Real Estate

The Role of Home Inspections and Seller Disclosures in Buying a House

Before you buy a home, you should have it inspected by a qualified inspector. This is done to make sure that there are no defects that you might not discover until after the home is already yours. The buyer may have already had the home inspected by a professional home inspector and offer to share this report with you. Nevertheless, you should hire your own inspector.

You Can Lose Your Legal Rights by Neglecting a Home Inspection

As a new homeowner, any defects in the home you bought become your responsibility. Ideally, major defects are addressed before you agree to purchase the home. After closing, you may be able to sue the seller if you can prove that the seller made a false statement about the condition of the home or intentionally concealed a known defect. An inspection should reveal any defects in advance.

Many States Require Sellers to Provide Written Disclosures

Many states, including Illinois and New York, require sellers to provide buyers with state-authorized forms before the purchase contract is signed. These forms list various items, such as electrical and heating systems, and require the seller to reveal any known problems. State disclosure laws do not require sellers to base their answers on a formal inspection.

The seller may answer "unknown" to a question about structural problems, for example, as long as the answer is truthful. For this reason, disclosure forms are no substitute for hiring your own inspector. Remember that an appraisal is not the same as an inspection and can't be substituted for one.

Take Care to Select a Qualified Inspector

An inspection by a qualified home inspector costs several hundred dollars. In return, the inspector will carefully evaluate the home you want to buy and provide you with a detailed written report. Private organizations such as the American Society of Home Inspectors maintain standards of practice for home inspectors and can help you locate one in your area.

So can your lawyer. However, there is no national certification or licensing process. Most states do not even license home inspectors. Make sure your home inspector has extensive experience in real estate and construction. If your state licenses home inspectors, insist on seeing the license.

You Can Negotiate With the Seller if the Inspection Reveals Defects

Your purchase contract should include an inspection clause. Then, if the home inspection reveals significant problems, you can ask for a discount on the price equal to amount you need to arrange for repairs yourself.

Alternatively, you might ask the seller to fix the defects and pay for another home inspection before you purchase the home. The inspection clause might also allow you to cancel the deal and demand your earnest money back from the seller.

A Real Estate Lawyer Can Help

The law surrounding property inspections before buying a home is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a real estate lawyer.

Have a residential real estate question?
Get answers from local attorneys.
It's free and easy.
Ask a Lawyer

Get Professional Help

Find a Residential Real Estate lawyer
Practice Area:
Zip Code:
How It Works
  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Connect with local attorneys

Talk to an attorney

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you