Condos and Coops: To Inspect or Not to Inspect

by Robert J. Smith on July 15, 2014

Sellers of coop and condo apartment units rarely if ever will provide a purchaser a contingency based on an inspection being conducted after the contract is signed. Most purchasers do not even consider whether to conduct an inspection before the contract is signed. But is that a wise course to follow? There are a number of points to consider both in favor of and against conducting a pre-contract inspection:

In Favor:

1. Maybe you’ll find something significant. Perhaps the inspector will discover some defect in the apartment or a condition that is not up to code that could have a significant impact on whether you actually want to buy the unit at the agreed-upon price. Or perhaps you can get the seller to agree to make some repairs, or to give you a credit so that you can address the problem yourself after the closing.

2. You can figure out what work you need to do post-closing. Even if the seller is unwilling to make repairs or provide a credit (sellers typically will do neither), you will be informed about conditions that you may need to fix or improve once you take occupancy of the unit. How much will that cost? This could help you to determine whether you can still afford to purchase the unit.

3. The seller will know you are a serious purchaser if you are taking the time and effort to conduct an inspection. This is more of a factor in coops, where sellers may take comfort that a purchaser serious enough to conduct an inspection may be more likely to pass muster with the Board.

Against:

1. Most of what can go wrong is in the building systems, which are a part of the building’s common areas, and which the inspector likely won’t get to see, so why bother going through the time and expense? If something is visible, you don’t need an inspector to see it.

2. Time and expense. Given what the inspector won’t be able to see, why are you spending about $1,000? And what if the Seller gets antsy during the few days it takes to schedule the inspection are review the report and gets another offer from someone else who doesn’t care about doing an inspection?

Brokers are particularly concerned about this last point. Time can mean everything, especially in this strong sellers’ market, so anything that slows the process, even by a day or two, can mean the difference between a purchaser getting a deal or losing it. Many sellers would prefer not to have a purchaser poking around the apartment and looking for ways to negotiate down the purchaser price.

If you decide to conduct a pre-contract inspection, make sure that the inspector (preferably a certified engineer) can do the inspection within a day and prepare the report quickly, and find out exactly what it will cost. Then be sure to take that time period into account. There is no automatic answer to whether or not you should conduct an inspection. I will help you figure out the delicate balance between the pluses and minuses and whether it is the right thing to do for your deal.

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