenience. The minor hassle of an Inspection Contingency often outweighs a competing offer coming in at even slightly less (i.e. $5k less) without contingencies. If a Seller prefers offers without contingencies, I would find that to be a red flag.

Real World Example as a Seller:

When I sold my starter home, the Radon Mitigation system was found to be leaking. A new system (at the time) would have cost $2,500. Mind you this was just a leak, but the Buyers wanted it replaced. As a Seller I could back out of the offer or I could provide concessions, so in my case I offered $700 to cover repair costs for the existing system and the Buyers accepted. Once they accepted my proposed offer, the Inspection Contingency was satisfied and we moved forward with the sale of the home.

A Few Words of Advice

One note since you asked about losing actual money during this process. Be careful if you're offering any Earnest Money as part of your offer. Your realtor will say "Earnest money represents the seriousness of your offer", which I always laugh at. If your offer is accepted but things fall through during the purchase process, you're generally out that money (unless you have contingencies surrounding it, see the article for more info). Again, I don't think it's necessary to include so long as you offer a good viable purchase price that you can afford.

I wish you the best of luck; This market is definitely favoring Sellers, but at the end of the day it's about money and if an offer with an Inspection Contingency represents more money in the pocket of a seller, that will likely be the offer they pick and do their best to move forward with.

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  • I do have those contingencies but I lost a bid once when someone went with a non-refundable deposit of earnest money :( and I couldn't Mar 30, 2022 at 19:40
  • @heretoinfinity What works with one seller isn't guaranteed to work with another, so I still wouldn't recommend using Earnest Money as a negotiation tactic unless you're comfortable losing it. If you do though, just make sure you have some contingencies (associated with the Earnest Money) such as the seller backs out or some of the other scenarios listed out in that article. Mar 30, 2022 at 19:57

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