In competitive market, real estate experts warn against forgoing home inspections

Photo of Nicole Funaro

Seeing dozens of bids for a single home has become commonplace in Connecticut. The rate of home sales in the state continues to run wild. And home buyers in Connecticut are doing everything they can to stand out in a market with steep home competition.

According to previous Hearst Connecticut reporting, the U.S. Postal Service reported in 2020 more than 10,000 relocations to Connecticut from New York, which results in “double and triple-digit increase” in the number of homes sold last year. 

With buyers scrambling to find and purchase a home in a market that waits for no one, experts shared why doing an inspection is important in order to protect your investment while purchasing a home. 

Standing out without forgoing an inspection

The competition for homes in this almost post-pandemic market has spurred some prospective buyers to make their offers more enticing by choosing to forgo a home inspection, according to previous Hearst Connecticut reporting. However, Vincent Averaimo, partner at Milford Law, LLC., said waiving this option for the sake of speed is not a good idea. 

“You’re buying what can be considered one of the most expensive assets in your lifetime,” he said. “Yet at times, you’re feeling rushed to the table to either sign an agreement or feeling rushed to negate some rights."

In fact, Averaimo said waiving the option for an inspection can open the door to larger issues after the home is purchased. 

“That’s a problem — it’s a big problem,” he said. “Frankly, being that I’ve done this for 20 years and that I’ve practiced in real estate closings and real estate litigation for 20 years, this is where as a buyer, you’re going to run into significant issues where in many instances, there’s little recourse for you.”

What home buyers should do instead is pose an alternative in their final offers to make their bid stand out from others. 

“If you decide you want to make your offer look better to a multiple-offer situation by waiving your right to an inspection, that’s completely your prerogative,” Averaimo said.

“But really what you should waive is your ability to ask for a credit or reduction in purchase price based on inspection results — but still do the inspection.”

This way, opting for an inspection without factoring home repairs into final negotiations for the home gives buyers valuable information to help inform their potential purchase, Averaimo said.   

“At least you have the opportunity where — if you find significant issues or things that you consider as a buyer to be significant issues in the home — you can back out of that transaction and receive a return of your deposit,” he said. “That just gives you a better ability as a buyer to go in eyes wide open.”

Averaimo also suggests making a larger down payment on a home if possible over waiving the option for an inspection prior to the purchase of a home. 

If you find problems after moving in

For Nick Gromicko, founder of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), home inspections are designed to be able to find the larger — and more costly — issues hidden in a property. 

“When people are spending that much money, often the most they’ll ever spend on one item in their lifetime, they just want reassurance,” he said.

“Actually, when inspectors find defects, they are more assured that they’ve made the right decision," Gromicko said. "It’s nice when the inspector picks out what’s wrong with a property and then you get a sense that you’re actually buying what you think you’re buying.” 

If a homeowner finds too many issues in their house after moving in, Gromicko said they can turn to InterNACHI to buy back their house and live in it while they look for a new one. However, this option can only be pursued if they used an InterNACHI-certified inspector who participates in the organization’s home buyback program; a list of participating inspectors is published on their website. 

Gromicko said having the program has helped alleviate some of the more challenging complaints InterNACHI has received.

“If someone is so upset that they’re ready to bash you on social media, they’re ready to file insurance claims, they’re ready to go to the state and try to take your license or ready to go to the attorneys and sue everybody including the real estate agent — if you’re that level as a consumer, I’m just going to buy your house,” he said. “You can sit there, find a new house and get out, and everybody’s happy.” 

Legal recourse

No matter how closely an inspector reviews a home, Gromicko said he considers all home inspections to be “imperfect” since they can miss issues in a property hidden within walls or elsewhere in the home.

“An inspector’s duty is to report all the defects that he or she finds after following our standards of practice. That is a different group of defects that finding ‘all defects,’” he said. “No inspector has found every defect in a house, ever. And we do upwards of 5 million inspections a year. In a couple of hours inside a structure that an inspector has never been in, it’s not going to be possible to find every defect.”

InterNACHI offers a buyback program to help address this, but other homebuyers may find that their options for a faulty home are more limited — in fact, Averaimo called it “very tricky” in Connecticut to hold an inspector accountable for any missed defects. 

If a homebuyer does choose to pursue a legal path for an issue that went undetected, it may not be worth the additional time and expense it will take to have the issue litigated, according to Averaimo. For example, if a home had a chimney that was not capped and created a squirrel infestation that, upon removal, damages the chimney, Averaimo said it’s unlikely that a legal route will work in the homeowner’s favor. 

“If it’s going to cost you $5,000 to repair, and you paid $650 for your inspection, and it’s determined that it was negligent on their part, you’re probably not going to get the full replacement of your chimney,” he said. “Also, you’re going to have to litigate it for the most part, which is not worth it to begin with because of the cost of litigation are particularly high and litigation is not guaranteed.”

What property disclosures can tell you

Instead of pursing a legal route, Averaimo suggested being sure to look over the property disclosure forms given to homebuyers prior to committing to a home. 

“The disclosures on the property tell you a lot of things,” he said. “They tell you about the foundation, they tell you about whether or not you’re on public water or well water, if you’re on public sewer or septic. Those will lead you to determine whether or not you need to inspect those items.”

Because of that, Averaimo noted that there are certain features that should always be inspected, like wells and septic systems which have a high cost to repair. He also mentioned that the property disclosures may reveal another item prospective homebuyers should look into: previous renovations on the property. 

“Disclosures in some instances will tell you if there were improvements on the property and when those improvements were done,” he said. “That will lead you to determine whether or not you need to look at the municipal building records to determine if permits and approvals were obtained. If they weren’t obtained, those are things you want to get resolved.”

If issues with septic systems, wells or even certificates of occupancy arise, and those items were not noted in disclosure forms, Averaimo said this doesn’t automatically merit a lawsuit against the home seller. 

“You’d have to show an intent of the seller to conceal those things — that they had actual knowledge of them,” he said. “But it’s very difficult to prove an intent to conceal. So you should use those disclosures for information, but it would be foolish to rely on those disclosures to somehow bail you out at a later date if something pops up.” 

Understanding the sale contract prior to signing (and the differences by Connecticut counties)

No matter how fast the current market in Connecticut may be moving, Averaimo said it is important to understand the contract a home buyer is agreeing to prior to signing it. And it Connecticut, there are regional differences in the kinds of contracts used that can affect the way a home closing proceeds. 

For example, Averaimo said New Haven County uses a “fillable form contract” that is commonplace, but presents limitations. 

“Ninety-five percent of the time, I get those contracts from either my clients or their realtors or their mortgage broker or their banker already signed,” he said. “There’s really nothing that I could do if I see a term or a condition or a deadline or something else that as lawyer, I think is imploring a little more liability on my client than should be the case.”

In Fairfield County, however, attorneys draft the final contract, according to Averaimo, and they do so based on the buyers’ and sellers’ agreed-upon terms. While he called them slightly more “involved” and “expensive” to the buyer, Averaimo noted that these contracts allow for both parties to “know exactly what they’re signing prior to signing it.”

But that’s not the only difference between the two contracts. The fillable form contract offers an “inspection contingency,” Averaimo said, which can allow buyers to back out of the contract if the inspection turns up unfavorable conditions and have their deposit returned. 

In Fairfield County, the inspection is generally conducted prior to the final contract being drawn, Averaimo said, which takes away the inspection contingency and does not allow for a buyer to back out of the deal. With any contract, however, Averaimo said it is worth having an attorney review it ahead of committing to it. 

No matter how quickly buyers want to purchase a home, Averaimo said his best advice is to make sure they are aware of what they can and can’t budge on prior to making a final decision. 

“Be reasonable. Be quick on your feet,” he said. “Make sure you know what your limitations are so you can make a quick decision. But don’t substitute a quick decision for a waiver of your rights.”