A home inspection is an important part of the home-buying process, but its purpose is often misunderstood. Inspections offer valuable information, but a home does not “pass or fail” an inspection, nor is a seller required to repair any issues. In Washington DC, real estate sales contracts specify that homes are sold “as is”.

A home inspection is a visual examination of the accessible components of a home, performed by a licensed professional. The major components of an inspection include the foundation, roof, plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems. It is important to note that inspectors cannot open walls or review areas that are blocked or locked. If sprinklers are off for the season, they will not be inspected. At completion, the inspector will provide a report that gives an overview of a home’s condition, identifies potential problems, and outlines future maintenance and repairs. Homes are not graded, nor is a punch list provided of required seller repairs. Also, inspections are not guaranteed. If an HVAC reported in good condition breaks, there is no recourse.

We strongly recommend that buyers include a home inspection contingency or conduct a pre-inspection before making an offer. The standard Washington DC sales contract offers a contingency with the right to negotiate or with the right to terminate only, and allows buyers to determine the contingency deadline, usually 5-7 days, or even shorter in competitive markets. Sellers prefer offers with no contingencies, but if one is included, those with a short deadline and a terminate-only option are the most appealing.

No home is perfect, so buyers should expect the report to list some recommended repairs. If serious and costly issues are uncovered, a buyer may choose to walk away from the deal, regardless of the contingency option. With the right to negotiate, a buyer can ask for repairs to be completed by the seller, or for a credit. The homeowner, however, is not obligated to do either, and the contract becomes void.

We recommend our buyers should attend inspections to learn as much as possible about their new homes. We recommend inspectors who are experienced and explain the intricacies of how homes operate and function. Our agents are present at all inspections to answer questions and help clients make the best decisions.

If you are thinking about buying a home in 2023, we’d love to help. We have access to off-market properties that might be perfect for you. If you also have a home to sell, we can help you save on the prep and sale of your home too. Reach out a few months before you want to move so we can make a plan and help you make this happen.