"Is it true offers aren't being written with inspection contingencies any longer?"
I love my readers. Every time I'm about to hit a writer's block, along comes a perfectly-timed question.
The short answer is: They ARE still being written, they just aren't finding much success.
That's a bitter pill to swallow, I admit. Not only are you, as a Buyer, required to pay 20, 30, 40% ABOVE asking when writing in competition, you are also expected to take the house "AS IS," waive your inspection and loan contingencies completely, and close as quickly as you can (ALL CASH is even better. Thank you very much). It's downright exhausting . . . and rather one sided.
Long gone are the days of parity in negotiation, or a check list of repairs handed to the Seller to be accomplished before the close of escrow. (Believe me, Realtors dislike this go, go, GO marketplace as much as you do. We are all working around the clock and often, with disheartening results.)
Moreover, it puts all of us at risk. When homes sell faster than the public can actually process the sale, or complete their legal due diligence, all kinds of second guessing creeps into the transaction and that's never a good thing - especially if there's no safety net to fall back on, which in turn, becomes unwelcome law suits (or the threat thereof) after the close of escrow. (Yikes!)
In spite of volumes of disclosures that only seem to grow with each new transaction, it's impossible to know every challenge you will encounter as a homeowner or what's actually going on behind the walls . . . (Inspectors don't have x-ray vision like Superman so their reports can only judge what's visible on the surface and that's truly, just the tip of the iceberg.)
Speaking with one of my favorite home inspectors this week (Jay Marlette of Houseman.org) about this very topic, he wisely remarked "everyone wants a 'risk-free' house and realistically, there's NO SUCH THING." (Given the price we pay for our homes, of course we do. Why wouldn't we?)
In other words, if a "risk-free" house is what you seek, may I politely suggest you rent instead? (My parents, both now in their eighties, moved from home owners to home renters last year and call their on-site manager whenever there's a problem. It's a perfect solution for where they are at this point in their lives.)
Additionally, we can rebuild our homes to the point of being nearly brand new (as I do with every home purchase) but it won't keep the shower handle from coming off in my hand anyway. (Yes, I've put in a call to my contractor to come tweak a few overlooked items and loose screws.)
For those of us buying "as is" properties (and they are ALL technically sold "as is;" - nobody sells a home "as it was" or "as it will be." ) the truth is that we are buying used models (charming, but old). Some properties have been cared for far better than others and some are just plain worn out. The more you know the better prepared you'll be, but even so, surprises are par for the course when it comes to home sales, no matter how well-inspected or thoroughly disclosed.
In my experience, the longer Sellers have lived in a home, the less likelythey are to remember what often turns out to be, material and relevant information (memories are highly fungible things at best). Sellers aren't necessarily being deceitful, it's that they've often overlooked the problem for so long, that it truly doesn't register. ("We lived with that for years and it never mattered to us!")
If you budget for repairs each year to deal with the unknowns that will inevitably arise - as you do for other expenses - you'll be far better prepared for the news that you will need a new roof, garbage disposal, or sump pump . . . (I think our parents called it a "savings account.".)
Welcome to the world of home ownership. It isn't without its risks or flaws, and that's something to keep in perspective as you justifiably, get irritated at the ongoing expenses. As it tuns out, homes, are a luxury problem! It's worth noting that Americans have the highest rate of home ownership in the world and most people aspire to such "problems." Lucky us!
But if it's important to you to have inspections prior to writing an offer,(and it should be) be my guest. We'll quickly line them up (given permission). I think the more informed you are, the better served all the way round.
How can I help you?
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.