Imagine finding that dream home, but the seller mentions it has multiple offers on it. In a super competitive or “hot” real estate market, it can take offering concessions and removing “contingencies” to place the winning bid. A recently popular contingency waiver is forgoing the home inspection.
Whether this is a good idea or not can be debated, and one should consider certain factors before choosing this path.
One factor driving the fierce competition in the home buying market is the low number of houses on the market. According to Zillow’s monthly market report in January 2022, there were about 833,000 homes available.
That’s half of the 1.5 million available in 2020 before the pandemic started. Lack of supply can cause homebuyers to want to win a bid to remove the home inspection—and other contingencies—to beat the competition.
According to Redfin, a national real estate brokerage, through February 2021, home inspection contingencies were waived in successful offers 13.2% of the time, up from 7% in 2019, and in 2021, that number jumped to 21% among successful bids from Redfin agents.
Dill Ward, a Realtor® for 13 years with Living Room Realty in Portland, Oregon explains.
“It’s quite common to waive inspections in the investor space, but with how competitive the market has been, even first-time homebuyers are doing anything and everything to get an edge,” she says. “The buyer is doing is waiving this contingency, giving the seller more certainty as the buyer can’t renegotiate the price, ask for repairs, or terminate the transaction without risking their earnest money.”
There are considerations on both sides to factor in whether waiving the home inspection is the right decision, depending on the circumstances.
- It can be quite common for investment property purchases and house flippers to do without an inspection—when the buyer has the capital to cover any problems that might arise or have already budgeted for the cost of the flip.
- With inventory low and high competition for homes, offers without contingencies can be seen as stronger than ones with contingencies.
- New homes under builder warranty and/or homes where the seller had several reports done in the last 12 months are less risky.
“If someone absolutely wants a specific house, knows there’s a lot of competition and is uncertain if they are going to be able to compete on price, it can be the winning term,” says Ward. “It can also help if the home has sold previously within the last few years, has a previous inspection available for review, or the buyer has a background in construction.”
- Not finding potentially hazardous items in a home that could lead to dangerous conditions for buyers and their families
- Having to pay for costly repairs that a professional inspector would have caught
- The loss of earnest or deposit money placed with an offer.
Ward notes that if a home hasn’t been sold or inspected in a long-time, not doing an inspection could have huge financial consequences. “People living in their houses generally don’t inspect their attics and crawlspaces, so many don’t know what they don’t know,” she says.
“The homeowner could have done many things D.I.Y terribly, or not to code, such as missing smoke or carbon detectors, pest infestation, water damage, mold, or sewer issues,” which can cause the new buyer more headaches down the road.
Mary Cronan Lawler, of Windermere Homes & Estates, in San Diego, CA, has been a licensed agent since 2004. She some buyers will buy the home “as is,” but reserve the right to have the home inspected to find out about any structural or systems issues.
“That is information-gathering,” she says. “If something of significance is found, the buyer has this information and can make an informed decision to go forward with the escrow and purchase with the knowledge of potential defects or items that may need to be repaired or replaced. Information is power.”
Their only loss at that point is their deposit or earnest money, which may be significantly lower than the cost of the repairs or replacements in the future.
But this tactic is not for every buyer or situation.
Lawler says, “I have rarely written offers where the inspection is waived, but I always strongly recommend having an inspection done by an experienced professional who will do a thorough look at the home.”
Ward also feels it’s not been a big part of business in her market. She says, “In Portland, it does happen, but it’s still an overall small percentage of total sales.” Instead, she says, “I’ve seen buyers are more willing to throw more money at the price instead of foregoing inspections.”
Increasing the purchase price (including down payment amount), having a pre-approved loan offer, and adding an escalation clause or information inspection are three ways buyers try to successfully win the bid without dismissing the inspection entirely.
Fewer buyers are pursuing this avenue though, according to a survey done by the National Association of Realtors in December 2021. The survey noted that 19% of buyers waived their inspection, down from its peak of 27% in July 2021. The study also noted a higher fraction of buyers did not sign away any contract contingencies—40% in December 2021 from 21% in June 2021.
The decision to skip a home inspection to secure a home of choice can be difficult in a hot real estate market. A lower inventory of available homes can make this even more challenging. In most cases, Realtors® ultimately say a home inspection is vital to the home buying process and should not be overlooked for peace of mind.
Risk-takers or those with the means to cover the unexpected may choose to waive to secure a property with multiple offers. As Maureen Martin, a mortgage broker in San Diego, CA says, “The more people you can push out the way to secure your dream home, the more likely to get your offer accepted.” Until the market slows down, it may just take this push to get that property.
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This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
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Kelley Dukat is a freelance writer, photographer, and event planner currently based in the United States. She has spent the last year as a nomad travelling and house sitting. She holds a Journalism degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder and previously served as a trade magazine editor. Her favorite include dog friendly travel, road trips, nomad life. She is currently working on a memoir, and a series of personal essays.