“Working Over” the Other Guy

by Jamie Dunsing, owner

Looking back on 30 years and well over 10,000 inspections personally performed, I have seen a lot of interesting things. That isn’t what this article is about. What it is about is the concerning trend I’ve seen towards “working the other guy over a little bit”. You see, when I started performing home inspections in 1989, most of my clients genuinely wanted to know about their new home and what sort of things to expect over the next few years. That was the original intent of a home inspection way back in 1976, when the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI®) was formed. In fact, when I do a quick search for the purpose of a home inspection, most results discuss exactly that.

However, somewhere along the way, the home inspection and purchase process has been transformed into a protracted negotiation between a buyer and seller. From my point of view, this process usually revolves around the costs to repair various items in the home that were uncovered during the home inspection. I have often (too often to count) had a client/buyer pull me aside during an inspection and ask me to make sure to “turn the screws” on certain issues, as they (the buyer) want to get more money off of the purchase price of their new home. I have never felt comfortable with trying to assist in “working somebody over”, so I normally go on my way and inspect as I normally would.

I’ll never forget the buyer who asked me to write down that the toilet seat in their guest bathroom was cracked so that they could have the seller credit them for a new toilet seat. It seems pretty standard that you would replace your toilet seats when taking possession of a home (pretty obvious explanation here), so I asked this client if they were going to replace the toilet seats as a matter of course in moving into their new $800,000+ home. I was dumbstruck when I was told that “yes, they intended to, but that this would help them a small amount with remodeling costs”! I have hundreds of examples of similar requests by clients.

This situation often results in hard feelings between the buyer and seller. For your information, the standard purchase contract in my area has made an attempt at addressing this by adding language to the purchase agreement that address some of the more common items that are negotiated. The following language is taken directly from the Multi-Board Residential Real Estate Contract.

“Buyer agrees that minor repairs and routine maintenance items of the Real Estate do not constitute defects and are not a part of this contingency. The fact that a functioning major component may be at the end of its useful life shall not render such component defective for purposes of this paragraph.

I urge anybody who is contemplating the purchase of a new home to remember that the home inspection is not about helping to renegotiate your deal. Take your time when looking and evaluating homes so that there are no surprises when a home inspector doesn’t write down notes about the cracked toilet seat!

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