Maine Home Building Inspections, What Happened To “As Is, Where Is” Condition Sales?



Maine home building inspections, how they are used beyond determining the condition of the property.

And what happened to ‘as is’ where is” condition real estate home sales? Where it is what you see, is what you get.

Some history is needed to explain what is happening. In the beginning of Maine real estate home sales, it was buyer beware. Check out whatever you are considering buying with your hard earned money. Make sure the home you are mortgaging for twenty, thirty years does not have any surprises you are not aware of before you purchase. mainehomes2

Now in Maine it is the age of full property disclosure. So if the home has had a fire, been in a flood, or has water well or septic problems you find our before buying. Either from the owner, by hiring tradesmen to check it out or by tracking down a home inspector.

Maine home building inspections, what they are meant to do and how they evolved to harm a perfectly good real estate sale.

Like the used car you are thinking of buying, it is a good idea to put the vehicle up on the hoist to take a looksie underneath. In all the dark places on a vehicle where the sun does not shine. To study the good, the bad, the ugly on what you are thinking of buying.

The same under a microscope inspection on the real estate stress test treadmill can be a fruitful exercise. To know what you the new home property owner are getting in the exchange for the largest investment most ever make in their lifetime.

But here in Vacationland, home building inspections are a relatively new exercise. Back in the late 1980’s when I got my Maine real estate broker’s license to hang on the wall, building inspections had not been invented.

Currently there still is no licensing in place to be a home inspector in Maine. Licensing for appraising a Maine home just started during my four decades of practicing real estate and my Dad was among the first to obtain the legal authority to do home valuations.

But back to Maine home building inspections.

In a rural state like Maine, usually the home buyer was pretty well versed in the building trades. Survival in Maine is like that where money is always tight. Where some say we live like we are always ready for a recession and play it safe. It is easy does it on the spending and take better care of what a Mainers does purchase.

In small rural Maine where wages are lower but the recreations no or very low cost, the average resident family skill set has to be much broader than your urban dweller develops. In Maine you don’t automatically reach for the wallet and purse to perform repairs or routine maintenance. You dig deep within to figure out how to correct what is wrong yourself hands on style. Or you call in your neighbor, a buddy that you routinely exchange labor with on a barter basis.

You grow up as a young grasshopper around the hammer, nails, sawdust that your family is proud to own and improve.

The kids all have a role and helped in the home remodeling and renovation projects. From the effort the local Mainer possesses hands on experience. You have been front row, hands on with a table saw in the living room or kitchen during a rehab remodel. It is all familiar and not dark and murky.

When you see a porch house roof needing reshingling or metal added. Or when the exterior requires fresh paint or stain. We all dig out the ladder and head to the hardware store with your measurements and questions about what you need, what the materials are going to cost.

When I replaced the kitchen in the house were my four kids were raised, the old one was removed by the family. Put on the masks, order the dumpster, be careful with that crowbar. No pickups in the yard with side door or rear window lettering 6 winter st houlton me

Plus when you are fortunate to buy a home in Maine, the buyer has the support of Mom, Dad, Uncle Charlie and a grandfather who all are better versed in home construction than most. You don’t hire the job done in Maine if you can perform all or much of the task yourself. Mainers are way way more capable and self reliant. They have to be when money does not flow like water. Mainers are not so dependent on others or accustom to opening the wallet wide every time something needs repair or updating. 

When we show homes to Maine real estate buyers, it is not unusual to have plenty of family members on board for the house tours.

While doing the walk through of the first floor, often the Dad of the home buyer is down in the cellar with his brother the licensed plumber. The two of them are studying the copper, pex, and schedule 40 Carolina PVC sewer piping and eye balliing the heating system. Help yourself, nothing to hide. Put the place through its paces.

During the second walk through if the home makes the cut to be considered higher up on the list, another Uncle shows up that is named Sparky for a reason. His eagle eye on the inside, outside electrical wiring inspection information is shared with the young home buyer that is his nephew. Or the wife is his niece and a thorough home inspection provided by family members the home buyer knows and trusts happens with the seller’s permission.

In most cases it is no hired gun Maine home inspector from many hours away.

The local extra sets of eyes and ears have knowledge of who built the home, who lived here over the years. The down country home inspector does not have that local history. Unlike the local tradesmen who may have had a hand in building the original structure, the home inspector arrives, inspects and whips up a report. 

So why the surge in the need for Maine home inspectors? When back in the 1980’s if there was a defective chimney cap, if there was a floor sag or ugly foundation wall crack, it was dealt with by the folks who purchased the property. They knew about it, they accepted this is probably not a new home and was one they could afford.

The home buyer in small population Maine bought the property “as is” and banks that kept the mortgage in house rather than selling it on the secondary mortgage market were fine with things. Especially because there was a time not too long ago when your home buyer saved up twenty five percent down payments and there was some skin in the game.

Enter out of state home buyers from higher priced areas where there was more money to spread around in real estate sale to fun the home inspection. It was more common in the state on the driver’s license they roll into Mainer using.

Funds to pay a home stager, a professional photographer, someone to pilot the real estate drone were available out of state. The home better have granite or quartz counter tops, more than one bathroom unlike the lower to the ground priced cheap Maine homes. And add on title insurance, home warranties and all the other bells and whistles that happened in big city property markets that were expected in the smaller rural markets.

Home inspectors are a big part of larger market real estate sales. In small rural Maine home sales, not so much. The lower the price point of what is on the current market inventory, the less money to fund the report for the home inspection.

So back to Maine home building inspections.

Another things happened since back in the 1980’s high interest adjustible rate real estate market in Maine. That functioned just fine. Without the extra home inspection set of eyeballs added to the layer of players to buy and sell a house. The age of full property disclosure meant it was not a buyer beware situation any more.

The home owner is way way ahead disclosing problems going in rather than facing a lawsuit after the closing. When things can get dicey as billable hours and court house steps are threatened to be utilized for justice and damage 6 winter st houlton 12

Any thing, everything that was known about the property for sale today in Maine is disclosed. But beyond the condition of the property now, could the home inspection property report be used to not just find problems? But to also make the seller correct some or all of those line items?

Or at least use the the list to scare the home owner ito renegotiate. Even if the buyer is not that really concerned but not about to waste an opportunity to cut the cards again in the wheelin’ dealin’. Just good business right? Says the real estate buyer’s agent and because on the last home sold the purchaser was run through the mill in the same fashion. That they are expecting the home owner to endure. But what happens when the seller reminds everyone “as is, where is”? I am selling it the way it is, not the way the buyer wants it to be.

If you don’t allow a lot of inspections, it seems like what are you hiding? And anything the home inspector you the seller don’t know that rolls in from many hours away puts in the report. Doesn’t that have to be added to your property disclosure?

When a Maine home is on town water and sewer, the worry of what is there for a well or septic is not a concern. The location of the water well and how is the quantity, quality is not questioned when it is town utility served.

What do we do if it is an estate sale though and no one knows first hand about the private well and septic? Our Maine real estate office does not reach out to a building inspector. We call a plumber, talk to neighbors, relatives, local contractors to chase down the information.

The circles are smaller in rural Maine so the information on the grapevine is collected much faster. You also know and trust the person providing the information that is gathered and shared with a potential home buyer. Same thing with electrical, masonry, carpentry and heating issues on a place that has them.

So home building inspections on properties in Maine, how else has their use expanded?

Well, say the Maine home buyer is online, many states or time zones away or just is  plain too busy. The contract slap on a contingency of a home building inspection is an easy way to get the property under contract. To tie it up and to buy time to inspect and decide does the home buyer really want to go through with this real estate sale? They have not even checked out the house first hand or what is around it. They may be making their first visit to the community and decide this is not for us.

For whatever reason if the home buyer wants to walk because something in the report concerns them, they can. No questions ask and the seller has been tied up. When the home returns to the current market inventory, other buyers think must be something wrong. That made the home not get to a real estate closing.

It is a sneaky ace up your sleeve. If a better home comes on the market and there is nothing wrong in the building inspection report on the one under contract, there is that loop hole without being too specific to get out of the sale. When the buyer does back out, when the home returns to the market there is the perception it’s the property, not the buyer. The sale failed because of the home itself, not because of the buyer’s choice in the matter. That’s what the public studying the property back on the market concludes. 

So as the seller, if a building inspection is done, what has to be disclosed for the next buyer to consider?

Unless you get the written copy of the home building inspection, you don’t always legitimately know why the buyer walked. If it is the loose ends in the home’s condition that is the reason it is in this price bracket. The buyer expecting everything repaired and updated can get upset. When the seller says I am selling it “as is, where is” and the buyer expects more, the sale can end ugly without getting to the real estate closing.iocco maine lake home 5

Expectations of what the seller and buyer are requiring may not match up. They better though if emotions are to be kept under control. If a home sale is to happen on time or at all. 

It is up to the real estate agent to let the buyer and seller know what is expected in the home or any property listing sale.

To know what each of the partners in the property sale are or are not willing to do negotiating the price or taking on repairs or buyer preference updates before the closing. For the matchup of a property with a buyer and seller can be a successful sale. If the buyer wants a palace with no repairs with a price tag in the teens, the real estate movie does not have a happy ending. No closing happens.

No reason to be mad or sad. Just the way things rock and roll. The lower the cost of the property, the more accepting the buyer because the seller points out that is why the price is this number. The higher the price, the thinner the real estate buyers. Which means more hoops to jump through, the more layers of players to add to the home sale.maine home inspection photo

If the buyer wants to use the building inspector, and whatever the bank appraiser says the underwriting regualtions require to further negotiate.

Well, good luck with that. Not every home owner seller will pick up the tab and roll up their sleeves to assume the position.

When the home for sale is priced in the twenty, thirty thousand dollar bracket for a reason, those extra above and beyond from the seller’s pocket are not going to happen. The buyer has to have the resources in time, experience, money for materials and tools to tackle whatever is defficient on their own. The seller has established up front what he is or is not going to do in this home sale.

The home inspection used to be to see if the buyer was moving forward with the purchase because of concern on that cracked foundation. Or to check for more damage than the leak around the chimney flashing caused. To provide time for the buyer or someone more skilled in roofs, drainage and venting to climb up into the attic. To see what is hiding in that dark region of the home above the ceiling. Mold, critters, junk in the attic are all reasons to put up a ladder to the scuttle hatch in the hallway or in a closet to sneak a peek. At what is not easily seens without a little effort and a flashlight.

Septic system inspections because they are underground and not visible are another legit concern. Making sure the system really is a thousand gallon large and concrete with a drain into the properly sized septic leach field designed for the number of bedrooms is good to know before buying.

No one wants to inherit problems they don’t know about and today with building inspectors, buyer agents, it seems whatever comes up in the report is more and more assumed the seller will update. That they will correct no matter what the cost or even if it is a seller’s market and they don’t have to take on the long wish list from all the eyes taking a turn at inspection the property.

Home inspections, if the person doing the turn your head and cough physical of the property has made a living in the trades it is a real bonus.

The large areas of concern will get the ink in the report or no worries is a sentiment shared by the home inspector. But if building trades are not a long time passion and if the home inspector has never made a living in some or more than one of the trades, the report can amplify very small items that concern the buyer needlessly.mainebarn1

The fact a GFI electrical outlet is needed in the bath and kitchen areas is small potatoes.

Easily corrected but if there is long narratives about a missing down spout on the roof gutter that just needs to be slid back on and braced, the once over opinion of the property can turn from good to bad.

Amplifying the little nit picking details and overlooking the big ticket areas where there is a new furnace, septic, house roof, etc.

Those kind of home inspection reports are not weighted correctly and the same treatment can happen on a Maine house appraisal valuation.

Make sure like an appraisal, that the review hits the expensive areas of concerns. And lacking any of those high ticket cost defficiencies, that the report is not loaded up with small potato concerns. Weigh those repairs accordingly and plan that what the building inspector reports could cause the buyer to walk away if they don’t like the findings.

Buyers, don’t assume every home seller will jump at the chance to rework the place they like just the way it is into what you the buyer or the bank had hoped it to become. In small rural areas with tight money, it is easy to look at the seller as the only one with money from the future sale to underwrite whatever the bank underwriting loan requirements dictate. And also those extra A to Z items that show up on a home inspection report.

If it is “as is, where is”, is the buyer going to assume the task to please the bank and address what the building inspection report undercovers for issues?

Buying, selling, trading a home in Maine? Remember making a seller repair anything just the way you would like it can be tedious. Maybe a cash reduction can be provided. So you can hire who you want to do the job in the fashion you expect. Or to provide a cost savings that will buy the materials when they are on sale. That you yourself will apply to the repair job jar list or any renovation to the property.

Share your experience. Reach out and tell us your story. MOOERS REALTY will share with you what we have learned to make the listing, selling faster, cheaper, less hassle. Maine home building inspections, have you ever be involved in a real estate sale affected by one?

I’m Maine REALTOR Andrew Mooers, ME Broker

207.532.6573 |  |  MOOERS REALTY 69 North ST Houlton ME 04730 USA

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