Today’s topic is about the trends in the market and the importance of getting a home inspection for buyers and sellers.
Reuben reads an email from real estate agent Sharlene Hensrud, about a buyer who brought up concerns about a house after closing the deal. This incident was a learning experience for the seller, saying they will never accept another offer without a home inspection.
Tessa brings up how tough it is to buy a house in the current market state. She shares statistics on listings, pending sales, and inventory. Reuben mentions that many homeowners are still getting home inspections, however some are skipping it.
They share a list of strategies and tactics that real estate agents and home buyers are practicing today to buy a house and still get a home inspection. The list includes getting an inspection before submitting an offer, giving a one-day inspection window, or to submit an offer that’s contingent upon an inspection and otherwise. Buyers may also avail a 30-minute walk-through consultation.
In celebration of Women’s Month, Tessa also shares exciting news about new female inspectors on the Structure Tech team.
Related link: Before you skip the home inspection… (this link will be live on 3/29/22)
The following is a transcription from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it may be slightly incomplete or contain minor inaccuracies due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.
Bill Oelrich: Welcome everyone, you’re listening to Structure Talk, a Structure Tech presentation. My name is Bill Oelrich alongside Tessa Murry and Reuben Saltzman, as always your three legged stool coming to you from the Northland, talking all things houses, home inspections and anything else that’s rattling around in our brain. Welcome. I am officially coming to you from the Northland, as far north as you can get in the great state of Minnesota. Well, at least, I’m along the Canadian border, I know there’s places farther north, but it’s pretty far north. So, how’s it going everybody?
Tessa Murry: Pretty good.
Reuben Saltzman: Doing well, little sad that all the snow is completely gone. I tried to go snowmobiling one more time this year, went about two hours north into the Twin Cities, and there was a ton of snow and there was a good foot of snow and it was complete slush and worthless for snowmobiling.
RS: So, little sad all the snow is gone…
BO: Yes, it goes quickly.
RS: But, you know what, that’s okay.
BO: Yeah, I mean, let’s turn the page and move on to the next chapter of the year and get some sunshine and some green grass growing.
RS: Yeah, it means that it’s time to transition into disc golfing.
TM: For our listeners, so they know this, technically, it is spring now when we’re recording this.
BO: Yeah. Where I’m at…
RS: Oh yeah!
BO: In Ranier we got eight inches of snow last night, so it’s pretty and white and it’s a big slush ball out there right now, so…
RS: Yeah, it’ll be gone by the afternoon.
BO: Well, on today’s episode, we kinda wanna dig into the current state of the market, and for clients, Tessa, I want you to kinda read an email that you got recently from a past client who is feeling the heat, or at least a friend of his is feeling the heat of this market and trying to make a decision on a house. And we’re gonna dissect this email with some good options that people might look at if there’s no time and space in the deal to get a traditional home inspection done.
TM: Well, this was a client who I did an inspection for years ago, and they reached out to me and they just said, “Tessa, it’s finally happened. My good buddy is putting in an offer on a house which was accepted, but he had to waive the inspection to win the bid. He’d like to book one for his own peace of mind, how can he make sure he gets you?” And I think we’ve just been hearing this over and over from agents and from clients and from people that, it’s just such a tough market that one of the things that they’re trying to do to have their offer accepted is to waive the inspection. So here’s just a story of someone who did that, but I mean, they still are contacting us after they bought the house to have the inspection done.
BO: Are you gonna deliver any interesting news with very soft gloves or are you just gonna do what you do and watch the expression maybe rise or fall as the information guides it?
TM: Well, you know, if I was doing home inspections right now, I would offer the information with very soft gloves, but I’m gonna pass him off to one of our other really good inspectors, one of our many inspectors at Structure Tech who I know can do a really good job for him.
BO: Tess, this is kind of a left turn, but I wanna bring it up because you are… You’re kind of a trailblazer, it’s Women’s Month, and for a long time, you were the only female home inspector that we had on our team, very highly qualified, obviously, but you’ve stepped aside. Do you have any news or anything to share about our team that would be of note?
TM: Yes, some really exciting news. We’ve got a woman that’s in training right now, her name is Cory, and she will be an excellent inspector. She already is an excellent inspector. What are we, three and a half months into training, she might even be out on her own by the time this podcast airs, but she’s got a background in carpentry and energy efficiency and restoration work and remodeling and just in construction and everything, she’s a wonderful human being and a really good inspector.
RS: And you know what, I gotta just touch on that quick, because a lot of people will say they’ve got a background in construction, and they answered the phones for a construction company.
RS: I mean, people are very creative with the way that they phrase stuff, but no, no, no, no, Cory was the one swinging the hammer, she is a carpenter, and she has been for a long, long time. Highly skilled, highly knowledgeable. I just had to qualify that, ’cause when people say background, they use it liberally.
TM: Yeah, yeah.
RS: Liberally, not literally.
TM: Yup, yup, so she’s awesome, and then we also have another woman on the team, we have two women inspectors now who have replaced me, and we’ve got Liz who worked for city of Hopkins for a long time doing city inspections and she’s also a great person, and she… Very knowledgeable, she also is a fluent Spanish speaker, so for anyone who’s in a metro area listening to this and they’re looking for an inspector who can speak Spanish, Liz can do it.
RS: Yep. Got you covered.
RS: Alright, thank you. Great, great point to bring up, Bill.
RS: And you know what? Just getting back to anecdotes Tessa, you shared the anecdote of that email about how someone is still getting a home inspection done, it is a great idea for sellers to have home inspections done too. I know that…
RS: It seems like the most attractive thing you could possibly get is an offer on your house that’s not contingent upon a home inspection, but it can go south for people too. I was just chatting with Charlene Hensroot, I’ve mentioned her name several times on this podcast, because she’s the one who got me into blogging and I’m still a guest blogger at her site, and she mentioned to me in an email that she had a seller last year… I’ll just read it. She said, “I even had one seller last year who accepted an offer without an inspection, and then when the buyer brought up concerns after closing, like, “Hey, I bought your house, but now I’m having a problem with this, and you never told me about this, and this happened and that happened,” so now the buyer brings up stuff after closing, the seller said, she will never, ever accept another offer without a home inspection.
TM: Wow. Now, that’s powerful information.
TM: I’ve always wondered about that. Like, the liability for the seller and the seller’s agent, when people have these issues that pop up that they didn’t know about.
BO: Are we talking material facts, something that should have been disclosed that wasn’t or is this just run of the mill kinda headaches that a homeowner would have to deal with?
RS: We would have to dig into that topic to get answers. I don’t have any more information than this.
TM: You just know it’s enough of a hassle that she doesn’t ever wanna do it again?
RS: Yeah. Yeah.
BO: What’s the old saying? People don’t make change until there’s a great enough pain caused them to make change. It sounds like she’s dealing with some pain in this whole experience.
RS: Yeah. Yeah.
BO: Okay, why do we continue to have this conversation? I mean, everybody knows the market’s a little bit crazy, but do we have any good data to back up just how crazy this market is?
TM: Well, yeah, actually. So Mindy, our Operations Manager at Structure Tech keeps us updated periodically on kinda what the market is doing from… What is it, Minneapolis Area Realtors? Is that what it’s called Mark?
RS: Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors.
RS: Yes, yes.
TM: Thanks, Reuben.
TM: Yes, MAAR.
TM: And so, these numbers come from MAAR. This is gonna be airing… What date is this gonna be airing, Reuben?
RS: Oh, you could have asked me today, I would have said Monday. It’s always Monday. Now dates…
RS: March 28th. This is on March 28th.
TM: So sassy this morning.
RS: Sorry, I wasn’t ready.
TM: Well, so, talking kinda mid-March here, and basically in a Twin Cities region. This is for the week ending in March 12th. New listings have decreased 10% to 1313, pending sales have decreased 6.5% to 1174, and inventory has decreased 14% to 4671. So, it’s just getting tougher and tougher to buy a house in this market.
BO: Times are tight. Times are tight.
RS: Yeah. I was hoping things were gonna cool down this year, and it hasn’t. It has just ratcheted up.
RS: And I mean, man, today it feels like everybody is skipping the home inspection. I mean, everybody I talk to. I talk to so many friends and acquaintances, people at my church and everybody it seems like they buy a house, they are skipping the home inspection. So it feels like there are no inspections happening at all, ever. Now, I know that’s not true, because we’re still doing home inspections. We’re not doing as many as we’d like to be doing, but we’re still doing them day in and day out. We still have work, so there are still people getting home inspections done. I think that’s kinda what today’s show is about, is how are people getting inspections done, even with this crazy competitive market? What strategies are they using to get an offer accepted and still get a home inspection, right?
TM: Yeah. And these are… You’ve compiled a list, right, Reuben? That you’re gonna be writing about in a blog here, but a lot of these points come from real estate agents we’ve talked with, and we’ve even had some of them on the show to discuss some of these strategies that they’re trying, right?
RS: Yes, exactly. I will say we are not gonna share a single original thought today.
TM: We can’t claim these brilliant ideas.
RS: No, none of this comes from us. All we’re doing is sharing what people are telling us they’re doing. I mean, when people schedule these home inspections, they tell us, “Hey, here’s what we’re doing. Here’s how we got our offer accepted.” And they’re excited to share this stuff with us, and we have a lot of conversations with real estate agents about this. So, what this show is about is just sharing the strategies and tactics that real estate agents and home buyers are using today to buy a house and still get a home inspection, ’cause I think a lot of people could use this list.
TM: Yeah. So if you’re looking to buy a house, maybe you can add this to your arsenal. This might help you.
RS: That’s right.
TM: Or at least find some peace of mind.
BO: Alright. So, let’s put submitting an offer without the home inspection at the bottom of the list, it feels like the riskiest space to work with. And I’m saying just straight up, no contingencies at all, no wait-hold room, you offer up your earnest money and you say, “I want this house and we’re gonna go to close.”
BO: Let’s not talk about that option quite yet. So Reuben, where do you wanna start with this?
RS: Well, let’s start at the one that we already covered, I think it was within the last month or two, we had Rhonda Wilson on our podcast, and she talked a lot about her strategies to get offers accepted, some of her little ninja tricks that she’s using.
RS: And she shared a trick where she likes to have her clients get a home inspection done before submitting an offer. Now that’s off the walls crazy. Nobody gets a home inspection before they submit an offer, but her clients do. I mean, when they’re sure that they want a house, they say, “We wanna submit an offer, but we wanna get the home inspection done tomorrow, Sunday morning, and we got a home inspection company lined up and we can do it. What do you say? Will you let us do it?” And we’ve done it.
RS: I mean, at Structure Tech, we have done that for our clients. I’m not opening up Sunday morning to anybody else, but it has happened, and she shared a story where that happened for her clients, we got in there, did the inspection on a Sunday, they submitted an offer the same day. We got the inspection back to them right away. They didn’t have the best offer. They were $20,000 below the best offer, yet the seller went back to them and said, “We know you guys are serious about this house. We wanna work with you, so if you wanna just bump your offer up to match the best one, we’ll sell you the house.” And her clients got the house by doing that.
RS: So it can certainly happen. And the big problem that people have with doing this is that in a traditional market, when home inspectors are booked out a week, the house is gonna be gone. I mean, you just don’t have that option, but today, we’re not booked out a week. I mean, we’ve got a little star burst that we started adding to the home page on our website saying, “Hey, need a home inspection? We are available tomorrow.” Like, telling people in live time what our next available opening is. So yeah, we’re available quickly.
TM: And one other added benefit to this approach too I think that we should highlight is just, like you said Reuben earlier, that real estate agent you were reading that email about, and she said, “I’ll never go through this process again without having the buyers do an inspection,” is that it reduces the liability for the seller if the buyers know what they’re getting and they agree to it.
RS: Yes, they would sleep a lot better. And something else that Rhonda said is that, this goes to timing, but this is another one of our strategies that we’ve heard from other agents is that… And we’re kinda moving on to strategy number two here, is that you submit an offer that’s contingent upon an inspection, but you make it clear in your purchase agreement and you have communication with the seller, this is not going to be a nitpick home inspection. We’re not gonna be asking you to, you know, install smoke alarms and install GFCI outlets and cover plates and things like that, we’re looking for big stuff, we’re looking for stuff that’s… The most common number I’ve heard, I’ve heard this repeated from a lot of different agents is, we’re looking for stuff that’s $5000 or more.
RS: And whenever we do get the results of the inspection, we are not going to share that with you. A lot of home sellers don’t want to know what’s wrong with their house, especially if the deal falls apart, they don’t want to have to disclose any of that stuff to the next person. Now, we won’t talk about the ethics of this and whether you should find that stuff out or not, it’s just a fact of life that people don’t wanna know what’s wrong with their house, and they’d rather not have to disclose. So, I’m being wordy. Here’s the bullet point, the big bullet point, submit an offer that is contingent upon an inspection, but make it clear that it’s big stuff only, that’s all that could ever possibly be negotiated. And I’ll tell you, most of the stuff we find on our inspections is… It’s not a huge stuff. I mean, Tessa, what percentage of the items documented on an inspection report do you think would be in the $5000 plus range?
TM: Probably less than 5%.
RS: That was exactly the number I had in my head.
TM: We’re on the same page then. Yeah.
BO: Well, everything you’ve just described, Reuben feels like the way a home inspection ought to be and how a real estate deal should go down in any environment, right? Like, no matter who you nitpick.
RS: I agree, but you know, we have to report based on the public’s perception and what people want.
TM: I remember five years ago doing inspections for people and our client, like, the buyer’s agent would use our report and go back to the seller and create like a list of everything they wanted the seller to fix or repair or credit them for, and it was literally everything on the inspection report.
RS: Yes. Yes.
TM: We are not in that world anymore.
RS: And I’m glad.
BO: Yeah. You should never have been in that world, it’s just ridiculous. I feel so bad for a real estate agent who has to deal with the nitpicky buyer, right? Like, this is the world we live in, this is only in the house, it takes maintenance and these things are gonna come and go and… Well, by the way, once you get in your house, you might not be such a perfect owner, and when you turn around to sell it, my guess is, you don’t wanna go through this nitpick list either. Sorry, I didn’t mean to go out on a soapbox there.
RS: No, you’re not. You’re not. That’s fine. Alright, so that’s another one. Another strategy is to submit an offer that’s contingent upon an inspection, but use a ridiculously small inspection window, typically a one-day inspection window. And the way agents are doing this is, they’re contacting their inspection company and they’re scheduling the inspection or they’re putting a hold on it, and we’ll do this for agents who know us and use us regularly, they’ll say, “Hey, can I put a hold on a slot?” And we’ll say, “Yeah, we’ll hold it for X number of hours or something like that.” And they’ll say, “alright, cool, and I’m gonna submit an offer, and I’ll let you guys know as soon as we get an answer.” And so, they’ll hold the slot for the next day, they’ll submit an offer saying, We’re gonna get the inspection done tomorrow, and it’s only gonna be on big stuff. And when people do it, home sellers are way more accepting of this, so that’s yet another strategy, get it done quickly and make it for big stuff.
BO: I like that one. And just have an inspector in your back pocket. This is… Real estate agents live in a world of relationships and work with people you know like and trust, and have them on standby. We’re all in that in a world where you need to lean on other people for expertise that you might not have, and if you’re there and you know them well, then you can move them quickly. So moving along the continuum of the typical inspection with the most negotiation down to no inspection, with no negotiation, you would have the pass-fail inspection, where you get this all in writing that the buyer is gonna come in, they’re not going to try to negotiate anything, but they will say thumbs up or a thumbs down, and the key to this, this engagement is, we’re not gonna share anything we find with the seller, we’re just making a thumbs up decision or a thumbs down decision. So there is no conversation to be had after the fact, and the seller can cleanly move on if need be, or the buyer can go to closing as they want to.
RS: Yeah, I mean, you’re only looking for show-stoppers, that’s it. Yeah. You’re not… I mean, $5000 repairs that… [chuckle] Even those, there’s nothing that’s brought up.
RS: You either say yes on buying it or no, I’m not.
BO: Yeah, it’s interesting, the showstopper, I’m thinking about what does that mean? And I know what it means, but I think more than anything, what learning about the show-stoppers is, can you absorb that and do you want to absorb that, right?
BO: Into your budget as the owner of this new house, and/or are you just so tight in the buying process here, like, I’m leveraging every dollar to get the maximum house I can get and I just can’t take on that expense. I think that’s what the showstopper is, is just really putting your financial compass straight north and understanding what it’s gonna take to own this house.
TM: So what you’re saying is, Bill, it depends?
BO: Pretty much.
TM: So must budget the house, what they’re willing to take on. Yeah.
BO: Yeah. But… Good information, but it’s not something that you get to use to bludgeon a seller.
RS: Yup. And then moving along that continuum, the next one would be submit an offer that is not contingent upon a home inspection, but tell the seller that you still want a home inspection. I mean, a home inspection is still important to have, whether you’re going to use this as a negotiation tool or a get out of jail free type of tool, it’s still important to get a home inspection no matter what, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get a home inspection before you purchase the house. And if you’re just dead set on buying a house, no matter what, but you’d still like to know the condition of it, you don’t need to make your offer contingent upon the home inspection, you can get that done at any point before you go to close. And I’m only suggesting this because we’ve done a lot of those inspections for people buying houses where they said, we’re buying it, no matter what you find today, but we still wanna know what we’re getting. So that’s yet another option.
BO: I’d say your face says it all, you’re like, What? Why would I do? It seems like torture.
TM: Man, I mean, I just think back… I know… Well, I just think back again to five years ago, completely different market and how people would be so excited about that… About the house and they were dreaming up where they’re gonna put their furniture, and then the inspection would uncover some pretty big stuff that they weren’t expecting to find and that… The inspection results would really cause them to pause and sometimes even walk away from the house. And it’s crazy that we’re in a climate where people have to promise they’re buying a house before they even really know what’s under the skin, you know?
BO: I think you can still walk away from that deal, but you might leave your earnest money on the table. We would need to get a real estate agent on to talk about all the potential contingencies. Like, we… In our world, we think about home inspections as this big lever, where it’s like, go forward or no, we’re not going forward, but there’s other contingencies agents can write into the purchase agreement such as financing or something else.
RS: Bill… And that’s… Bill, that’s a great point, I forgot to bring that up. And that’s the reason people are doing it, is that they are willing to walk away and leave their earnest money on the table in those cases, and just say, Look, maybe I’m gonna lose this chunk of cash I had already plunked down, but it’s way better than losing all of this.
TM: Yeah. Yeah.
RS: Yup. It’s the way of saying your only risk is your earnest money.
TM: I was just gonna say along those lines too, we haven’t discussed yet the walk-through consultation service that we offer to people too, which is looking at all of the big stuff, really. We’re not taking in all of our tools and we’re not even really walking on roofs or walking through attics or anything like that. We are doing a 30-minute walkthrough of a house, looking for the potentially big issues and just verbally talking with the buyer about those things. We’re not even writing a report. And we’re doing a lot of those now, it seems like.
BO: Hopefully packaging that… Hopefully that buyer uses that service, gets the house, because the trained eye of a season inspector will get you like that, that, that, that’s enough to open the gate or keep the gate closed, so to speak. But then hopefully they follow up with a more thorough inspection after closing, and then we can give them the playbook of how to own this house and own it well and become a home owner of the year, so to speak, by doing everything on this list to get everything upgraded to where it should be, and then you know, keep that house in good… Keep it away from the cliff, Tessa, let’s just put it that way.
TM: There we go, [chuckle] I like that.
RS: Yeah. And you know, Tessa, you and I both talked about that number, like, what percentage of the stuff is $5000 or more, and we agreed maybe less than 5%.
RS: And when I think about a walk-through consultation, I feel like I could catch 95% of those items on walk-through consultations. There’s no guarantee we’re gonna catch every one, but…
TM: I agree. Yeah.
BO: Or you might put…
RS: You’ll feel really confident on catching most of them.
BO: Yeah, or you might put three or four $2500 things together and just be like, Okay, we’re gonna have to deal with this, that and the other.
TM: Yep, exactly.
BO: Alright, so did we miss anything on the continuum of trying to buy a house in a crazy market where nobody has any leverage except the sellers?
TM: Yeah. I guess just to bring it back full circle with request from a past client asking me to do an inspection for his friend after they bought it. I mean, this is one other strategy that, personally, if I was buying a house, I would not be comfortable with, but we could do it. It’s coming back to do an inspection for someone after they’ve closed.
RS: And we’re doing a ton of those right now.
RS: We’re doing a lot of those for people who already bought the house and they wanna know what they own now. Yeah, Tess, way to bring that show full circle. I love it. [chuckle] Beautiful.
BO: I can tell what people… I can tell people what they own once they own a house, a hell of a lot of work, okay? I don’t care if they’re in great condition, if they’re beat the hell, there’s still a lot of work. And home ownership is… It’s the American dream, but it’ll also probably cost you four or five weekends a year, just doing nonsense.
BO: I mean, this is a fun game and we’re in it ’cause you don’t… You buy a house, but you live in a home, so to speak, so all of the minutia that we go through on a regular basis, like, on discovering this is maybe an issue or that’s an issue, you still gotta live somewhere. And when you rent, it’s not always as much of a home as the one you own, ’cause you get to put your own personal touch on it. So, I’m in favor of home ownership.
BO: Okay, so how do we package this all up? Well, first thing you should do is, if you’re a buyer in this market, go to Reuben’s blog, find his blog and he’ll explain it in words, so if you weren’t taking notes since you’re driving down the road listening to this, you can refer back to that. Step two would be to get with your agent and find out what strategies they’re using to help their clients win the deal. And then step three would obviously, pick what’s gonna work for you and go out there and win a purchase agreement and start making payments.
TM: And if anyone is listening to this and they have another idea or they used a different strategy that worked for them, or if you’re an agent or a person looking to buy a house and you’ve won a bid in some other creative way, please let us know. I’m just curious to hear these strategies.
RS: Yeah, if you go to our website and you go to the podcast section, or you go to structuretalk.com, these podcasts are all released in blog format where you can leave comments right on the shows. So, we’d love to hear your thoughts and other people would too.
BO: And now let us all just pray for a return to normalcy where the market is… We call it hot, but it’s like, super tight, I’d like to see it just blossom a little bit, get a little more wide open, a little more choice, a few more options.
TM: And more inventory.
BO: Yeah, we’ll get there one day. We’ll get there one day.
BO: This too shall pass well. Well, let’s put a wrap on this week’s episode. Reuben, when’s that blog gonna drop?
RS: That will be tomorrow, if you’re listening to this, the day of the podcast dropped, it’s tomorrow, it’s going to be on Tuesday, March 29th. And we will put a link to it in the show notes. So, if you listen to this podcast on the 29th or any time after that, you’ll have a link in the show notes to the blog so you can see all the bullet points.
BO: Awesome, awesome. Okay, well then, let’s put a wrap. You’ve been listening to Structure Talk, a Structure Tech presentation. My name is Bill Oelrich, alongside Tessa Murry and Reuben Saltzman. Thanks for listening.