Try Before You Buy? How a Pre-Offer Inspection Could Hurt Buyers’ Chances

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You wouldn’t buy a car without kicking the tires, right? Well, likewise, there’s no reason why you should buy a house without having an inspection first.

For most buyers, the home inspection happens after their offer has been accepted by the sellers. But did you know that you can order an inspection before submitting an offer?

If you’re the type of buyer who wants to cover all of the bases before jumping in head first, you can have your real estate agent speak to the sellers and request a pre-offer inspection. However, it might end up doing more harm than good. Here’s a look at the pros and cons.

Reasons To Get A Pre-Offer Inspection

It might seem like you’re putting the cart before the horse, but there are actually several advantages to a pre-offer inspection.

“It can help ensure buyers that they are focusing on properties that fall within their requirements,” says Ruth Shin, founder and CEO of Brooklyn, NY-based PropertyNest. In fact, she recommends it for properties that seem to be too good to be true.

You don’t want to go through the hassle of putting an offer on a home that could turn out to be problematic.

“A pre-offer inspection gives you the ability to discover issues with the home that make you hesitant to move forward with the purchase,” says George Beylouny, senior branch manager and construction specialist at Silverton Mortgage in Woodstock, GA.

Especially if you’re buying a home “as is,” you’ll want to know, in no uncertain terms, exactly what shape the home is in.

For example, you may encounter major problems that could change your mind about purchasing the property.

“If the interior walls and ceilings have visible water damage, or there are uneven floors, cracks, or other signs of potential structural or foundation issues, it could warrant getting those issues checked out upfront,” says Andrew Sacks, licensed real estate salesperson at Citi Habitats in New York. “Before you become emotionally invested in the property, you need to have those potential red flags investigated.”

Additionally, a pre-offer inspection can help you submit a more realistic offer.

“You can make an offer that reflects the true condition of the home and takes into account any necessary work that needs to be performed,” says Sacks. He says that any negative findings will justify an offer below asking price.

A pre-offer inspection can also reveal the commitment level of both parties.

“If buyer and seller agree to a pre-offer inspection, it shows that everyone involved is serious about the sale,” says Beylouny.

Disadvantages Of A Pre-Offer Inspection 

Being a super sleuth may not work in your favor. Some sellers might not be motivated to schedule a time for an inspector to come through, and it could leave a bad taste in their mouth.

“You will need to get permission from the seller before pursuing a pre-offer inspection, which may be difficult to obtain,” warns Beylouny.

This action could also decrease how competitive your offer is.

“One risk of such a request is that the seller may go with another buyer who is prepared to make an offer without any preconditions,” says Beylouny. A pre-inspection is not a contract, which means the seller isn’t contractually obligated to you, and could end up selling to someone else.

Another issue: the cost of a pre-offer inspection.

“Potential buyers would be paying for this service, which can cost hundreds of dollars, without knowing if they and the current owners can come to an agreement over the sales terms,” warns Sacks. “It’s a risk to pay for the inspection before the final sales price, closing date, contingencies etc. have been negotiated.”

And if you get in the habit of requesting pre-offer inspections for every questionable home you view, you’ll end up spending a lot of money.

“Before deciding whether or not to request a pre-offer inspection, make sure you have a good reason to do so and are prepared for the possibility of losing your opportunity to purchase the property,” Beylouny says.