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.