A buyer's right to do "an additional inspection"

This is a “real estate is local” post, as it refers to an option generally afforded to buyers in our local standard inspection clause (Form 35 item 1) b. on page 1).  Here in the Seattle Area, a buyer usually has the right to do “additional inspections”, IF the original Home Inspector recommends in writing that there be an additional inspection by a “specialist”.

When I am at an inspection I am listening very carefully to the inspector and waiting for him to red flag an item that needs an additional inspection.  It is the ONLY time I tell an inspector that I need him to say that, in writing, in the report.  They usually get mad when I do that and I try not to interfere with the inspector and his written report.  But if he says the buyer should get an additional inspection, but does not include the wording I need to invoke the “additional inspection” clause in the Inspection Addendum, we have a problem.

The buyer usually has X additional days to do the additional inspection (buyer pays for it), and the inspection response in its entirety is extended.  BUT the buyer must respond, in writing, by the end of the 1st inspection timeframe that they are doing a 2nd inspection, in order to gain the extended timeframe.  That request must include the portion of the 1st inspection that indicated the need for an additional inspection by a specialist.  There is a response form where you check a box noting that you are invoking your right under the original addendum section 1) b. to do an additional inspection, and you attach the 1st inspector’s recommendation regarding the need for a specialist inspection.

Everyone’s Inspection Addendum will be different as to the number of days you have for the 1st inspection and for additional inspections, so read your Addendum carefully.  The default in the forms I use show 10 days for the 1st inspection and an additional 5 days for additional inspections, but your contract may have a different amount of days written in the blank spaces.   The additional days are not automatic.  You must respond within the timeframe of the 1st inspection, and indicate your intention to do an additional inspection, in order to gain the additional days.  I can’t say this enough and so apologize if I have repeated it.

I don’t want to get bogged down in the forms here.  I want this to be a practical guide that focuses on how these situations actually play out.  The items that I have seen that required an additional inspection are:

Heater (“recommend the heater be checked by a qualified HVAC contractor)”

Roof (“recommend that the roof be inspected by a qualified…”

Septic System, Drainage Expert (evidence of water in crawl space or basement, either current or old water line mark), Structural Engineer for foundation cracks, fixes and shifting evidences, electrical, etc…

Generally speaking, an additional inspection involves a very costly item that is not obviously, currently, defective.  When a hot water tank is past its life expectancy, an inspector usually calls for it to be replaced, and not that it be inspected by a specialist.  When a heater or roof is nearing the end of its life expectancy, even if it is currently functioning adequately, the inspector usually calls for an additional inspection by a specialist.

The heater is often easier to deal with than a roof, in my experience.  The inspection cost in most cases is under $100.  I usually call for the specialist to service AND inspect it, as the service cost is about the same as an inspection cost, and includes an inspection.  I need the seller’s permission to service his heater, but I have yet to have a seller object.  If there is nothing wrong with it except that it is old, then a general home warranty that covers many items including the heater, is often part of the resolution to the heater being old.  The specialist will install new filters and note any parts that should be replaced.  Pretty simple stuff.

A roof is harder to deal with for many reasons.  Replacing the roof is not usually part of a home warranty like a heater is.  Some home warranties include leak patch work, some don’t deal with a roof at all, and I have yet to see one cover roof replacement.  Even if a roof is not currently leaking, the first inspector is often calling for a second inspection based primarily on the age factor.  Roof Math = Life Expectancy of that particular roof minus it’s current age.  A 20 year shingle that is 18 year’s old is often worse than a 35 year shingle that is 18 years old.  So age alone is not the issue, nor is currently defective or not defective  the only parameter that needs addressing.

Even if a roof is not leaking, if the 1st inspector says that the buyer should “plan for roof replacement” within 3-5 years, often the buyer wants the seller to address the issue.  Sometimes the buyer wants to STOP after the 1st inspection, and just ask for a new roof or a new heater or generally ask for all items to be replaced or fixed, when they should be moving to the “additional inspection” phase.

How you handle the matter is between you and your agent and the seller and the seller’s agent.  If the roof or the heater is 30 years old, often everyone agrees it needs a new one, even though it is not currently “defective”, without the need for an additional inspection.  But it often takes time to negotiate these things, and having a 2nd inspection gives you additional time and also pinpoints the actual cost involved.  The original inspector may give you a ballpark replacement cost, but a specialist will give you an actual “work order” and a cost the seller is more likely to consider valid.  The seller can then get his own estimate during his response timeframe to counter your request and estimate.

Jumping to asking for a repair based on the original inspector calling for an additional inspection by a specialist, is usually the wrong way to proceed, unless you know the seller is aware of the issue and has already anticipated it.  Sometimes the buyer wants the seller to pay for the additional inspection.  The contract indicates that the buyer pays for the additional inspection.  The seller should pay for any subsequent inspections that are needed for his counter proposal.  Say you submit a request for $17,000 for a new roof.  The seller would pay the cost for an additional inspection to counter with a different amount, attaching the work order from a different specialist.  He has a timeframe to respond in the original inpsection addendum as well.

There is no one right answer except TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE.  If you don’t want the house even if the seller fixed the problem, then you can cancel without calling for an additional inspection.  But if you still want the house as long as the seller adequately address a specific item, buy yourself that extra time to negotiate, by calling for and doing an additional inspection.

23 thoughts on “A buyer's right to do "an additional inspection"

  1. Hi Ardell,

    When I bought my home years ago (2001) The home inspection had already been completed. There was a sale that failed and I was able to use the existing inspection.

    Yes, that inspector recommended additional inspections for the furnace and for the roof, which I did get prior to closing.

    Question: Was it okay to use the former purchaser’s home inspection?

  2. You had one of those “roof math” houses 🙂 43 years old in 2001 (built in 1958) means it was either at the end of it’s second roof or the beginning of its third. Judging from your comment, I would guess it was at the end of the second.

    Have you had to put a roof on it since you bought it?

    It generally is not OK for you to use a former purchaser’s home inspection. First because many buyers would not like your using a report they paid for. Second because the inspector tells you many things you need to know that are not in the report, or not described in the report to the degree the inspector explains it. Also, hearing the tone and inflection of the inspector’s voice often gives you an indication of how serious the issue is…or is not.

    The inspector calling for an additional inspection on the heater is not a red flag in and of itself. Often the inspector will do that just because it hasn’t been serviced (with a service tag on the heater) within 12-24 months. Being there when he says to have it inspected often makes a big difference, as you can tell by his demeanor if he seems to be alarmed by something, or if he is just calling it because of the lack of the tag.

    The inspector doesn’t always call for an additional roof inspection, and seeing that in the report is usually an indication that he is alarmed about something. If you are present at the inspection, he usually talks about what is alarming him. But if he is not certain enough to put that issue in the writing, he will simply call for the additional inspection. Knowing what alarmed him is better, so that you can ask the specialist to make special note of the issues of concern.

    The only problem with “additional inspections” is that often they are done by people trying to sell you something, and they are not as “arm’s length” as the original inspector. Often, though not always, two or more people are called for the additional inspection to get a concensus opinion and cost.

    Sellers should always have the heater serviced right before they list the property for sale. By the time the inspection comes, the seller is often too occupied with offers and counter offers, etc, and the tag being dated the day before the home inspection seems a bid odd. No tag within 12 months or so is almost always a guaranteed call for an additional inspection, and could delay the process and even the closing date. So getting it serviced when you are preparing the house for sale is best.

  3. A couple of points:

    1. Using another inspection is risky, because the quality of inspectors varies. It doesn’t sound like this occurred in Jillayne’s case, but the other buyer’s inspector could have missed something major.

    2. The point about the additional inspection item needing to be part of the report is a good one. If something like that comes up during the inspection, I always point out to the inspector that I’ll need it to be mentioned. It may be the client doesn’t want to do the additional inspection, but it’s better to have it in the report. For example, we had a buyer buy a house in Tacoma that had electric forced air heat (Tacoma electricity at one time was dirt cheap). An additional inspection was part of the report, but electric furnaces have total of about two parts that need servicing ever, and the prior owner had one of those handy (elements) from the last time he/she repaired the heater.

  4. Isn’t it true that the buyer can do his own inspection? If that’s true, why can’t the buyer decide he needs (or wants) an additional inspection and request as much in writing to the seller within the initial inspection period thereby getting the additional inspection period?

    If you think that buyer self-inspections are not permissible, why do you think that?

  5. Marc, the buyer cannot just request additional time and get it. The procedure we’re talking about for additional time is built into the forms. If the inspector calls for an additional inspection in writing, you get that additional time automatically.

    I’ve not looked at whether you could accomplish the same thing by doing your own inspection and indicating in writing an additional inspection is necessary. I sort of doubt that would work, but it might fit within the language of the forms.

    • It in fact does work and is abused by buyers agents frequently to “buy” time for their clients to simultaneously shop around, etc.
      If you think about it, every inspection ever done probably on any house in all of history has had some statement from the inspector that an additional evaluation is necessary. They only identify red flags or any potential issues, even ones half the time that are silly, but they do to protect their own licenses.

      Trust me, its happened to me, a buyer shortened his inspection as we countered, but used the additional inspection clause to buy 5 more days (which equated to 7) while he shopped around and played negotiation games on other properties.

      Its a clause that needs modified and their needs to be accountability for abusing this clause. There are so many unethical people out there.

  6. Kary,

    I believe a viable argument may be made that Form 35 does not preclude self-inspection (and I vaguely recall case law on this or a similar point point) or, at a minimum, it is ambiguous on this point. Therefore Form 35 does not preclude the buyer from self-determining that additional inspections are necessary. In that case the buyer should be able to obtain the additional inspection period PROVIDED that he or she complies with the notice procedure for the additional inspection period and PROVIDED he or she is proceeding in good faith (due to the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing).

    This is not intended as legal advice and if any readers are in the position of deciding whether they’re entitled to an initial or additional inspection period they should consult their own attorney for guidance.

  7. Marc,

    There are ways to ask for more time. That would be very simple. If all you want is more time and not an “addtional inspection”, then you don’t check the additional inspection block.

    The contract says that the additional time is granted “to obtain the additional inspection by a specialist”.

    I am uncomfortable with people doing things other than what the contract calls for. As example, I saw a situation last year where the buyer cancelled “on inspection” 15 minutes before the inspection time.

    How can you cancel based on “the inspection” if there was no inspection?

    If someone has an Earnest Money deposit of $10,000, best not to move into gray areas that save you $100 and could lose you $10,000.

    I agree that you, as an attorney, could likely come up with a defense for using the additional inspection request without a second trip to the property. But that probably costs more in legal fees than a 2nd inspection of the item, which could easily be free.

    I agree that someone’s Dad might be more of a “specialist” than the buyer, and the Dad checking out the heater or roof would qualify as a second inspection by a “specialist”. But I think we would all agree that the extra time is about the specialist coming during that time, and so the specialist needs to be someone who was not present at the original inspection. The buyer WAS present at the original inspection, and so I don’t believe qualifies under the need to get someone different out to the property.

    I have seen the specialist be someone’s cousin. Pretty much anyone with greater knowledge of the item than the buyer or the original inspector would qualify.

  8. Kary and Marc,

    If memory serves me, the Inspection Addenda was recently changed so as not to require the portion of the Inspector’s Report noting the need for repair when making a repair request as a result of the original inspection, but NOT so on the additional inspection.

    I agree with Marc that the ORIGINAL inspection can be done by the buyer. The additional inspection requires a “specialist”, though the buyer could simply strike out the word “specialist” where it appears a few times in paragraph b.

    Often what is happening in that time is that the buyer is getting bids for the item in order to formulate a request. Say it is pretty obvious it needs a new roof from the original inspection. The buyer may call for additional inspections to get 2-3 roof bids in order to put a $ amount in the remedy request.

    Say the original inspector doesn’t actually say a new heater is needed, because it is working, but is 5 years past its life expectancy. The buyer may already know after the original inspection that he won’t buy the house without some accommdation for a new heater. He uses the additional inspection time to get bids for the cost of a new heater, not to determine if he wants one or not.

  9. Marc #4,

    Look at the language governing the terms of the inspection vs. the language and terms governing the “additional inspection by a specialist”. The question isn’t whether the buyer can call for the addtional inspection. The question is can the buyer delay the additional days without having someone other than themsevles DO the additional inspection.

    If they cancel the contract at the end of the additional period without having done an additional inspection…well, it’s not worth the risk of losing your Earnest Money.

  10. Marc, looking at the form (you caused me to actually look), I’d be a bit more comfortable if the “inspector” was a family member of the buyer and they called for the additional inspection in writing, than if the “inspector” was the buyer. So looking at the form, I don’t think it is entirely clear that self-inspection works. I doubt that’s ever been litigated in a reported decision. But I wouldn’t recommend it to a client. If they backed out, and the seller contested, their earnest money would be at risk (and tied up). If someone feels that confident about their ability to inspect, it would be better if they actually paid an inspector and went to the inspection to get second opinions on items of interest. Inspections are usually less than .5% of the cost of the transaction. Not really a prime area to save money.

    I’m having a bit of a time seeing where this would come up. If the buyer is the inspector, then presumably they’d be familiar with the property prior to making the offer to the extent they’d know the specialist they wanted to bring in. For example, they’d have looked at the furnace and roof. I suppose plumbing might be an issue, because not every buyer would turn on every faucet in a home prior to making an offer, or maybe a foundation issue. But often they’d be able to bring in the specialists within the original inspection period because they’d already know what those specialists would be.

  11. “If you think that buyer self-inspections are not permissible, why do you think that?”

    I have had buyers do their own inspections, especially on fixers where much of what exists is going to be replaced by the buyer anyway. Often they bring along one of the subcontractors who is going to do the work. More often buyers who do their own inspections, do so before they make an offer, so as to include any repair costs in their offer. Those that do their own inspections prior to offer, often use the original inspection to bring in subcontractors for bidding purposes. Rarely do they invoke the “additional inspection” timeframe.

  12. I’d agree that, as a practical matter, where a buyer self-inspects and then seeks the additional inspection period he or she most likely would do so in order for a “specialist” to come in and look at some item that is beyond the buyer’s expertise or comfort level or to provide a bid for repair/replacement. I’m sure I could come up with a hypothetical where an “additional

  13. Marc,

    I am not suggesting that a buyer “should” do their inspection prior to offer if they are going to self-inspect. I’m saying that in my experience those that do self inspect, tend to do do that prior to offer. They use the “no inspection contingency” card to help the low ball offer get accepted. If the owner is selling a fixer, a lowball with no inspection contingency and a fast close may be of more value than a higher offer with an inspection contingency. It wouldn’t be the first time a seller accepted a lower offer with no inspection contingency, especially if they fear the results of an inspection.

  14. Marc,

    Do you think a buyer can cancel on inspection if no one came to the house to do an inspection during the inspection timeframe, be that the original inspection or the additional inspection?

  15. “I’m having a bit of a time seeing where this would come up. If the buyer is the inspector, then presumably they’d be familiar with the property prior to making the offer”

    I think it depends on if the property is occupied or not occupied. I think if the property is occupied it would be too intrusive for a buyer to schedule an appointment for “a showing” and then start taking 3 hours to crawl into attics, remove the cover of the electrical panel, etc…

    Making an appointment to show a property is not the same as making an appointment to do an inspection. The rights granted to someone during an inspection emanate from the contract provision. So with no contract signed by all parties, crawling around in someone’s crawl space and attic or walking around on their roof would present issues of liability, I would think.

    What if something gets broken during the inspection? I have the same problem when a buyer hires an inspector, and the buyer starts pulling on wires and things that are “intrusive” during the inspection. The inspector has insurance to cover his breaking things…but does the inspector’s insurer cover the buyer himself breaking something during the inspection?

    When the inspector invites the buyer onto the roof, what happens if the buyer falls through a soft spot? We’ve all been in those nervous situations. The faster people move around touching things all over the place, the more nervous I get 🙂 Sometimes you have an inspector and the buyer and family members all running around pulling at windows and doors and screens and wires…oh and my favorite, taking out a pocket knife and gouging out wood rot in the window sills or wood siding and leaving a big hole where before the was no hole.

  16. “Do you think a buyer can cancel on inspection if no one came to the house to do an inspection during the inspection timeframe, be that the original inspection or the additional inspection?”

    Ardell, I’d ask you why not? Isn’t the Form 35 inspection entirely subjective? If that’s the case isn’t making the buyer go through the formality of an “inspection” (whatever that means) a distinction without a difference. If the seller wanted to avoid “buyer’s remorse” he or she should have refused the inspection contingency or modified it in some fashion to limit or eliminate the subjectivity.

    I recall a very similar discussion quite awhile ago with Kary in which we debated whether certain acts constituted an “inspection,” e.g., a buyer’s first visit to the property, a buyer’s viewing of online photographs, etc. Arguably these could satisfy the inspection requirement.

  17. Marc wrote: “Both Ardell and Kary seem to suggest that a self-inspecting buyer will (or should) complete their initial inspection prior to making an offer. I’d say this is a subjective point of view on the issue and while I do not disagree with it I would caution against over-generalizing. For instance, in the current market savvy buyers are making lots of low ball offers in hopes of landing a big bargain. Why bother with a pre-inspection where one plans to make a low ball offer?”

    I’m thinking you’re a mind reader, or perhaps have a camera looking at my screen, because I started to write something like that and then backed off (or at least I think I did).

    A pre-inspection is an option, but I didn’t mean to go so far as to say it’s something that the buyer should do. It’s an option they should consider.

    There are at least two schools of thought on that. One is that if you’re going in with a low offer you’re better off waiving inspection, because you can point out that the offer is not going to get any worse after the inspection. The second is that the inspection gives you another opportunity to negotiate further reductions. Personally I prefer the first from the stand point that is shows better good faith. But again really the issue just doesn’t come up that often–most buyers want inspections.

    Ardell, re 15, I’d largely agree. I was thinking more of unoccupied property and getting permission.

    As to 14, we had a situation where the “inspection” consisted of the buyer driving her family past the house. They never went inside, but didn’t like either the exterior or the neighborhood (or both). I don’t think that gave our seller any grounds to object. I bring that up because I think proof of no inspection would be a bit difficult. It doesn’t require a complete inspection.

  18. Form 35 refers to the inspections being done by “inspectors of buyer’s choice.” I think the general consensus is that the buyer can be the inspector under that clause. I’m not so sure the general consensus is correct, in that you could argue that language contemplates third parties. If a client was contemplating self-inspection, that would put the agent in a tough position.

    To allow self inspection would be sort of like if you appointed some guy to determine who is the best candidate for Vice President, and he selected himself! 😉

  19. I think even on additional inspections, the form contradicts itself under “BUYER’S NOTICE 3) that Buyer will conduct additional inspections”, though I still think item b referring to “by a specialist” is the good faith interpretation.

    I have not had a seller client of mine complain about any of these issues, except a buyer gouging a hole in their door the size of a tennis ball during a showing. That was not good. I don’t know what makes people think they are entitiled to do things like that. I have seen and heard many sellers who are not my clients complaining that a buyer cancelled on inspection, without any major problems appearing in the inspection report. Clearly the seller believes that “cancelling on inspection” should be about the inspection. So there really isn’t a meeting of the minds when a buyer includes an Inspection Contingency and then uses it to another purpose, like simply changing his mind without inspecting the property.

    During the hot market I have seen EBAs (Exclusive Buyer Agents) counsel buyers to use the offer to tie up the property, and use the inspection timeframe to decide if they want the property or not. When you are forced to make an offer within an hour, that seemd to be a means of proceeding that became necessary in many situations. Not so much today.

    Ancient History: When and Where I started in real estate, the buyer could not cancel on inspection unless the aggregate of all inspection DEFECTS exceeded $_______ dollars. The blank was filled in at time of offer. “defects” was the standard and there was a list of allowable “defects”. I’ve had the blank filled in as low as $500 and as high as $10,000, depending on the property and the offer. On a foreclosure property where the bank wanted the offer to be “as-is”, we agreed to “as-is” as long as the total defects discovered during the inspection did not exceed $10,000. They didn’t. The buyer bought the property. I actually represented the seller/bank (mortgage company) and worked out the compromise with the buyer who was not represented. No buyers were represented back then. All agents represented sellers and we had the duty to be “fair” to all parties. The duty to be “fair” to all parties was eliminated from the Code of Ethics shortly thereafter. Honest – yes; Fair – no.

Leave a Reply