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Hire a professional
inspector to survey all parts of the house, including the structure,
roof, exterior, the major systems (electrical, heating, cooling, and
ventilation), and appliances that will stay. The inspector may spot
existing as well as potential problems, and will suggest remedies.
You can build an
inspection contingency into the Purchase Agreement. Ideally this
should be a blanket clause that requires the seller to make
legitimate repairs, or if the seller is unwilling to do this, would
allow you to cancel the contract.
If the inspection does
turn up some flaws, a seller often is willing to make necessary
repairs or adjust the price. Or he or she may refuse. It all depends
upon how much effort, or cash, both parties are willing to spend.
On the other hand, some
sellers may institute their own inspections, which can be an
incentive to a buyer. After all, it saves you time and money, and
says something about the assurances the seller is willing to make.
Even so, there are advantages to conducting your own inspection.
You'll have the opportunity to tour the house with the inspector who
can point out possible trouble or tell you how to avoid it. And
though the seller's inspection may certify the house trouble-free
with only minor flaws, those flaws may be important to you.
Finally, make sure that
a comprehensive inspection report is in writing. Although you wisely
will take lots of notes while you tour the house with the inspector,
the official report will serve as the contingent document in any
deviation from your contract. If there are major problems, use the
report as an aid that will allow the seller to remedy the situation,
or void the contract.