Contract "contingencies" are factors in the buyers acceptance of the contract, allowing the sale 'subject to' satisfactory completion of the contingency. In other words, contingent sale allows the buyer to place conditions on the sale closing such as home inspection, appraisals, financing, title and survey.
The first contingency usually addressed in a home sale is for inspections.
In the St Louis area, most contracts written are either the St Louis Association of Realtors Residential Sale Contract or Special Sale Contract. The Residential Sale Contract includes a 'built in' provision for inspection contingency with a blank for how many days the buyer has to perform inspections. The Special Sale Contract has no such provisions, but does have an additional rider that can be added which includes provisions for inspections spelled out.
Home buyers have several options to choose from. Generally inspections are performed simultaneously with one or more inspectors visiting the home at a scheduled time. The buyer(s) are STRONGLY encouraged to attend these inspections as they often times help the prospective new owners on the many potential maintenance issues that can arise.
1. Building Inspection --major systems, roof, gutters, structure, drainage, electrical and plumbing, doors and locks are all throughly tested and inspected. Results are usually summarized and detailed. Good inspections include photos too.
2. Termite Inspections --perimeter of home, yard, and all exposed basement joists are examined for any current or past evidence of termites or wood destroying insects (carpenter ants, etc.)
3. Radon Inspection -- Radon gas, a radioactive gas found, is naturally occuring as is rises from the ground into the air. Homes can trap this gas in basements and in slab homes so that levels of this gas exceed healthy levels. Persistent exposure to excessive levels of radon gas are known to cause lung cancer. Various types of radon inspections test the levels to make sure that radon levels don't exceed US EPA guidelines. Hazzardous levels may be easily remediated.
4. Sewer Lateral -- The sewer line can be inspected with a camera to make sure the sewer travels all the way out to the main line and any cracks or roots are noted. St Louis City and St Louis County both have very different mandatory insurance plans if problems exist. Costs to repair a sewer lateral can cost thousands, so identification prior to purchase can be helpful.
5. Lead Paint -- lead hazard inspections are important if young children reside in the home and / or if the home was built prior to 1978. Old windows and poorly maintained paint coats are good indicators that the home may need a lead test.