Buying a Los Angeles Home, How to Negotiate the Inspection Phase. Carefully

Congratulations, you are the successful buyer of a Los Angeles home, leaving many other buyers disappointed. With your Realtor® you negotiated your way to this stage.  Now comes more negotiation, equally as important as during the initial offer phase.

I am sure that a big part of you being the buyer of choice was the fact that your agent helped you write a clean offer which would have included a short inspection contingency period.  The standard period written in the contract is 17 days, but no listing agent worth their salt would allow that to stand.  I like to be really aggressive and write 5-7 days.  You can always get an inspector or if needed, inspectors, in quickly.

You the buyer need to be present at the inspection to hear the verbal findings they generally supply at the end and to ask relevant questions.  And a good inspector will have the written report back to you the same day or the next so that you can review the results.  Now comes the tricky part.

Many inspectors like to draw attention to every problem by highlighting them in red and giving them codes, like suggest repair, suggest further investigation, could be hazardous, etc.  That makes the report easy to read and we tend to zone in on those points.  However, they also may cause alarm to the buyer who thinks that the property is about to collapse. And this after they sat with the inspector who told them that the home was in pretty good condition.

The inspector has to cover every eventuality for legal reasons and the report needs to be interpreted with care.

So, how do we address an inspection report with 20 plus items of less than perfection noted on it?  We use our common sense and address items of major concern. Many of the items in the first section would require separate inspection by experts.

  • Cracks in the foundation. 
  • Electrical system not up to code.
  • Heating or air conditioning that does not work.
  • Roof at the very end of its life that needs immediate or imminent repair or replacement.
  • Cracks in the chimney. This would require further inspection by an expert.
  • Major leaks
  • Evidence of termites.
  • Evidence of mold

What are not major are:

  • GFI plugs (circuit breakers). 
  • Missing stoppers in the sink
  • Missing lightbulbs
  • Cosmetic items like broken screen doors or door handles
  • Doors that don’t close properly
  • Basically anything that a handyman can fix at not too great an expense

The general inspector does not cover a sewer inspection in the case of a single family home or any determination concerning the geology of a property. You should most certainly have a sewer inspection, and if there is any concern about the stability of a hill for example then a geologist should be brought in.

The first set are examples that should be addressed either by requesting repair or a credit. A Request for Repairs would be sent to the Seller who would either agree or counter your request.  The second set you can request but in a competitive situation you may want to take care of these minor items yourself.

The main thing to take into consideration is that should you not come to agreement over the repairs and threaten to back out of the deal, there may be a buyer in backup position ready to jump in.  So depending on how much you want the home, what kind of market it is, and where you are with your budget, negotiating the repair stage of the process should be done with care.


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