Once a buyer and seller of California residential real estate agree to the terms of an offer, the escrow period begins. The first thing the buyer’s real estate agent should do after an offer is accepted is schedule a home inspection.
The home inspection is an out-of-pocket expense for the buyer and part of his/her due diligence. The home inspector will examine the home for about 2-3 hours and prepare a home inspection report. The report will evaluate nearly everything in the home and note areas that need attention or further investigation by a specialist. For example, a crack in the concrete slab may require a foundation specialist to provide a complete evaluation.
As the buyer, you want to review the home inspection report and work with your agent to prepare a Request for Repair (C.A.R. Form RR). Here are 4 things you should know before sending your request to the sellers:
1. Request for repairs hinge on a proper home inspection.
If you don’t know of any reputable home inspectors, ask your agent to recommend someone. Keep in mind that it is the buyer’s responsibility to chose the home inspector, so make sure you do research of your own. The home inspection is a critical part of the home buying process and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Ask for a sample inspection report from a potential home inspector. Avoid inspectors who use a short checklist-type report. These are often too vague and don’t tell you the specific area of concern. Your home inspection report should be clearly written, easy to read, objective and specific.
2. Request fair and reasonable repairs only.
Remember, in California all homes are sold in present “as-is” condition, unless otherwise agreed upon. Meaning, the seller does not have to make any repairs to the home. So, when requesting repairs be fair and reasonable. Focus on issues that involve health and safety. Focus on functional issues and avoid cosmetic issues.
3. Request for repairs are the second stage of negotiations.
This really is another opportunity to negotiate on price. The home inspection will bring to light issues of material fact, meaning something that was hidden and now that it is seen, may change a buyer’s decision to purchase the house. If the inspector calls out an issue, for example a roof leak. You can use this to negotiate a credit a closing to make the seller pay for the roof repair.
4. Obtain a cost estimate to support credit requests.
In order to know how much to ask the seller to credit you at closing, obtain a quote from a contractor who specializes in that trade. In the roof leak example, contact a roofer or two and request an estimate to fix the roof leak. Once you have the cost estimate, submit that with your request for repair to validate the requested amount. Don’t just come up with a number without any sort of written back up. The seller will likely reject it.
The best thing to do as part of your preparation to buy a home is to start researching and interviewing local home inspectors.