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Real Estate Q&A – The Low-Down on Listing Home Inspection Costs

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By Thomas Musil

consumer-lead-home-inspection1RISMEDIA, June 5, 2009-(MCT)-Question: I have been looking for a house. I was driving in an area that I like and noticed a house I had long admired had just gone up for sale. I called the listing Realtor, viewed the house and made an offer which was accepted. The owner of the house had purchased it only two years before. She said it was inspected at that time and they found no problems and she had no problems with the house since. Fortunately I opted to have it inspected anyway.

First off it was determined that the house needed serious pier work (about $12,000). The foundation inspector said it was due to drainage problems. Now we have a landscape/drainage inspector on board. He says an additional $6,000 will fix it. All three inspectors, general, drainage, and foundation, are concerned that these problems may have compromised the heat/air ducts that are in the slab foundation.

Now we have to call in a HVAC person and a plumber and I am writing checks to cover these inspections. The HVAC guy says “yes, the ducts have a problem and there is asbestos in them.”

Now that isn’t all, the upstairs heat system isn’t functioning properly and is so old parts can’t be obtained and must be replaced and there is mold behind it. You guessed it … now we need a roofing expert. Forgot to mention that this is a flat roof.

I suppose that by now you are wondering why I haven’t run screaming into the sunset. Well, I love the house, I love the area and it meets my very specific and hard-to-meet needs. The owner is sitting right there through all this and actually seems to be shocked by all that is being discovered.

Amazingly we come to an agreement as to the cost of all these repairs and a contract is made. I have paid out nearly $800 in inspection fees. A week later the Realtor called and said the whole thing is a no go as there is a lien against the house caused by a former lover of the owner. This person’s name is also still on the deed. The owner has no money to pay off this lien and there will be no proceeds to pay it either.

My question to you is….shouldn’t someone (other than just me) kick in on all these inspection costs since the house really wasn’t available to be sold in the first place? Thanks for reading my pitiful saga.

Answer: Unfortunately there is no one but you to pay these fees. You contracted with the various inspectors as part of the due-diligence process of investigating the purchase of the property. If you really want the house (which I would not recommend) keep an eye on it for future sale or foreclosure. If the house comes back on the market offer a price that reflects the poor condition and necessary repairs. Beware of possible additional repairs that you have not identified or that have developed since your inspectors visited the property. There is an old saying in the real estate business: “there is nothing wrong with a house that a price won’t cure.”

Dr. Thomas Musil is the director of the Shenehon Center for Real Estate in the Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. He has more than 25 years of experience in real estate as a broker, analyst, consultant and expert witness in real estate litigation and arbitration disputes. E-mail questions to: tamusil(at-sign)stthomas.edu. Please include your name, city and state.

©2009, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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