“To DO” (Due Diligence) List

The process of buying a new home can be jarring because we prepare ourselves to shop for a home, but we forget to prepare ourselves for what happens next. Once the thrill of an accepted offer wears off, the next feeling that sets in is most-likely panic or at least a large dose of anxiety. So, what comes next in the process?

Once you have a fully-executed and valid contract, it kicks off the buyer’s due diligence (DD) period. This is a period of time that is negotiated as part of the contract for the buyer to complete all investigative procedures on the home and to finalize their loan in preparation for closing. The DD period is the time in which the buyer could walk away from purchasing a home with the least amount of negative financial impact.

A.K.A. if you’re not going to go through in purchasing the home that you are under contract on, DD is the period of time that you want to alert the seller. Yes, you will lose money, but if you wait until after the DD period closes, you’ll lose more.

Therefore, the few weeks of due diligence (length depending on the time period negotiated between the buyer and seller during contract) are used by the buyer to investigate every aspect of the home and the transaction to ensure that they would like to move forward in purchasing the home. Mutually agreed upon changes can be made to the contract during this time, though it’s best not to go into a contract expecting this after-the-fact change to occur.

Home Inspection

It’s important for you to understand what it is you’re buying with your hard-earned money, so it’s important to have a licensed home inspector schedule to come in. They will look at everything from top to bottom and will tell you whether or not something is working as intended, requires repair or requires additional investigation by a contractor. Because of the litigious nature of our society, everything will fall into one of these three categories but don’t let that scare you.

The home inspector terminology of “requires repair” does not mean that the seller has to make this repair. Let me repeat: THE SELLER DOES NOT NEED TO MAKE ANY REPAIRS TO THE HOME. North Carolina is an “as is” state and therefore property can be bought and sold regardless of whether or not it is deemed habitable. Scary , huh? If the buyer and seller cannot come to agreement on how to remedy the situation through repairs or compensation, then the buyer can decide not to purchase the home and forfeit their Due Diligence fee paid to the seller at the time of contract.

If the home inspector finds something major that is wrong with the home that would cause the buyer to want to walk away and find a new home to buy instead, then we are in territory where it makes sense to ask for repairs, a decrease in purchase price on the home, or seller paid closing costs to benefit the buyer. Each remedy option has its positives and negatives, so be sure to talk through these options carefully based on your situation.

Major items include the five systems within a home. If the repair is not a large-scale problem in one of these areas, it is likely not worth asking for a remedy. These include:

  • Roofing
  • Plumbing (including well water and septic, if applicable)
  • Electrical
  • Structural
  • Heating and Cooling (HVAC)

If there is something outside of these areas that really bothers the buyer and would make them want to walk away from the purchase of the home, the item is still worth having a conversation about. However, with our current market having very little inventory and lots and lots of buyers, a seller would be more likely to want a buyer to walk away from a deal, keep the due diligence fee for their trouble, and place the home back on the market than to fix something that they deem to be a cosmetic defect. Again, if the problem makes a buyer not want to purchase the home then it’s worth having a conversation about the item. Always.

Specialized Inspections

These inspections are outside the scope of the general home inspection report, but can be very important to a buyer’s overall understanding of the condition of a home. It’s important to understand whether or not these are important to you.

Termite Inspection

This is a specialist that comes out to specifically look for damage due to termite activity. While this may not be important in other areas of the US, it’s important here in the Carolinas. Termites can cause structural damage, so it’s best if damage is caught early and a remediation and maintenance plan can be put into place if needed. Some homes (specifically condos) often have what’s called a termite bond, it’s a yearly contract that the homeowner or HOA holds to ensure that any damage found is covered under an insurance policy. This requires ongoing walkthroughs on the home, usually on a yearly basis, to maintain coverage.

Well Water and Septic Inspections

If the home is on a well water system it’s important to have the water tested for bacteria and contaminants. You and your family will be drinking and bathing in the homes water, so it’s important to know. For homes on a municipal water system, this is purely optional.

Homes that are on well systems are often on septic for waste water as well. A complete inspection can uncover costly (and gross) problems. Also, homeowners rarely remember to have their septics serviced, so this is a nice time to have it pumped as well. Having it pumped also allows for a more-thorough inspection of the working condition of the system.

Radon Inspection

Radon is a naturally occurring gas that comes from certain types of rock. While we each come into contact with radon on a constant basis, the issue is when levels of radon become too high and are trapped in a living space (like your house). The scientific community is a bit mixed up on the severity of radon, but it can be a problem in any type of home. Consistent contact with high levels of radon gas has been linked to issues like lung cancer and more specific information can be found on the EPA website.

Additional areas of concern

There are some additional items that are outside the scope of your general home inspection that may be important for you to take a look at. The most-common areas in my experience are swimming pools and fireplaces, though I would include any other miscellaneous area of concern. Have a tree that is hanging precariously over the garage? Call a tree specialist. Planning to put up a fence or a pool in the future? Have a survey done. Need your new home to have a koi pond? Call your koi specialist.

… No seriously, that’s a thing.

Financing Requirements

If you’ll be securing a mortgage to purchase a new home it’s important to have the loan underwritten within the due diligence period. If something happens and the loan is not approved, a buyer would want to know prior to the close of due diligence. Also included in this process is a bank appraisal, meaning that the lender will send out a 3rd party appraiser to ascertain whether or not the home is “worth” what the bank is being asked to lend on it. If the appraiser reports that the home is valued at less than the contract price then the bank will only fund up to the appraisal price, the buyer will be on the hook to make up the difference in cash or a compromise will need to be reached with the seller to lower the price to appraised value. There are many caveats to this process, so look for a more-detailed post soon.

Have additional questions on the Due Diligence process? Something I missed? Reach out to me directly and I’ll help however I can!

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