No home inspection? Protections vary in DC, Maryland and Virginia

For potential homebuyers who find themselves in bidding wars against other buyers for the same property, two ways to get their offers to the top of the list are making an above list, all-cash offer, and waiving contingencies up front, sometimes even a home inspection.

Even in this competitive market, real estate agents still advise against waiving that inspection.

A survey by home repair platform Angi (formerly Angie’s List) of recent homebuyers found 85% said they had to fix at least one problem they were unaware of during the buying process — and at an average cost of almost $7,200 in the first year.

In the D.C. metro, the cost of a home inspection averages from $350 for a small condo to $800 for a larger, single-family home.

But, depending on where you are buying, a no upfront inspection contingency by the buyer does not mean the seller is off the hook.

“Maryland and the District of Columbia have much stronger consumer protection laws. A seller has a much higher bar as far as things they need to disclose,” said Derrick Swaak, managing broker of TTR Sotheby’s International Realty in McLean, Virginia, and a member of the board of directors for the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors.

“Virginia on the other hand has always been a caveat emptor state. It is a buyer-beware environment, so a seller really has very few disclosure requirements,” he said.

But in Virginia, the listing agent who represents the seller has a higher disclosure requirement. The agent needs to disclose any adverse conditions or defects with the property, “of which they are aware.”

“But they also can’t just hide their head in the sand and pretend they didn’t know about it. For example, the seller will mention, ‘Oh, it rained last night and we had 3 inches of water in the basement,’ and the listing agent needs to disclose that,” Swaak said.

Not all repairs a buyer discovers that may need to be made are caught in a home inspection. Also, some buyers, as part of a contract offer, are willing to accept defects that inspections uncover, knowing the repairs will be on their own dime.

The most common issues that needed repair for buyers within the first year, according to the Angi study, involved electrical, drainage and roofing.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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