Q: My partner and I are buying our first home together, but we can’t afford to spend a lot. We finally found a nice place, and the owner admits that it needs a little work. It’s a FSBO listed as a “fixer-upper.” The problem is that he wants to sell it as-is – no inspections. My partner says no way, and we’ll find something else. The bank also said no way. I understand that, but I really love the house. What could be uncovered in an inspection that isn’t in the seller’s disclosures?
A: Yikes! Okay, first thing is that seller’s disclosures are completely different from inspections. Seller’s disclosures are simply the representation of known facts about the property. They are required by Florida law, but there is not an official form, but you can find samples here, here, and here. If there turns out to be a major defect discovered later that an inspection could have uncovered, the seller can always claim that they didn’t know about the defect and since they didn’t know, could not have been expected to disclose it to you, they buyers. This leaves you with no legal recourse to sue or recover from the seller any expense that repairs will cost. Additionally, many insurance companies will not underwrite a home without an inspection report – even if it’s a brand spanking new home.
Inspections are completely different. For one, inspections are allowed to be performed only by state licensed and certified professionals, and you should always confirm with the DBPR that the license is valid. Inspectors don’t just look at a house, look at the disclosures, and verify them. Home inspection is a whole different undertaking altogether. A home inspection has to cover the safety of the structure, plumbing, HVAC, roofing, electrical systems, site conditions, and other specifics of the home and property. Furthermore, an inspection can reveal repairs that will need to be made, illegal additions or construction, or reveal deal-breaking inaccuracies in the disclosures.
Here’s a bit of advice, and it’s meant only with the best of intentions. If you do not have a licensed real estate agent, get one and work with them. A real estate agent is there to represent your best interests, as is a home inspector. If your buyer will not cooperate with an agent, or with an inspection, the first thing you look at on that house is the front door, and get yourselves out of it as fast as possible. You have worked hard to save the money for a down payment and other expenses, and you deserve the best that you can afford. You don’t deserve to buy a house blindly and then discover major and expensive fixes that need to be made, or even that the house is unfit to inhabit. I hope that you find the home you both want, and that we’ll see you when the time comes to close and insure your title. Feel free to browse the blog, there are a lot of informative articles!