Q. We are buying a house. The home inspection is scheduled for next week, but we're not sure what to do once we get the report. Is the inspection report just for our information, or can we use it to negotiate with the sellers? Can we walk away from the deal if we don't like the report, or are we obligated to go ahead with the purchase? What can you tell us about this?
A. A home inspection empowers you with essential options as a buyer, but with some limitations. In the majority of home sales, the deal is contingent upon the buyers' acceptance of the home inspection report. This means that you, as buyer, have a specified number of days to accept or decline the property in "as is" condition. If you decline acceptance, you have four basic choices:
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• Ask the sellers to make a few repairs;
• Ask the sellers to make many repairs;
• Ask the sellers to reduce the sales price;
• Decline to purchase the property.
If you request repairs or a price adjustment, based upon the home inspection report, the sellers also have choices. They can:
• Agree to all of your requests;
• Agree to some of your requests;
• Agree to none of your requests;
• Decline to sell you the property.
The sellers' only obligation is to address defects that are named in the purchase contact or required by state and local laws. If the contract specifies an "as is" sale, the sellers may refuse to make repairs of any kind or to adjust the price in any way. Lawful exceptions may include strapping water heaters for earthquake safety, providing smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in specified locations, or upgrading plumbing fixtures for water conservation.
As long as you are in the contingency period of your transaction, the choice to buy the property or to walk away from the deal is entirely yours. This is your discovery period, the time to learn what you are buying and to decide whether to proceed with the purchase or to renegotiate the terms of the sale.
Q. We have old steel frame windows in our home and would like to minimize heat loss. Rather than install dual-pane replacement windows, we'd like to install inside windows and leave the old windows in place. This might not look as good, but we don't want the mess and expense of removing the old windows. Do you think this is a good idea?
A. Adding interior windows will probably reduce heat loss from your home, but vinyl-frame, dual-pane replacement windows are likely to do this much more effectively. Removal of the old windows is not as messy and expensive as you might think and does not involve removing the frames from the walls.
When replacement windows are installed, the old glass and dividers are removed, and the replacement windows are installed over the old metal frames. Check out the prices for replacement windows before buying the interior windows you had in mind.
• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at www.housedetective.com or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.
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