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Is a pre-closing inspection -- that is, an inspection of the property by the buyer before they move in -- really important?

Yes, it is. The intent of a pre-closing inspection is to give the buyer one last opportunity to verify that they are getting all that was promised in the sales contract. Although buyers still have legal recourse if they discover, even after closing, that the condition of the home is not as it should be. The best time to identify problems is before closing, when the seller will be motivated to correct any deficiencies in order to close the transaction. Typically, a buyer takes possession of a property one to three months after signing the sales agreement. But, a lot can happen before the actual move-in. Appliances and fixtures can break down, and walls, carpets and doors can be damaged during the seller's move-out. Sometimes the seller will simply have forgotten that he or she had agreed to leave the refrigerator or window coverings with the house. Whatever the reason, problems identified before closing have the best chance of being remedied. If possible, schedule the inspection right before the closing, such as the day before. Ask your real estate agent to attend the inspection with you. What should you be inspecting? Using a copy of the sales contract as a checklist, first make sure that all items that should be in place: appliances, built-in furniture, window coverings, fixtures, etc. are there. Test each appliance to make sure they work properly. Bring along an electrical clock or radio to test each electrical outlet. Test all electrical switches and the garage door opener, if there is one. Run the garbage disposal and turn on every water faucet, checking under the sinks for leaks. Flush the toilets. Inspect the floors, carpets, walls and doors for recent damage. If you discover that something is damaged or missing, make a note of it and inform your agent immediately. In most cases, the seller is usually able to take care of small problems immediately, either by making a needed repair or offering compensation to handle it. And, if there are major problems, the seller can even sign a statement acknowledging the deficiency and agreeing to correct it. Although pre-closing inspections take time and may be inconvenient, they are important and well worth the buyer's time.

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