The real estate contracts in use in Santa Clara County (PRDS and CAR forms) both include a space for stating how many days are requested for the property condition contingency, which includes inspections as well as other investigations. How much time does it usually take? The CAR contract has a boilerplate number of days offered, 17, as well as a blank. The PRDS doesn’t make any such suggestion.
In Silicon Valley, unlike most of the rest of California, most home sellers provide pre-sale inspections for viewing by potential buyers. Often it’s at least a termite or pest report plus a home inspection. In many cases the disclosure package includes not just these two inspections, but others as well, possibly roof, chimney, or other components.
When there are no pre-sale inspections available for home buyers to read prior to writing the offer, the number of days requested for inspections tends to be longer. In this case, prospective buyers don’t really know the condition of what they’re purchasing so they will need a couple of weeks or more, in most cases, to be satisfied that they understand the condition of the property. Sellers are far less likely to see non-contingent offers or contracts with short numbers of days for investigation if the buyers aren’t given full disclosure upfront.
Conversely, when we see offers with no contingencies for inspection or property condition, it’s almost always because the sellers have given a full battery of inspections, as well as 100% of their disclosures, for the buyers to read and digest upfront.
The number of days needed will depend on the property itself, too, of course. For instance, recently one of my buyers was interested in a Saratoga house located close to high voltage lines. Although there were all the regular inspections one could hope for, there was no EMF reading (electro magnetic field) from PG & E or another provider. We submitted a bid which included a 3 day property condition contingency so that this information could be learned. But the house sold to another buyer with no contingencies.
One last factor is the real estate market itself. When it is a soft market, or a buyer’s market, buyers may be able to be quite leisurely and ask for many days to check everything out thoroughly. In a hot seller’s market, though, there’s a great deal of pressure for buyers to hurry up and decide to move ahead on the sale. As reported previously, right now it’s so out of whack that many purchasers are being reckless and writing completely non-contingent offers (even skipping a loan contingency when they have financing!). When it’s a seller’s market, the buyers take on more risk just to be successful in being able to buy the property.
The quick answer to this question is simply “it depends”. There is no set right answer for how much time you’ll need to inspect the house or condo you want to purchase. If you are working with a good buyer’s agent, he or she should be able to advise you on the risks and benefits of your choices on this and every other element of the contract.