Ask McEnearney: Should I cancel a contract if the home inspection uncovers a long list of issues?

This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Hope Peele of The Peele Group and McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact The Peele Group at 703-244-6115 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: Should I cancel a contract if the home inspection uncovers a long list of issues?

Answer: So, you fell for a house that you want to make your home and now you’re under contract! Ideally, one of the first things that your Realtor did was schedule a home inspection for you. The amazingly thorough home inspector has now come up with a list of 30 items that should be fixed or at least addressed in the home. Yikes! What to do now?

Most home inspectors provide a clear and concise report, where they list every possible issue. They will check every outlet, all appliances, the roof, and much more. And they will almost definitely come up with a long list. This is a good thing! However, it can also be scary.

The key is in knowing what home inspection issues can easily be dealt with or are somewhat normal versus the deal breakers.

Inspection reports often start out with a summary, listing the items that the inspector considers defective, as well as some that they might consider marginal. Then there is a more detailed section with all the photos and some commentary. The list can often seem very daunting and scary.

However, if you have a good inspector, he will talk you through many of these items and discuss how serious they are. Equally as important, your Realtor should be able to help you gather the information needed to make an informed decision on whether to move forward with the purchase.

It’s important to remember that the home inspector is trained in the overall picture. While they do have formal training in all areas of a home, they will often refer things to a specialist for the final evaluation. Ideally, you will have enough days in your home inspection contingency so that you and your Realtor can have a contractor who is trained in the more specialized areas look at any issues and provide a quote. This way, you can make a fully educated decision on whether the items noted in the report are truly serious, and whether they will be costly to fix.

Our team works with plumbers, electricians, roofers, and general contractors who can often evaluate the issues quickly. We know and trust these contractors to give us an accurate assessment. And they will stand by their work if their services are needed. Sometimes the home inspector has flagged some things for further evaluation, only to have the specialty contractor report that it is not an issue at all. This does not mean that your home inspector wasn’t good, it just means he or she was super thorough and wanted to make sure that you received the extra layer of oversight needed. It’s your opportunity to use the home inspection summary as a punch list for future work.

Ideally, you and your Realtor will be able to gather some quotes and assess the full picture. Then you’ll need to decide whether these are items you can live with and fix after you’ve purchased the home or whether you want to ask the seller to fix them. You will also want to determine whether these are short-term issues or long-term issues that can be dealt with in a few years. Lastly, you and your Realtor will need to decide whether to ask the seller to get these things fixed prior to settlement or potentially give you a credit at settlement that can be used to fix the home inspection items.

The key is to look for things that are harder to remedy. Are there structural issues? How about mold or water problems? Does it need a new roof? Are the issues of immediate concern or can they be fixed in a few years? These are questions that your home inspector and your Realtor will help you work through.

So, the bottom line is, it is normal for a home to need maintenance and repairs. Dallas McVicker of Top Down Home Inspections says, “Homes are made of organic materials. They are going to deteriorate over time.” Our role as your trusted Realtor is to help you determine whether the home has been well maintained, and whether any home inspection items can be easily remedied and within a budget that makes sense for the purchase price.

Depending on the price you are paying, maybe the seller will be willing to fix the items in advance. But if not, most of the time, they can be fixed within a week or two of you settling on your new home. And sometimes the seller is willing to make a contribution to those repairs at closing. As we are seeing currently, it is much more of a balanced market. Sellers are more willing to compromise. This is good news for buyers!

Hope Peele is a licensed real estate agent with McEnearney Associates, Inc. in Alexandria, Virginia. She grew up in Old Town and currently lives in Del Ray. As a partner with The Peele Group, Hope is dedicated to guiding her clients successfully through the many faceted process of buying or selling a home. Contact Hope at 703-244-6115.

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: [email protected] or call 703-549-9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. www.McEnearney.com Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria