Should I get a home inspection before signing a contract to buy the house?

Friday, July 27, 2018

We occasionally get a request to do a home inspection for a buyer before they have a purchase contract. It is usually on a for-sale-by-owner property, because sellers that are represented by a realtor are routinely advised not to allow any inspections until there’s a contract and earnest money in escrow, which demonstrates that the buyer is serious.

    We don’t recommend doing a before-contract inspection. The buyers that request one often tell us “Well, I don’t want to buy the property if there’s something wrong with it,” or they are concerned that they won’t get their escrow money back if they decide not to buy the house. If you are not represented by a realtor or a real estate attorney, it is possible to get into a contract with no refund of your deposit allowed. But the standard real estate contract in Florida (FARBAR) allows the buyer to walk away from the deal for just about any reason after the inspection if they are not satisfied.

    Your realtor or attorney will clarify what your rights are before your sign the purchase contract, regarding canceling the contract after the inspection and getting your money back. The money is held in an escrow account this is not controlled by the seller, so the risk of not getting the money refunded is minimal.

    Also, when you inspect the house before reaching an agreement on the price, you lose the opportunity for a second round of negotiation to adjust the it after the inspection, based on the defects found by the inspector. While there is no guarantee that the seller will budge on the price, it happens pretty often, and sellers have more incentive to work something out when there is already a deal in hand.

    Also, see our blog post Should I trust the Seller's Property Disclosure Statement?

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  To learn more strategies for getting the best possible home inspection, here’s a few of our other blog posts:

How can I make sure I don't get screwed on my home inspection? 

How thorough is a home inspector required to be when inspecting a house?

Can I do my own home inspection?

How can homebuyers protect themselves against buying a house over a sinkhole? 

The seller gave me a report from a previous home inspection. Should I use it or get my own inspector? 

    To read about issues related to homes of particular type or one built in a specific decade, visit one of these blog posts:

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1940s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1950s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1960s house?

• What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1970s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1980s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1990s house?

What problems should I look for when buying a country house or rural property? 

What problems should I look for when buying a house that has been moved?

What problems should I look for when buying a house that has been vacant or abandoned?

What are the most common problems with older mobile homes?

What do I need to know about a condo inspection?

What are the "Aging In Place" features to look for when buying a retirement home?

   Visit our HOME INSPECTION page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.

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