What’s this investigation period all about?
Congratulations, you’ve gone under contract on a home that you love… now all you have to do is wait for the closing. Well, I guess that is technically true, but you probably want to perform some due diligence on the home before you sign the dotted line to purchase it. The good news is that it’s pretty standard for purchase and sale agreements to include a due diligence period (aka the investigation period or inspection period) that allows the buyer to determine that the home is in satisfactory condition and that there aren’t any looming issues to worry about.
Maine is a buyer beware state, which basically means that its the responsibility of the buyer to do their homework prior to buying a home. The seller is required to disclose any known issues specific to the home, but ultimately the buyer should verify and/or inspect anything that they find important. The buyer also has sole discretion on what they consider to be a satisfactory result.
What Can I Have Inspected?
If you can think of it, you can inspect it… but, just because you can think of it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a good idea to do it. All inspections are done at the expense of the buyer, so you need to determine what’s most important to you and go from there.
Here are a few common items to inspect during the investigation period:
General Building Inspection – a home inspector will view and test the major systems of the home and let you know what issues might be out there. This is a great opportunity to learn more about your future home. Most buyers would benefit from a general home inspection.
Water Quality – this test applies mostly to homes with a private well on-site. You can test the water for bacteria, arsenic, and other key minerals to make sure the water is potable.
Septic – this test applies if you have a private septic tank on site to handle your waste water. The inspector can help determine the current condition of the system.
Air Quality – this can encompass testing for several factors, but radon air testing is fairly common in Maine.
Zoning and Land Use – if you plan on using the property for a specific manner (in-home business, raising livestock, converting to multiple units) then you may need to do some zoning and land use research to make sure that you will be conforming.
Survey – If you are looking for a particular size lot, or if you want to know your exact boundaries then you may want to have a survey done. Surveys can be expensive so you need to determine if it makes sense in your particular case.
Those are a few of the more common items to inspect, but the list is certainly not all-inclusive. Your agent can help you determine what is the best to do based on your needs.
Who Can I Have Inspect?
The buyer has complete control on who they choose to perform any and all inspections. You can choose someone that you already know, or your agent can most likely help direct you to a reputable inspector. It’s fairly common to have a home inspector perform the general building inspection. If any issues arrive that need to be looked into further, then you can have a technician or specialist in that field take a deeper look.
What Should I know Before the Inspection?
It’s important to know that there are no perfect homes out there. It’s the home inspector’s job to find potential issues with the home, so don’t be frightened if some things come up during the inspection. I would probably be much more concerned if nothing came up at all. It might seem like its all negative news coming at you, and well, thats kind of the whole point. Try to keep it positive and know that everything can be fixed. Some items that come up are easier to fix than it may seem, and a lot of items are mentioned to help you understand potential future issues or let you know about best practices for maintenance and upkeep.
Be ready to follow along with the inspection and ask questions during the inspection as they come up. This is a great chance to learn more about your future home, so don’t hold back. You can bring a pen and paper if you want, but the inspector will supply a report after the inspection is complete.
If you have any concerns about the property from the disclosures or from viewing the property, be sure to let the inspector ahead of time (or at the beginning of the inspection) that you would like him/her to look into anything specific.
What To Expect During the Inspection?
The inspector will inspect the exterior of the home including the siding, roof, windows, doors, electrical outlets, and the general grounds. The inspector will inspect the interior heating system, water (hot and cold), major appliances, electrical outlets, plumbing, and anything else that relates to the property. Inspectors in general do NOT include building code conformance or testing of smoke detectors in their scope of inspection.
The Inspection is Done… Now What?
That is entirely up to you. The buyer has the final say as to what you find to be acceptable or not based on the results of the inspection period. If you feel that the home is in satisfactory condition, then you don’t really have to do anything and you are ready to move on with the purchase.
What If the Results Aren’t Satisfactory?
That will very much vary on a case by case basis, so let’s not get into anything too specific right now. You do have options available to you though. You can elect to back out of the contract based on the results of your investigations, or you can try to negotiate with the seller to remedy your concerns with the property. Just know that any negotiations must be completely agreed upon by all parties before the deadline otherwise the due diligence contingency is waived.
There you have it – everything that you need to know to be ready to tackle the investigation period like a true pro. This period tends to be the most stressful time for a buyer, but having a strong understanding of what is most important to you in your home you will be able to simplify your decision. If you know what you need to verify and inspect before you’re ready to buy, then you can just go through the motions and give yourself a stress free investigation period by keeping it as objective as possible.
Have a great day and get out there and enjoying yourself!