During the home-buying process, there's more to negotiation than just price and terms. In the market of the past, buyers had nothing to go for except the highest price as possible, no home inspection, and a home warranty if they wanted to buy it themselves.
Today, buyers have a lot more negotiation on their side, but even if the seller balks at some of your requests, it still makes sense to put certain protective clauses, warranties and insurance policies in place to protect your most valuable asset.
Home inspections are the norm today instead of the exception to the real estate contract these days. Buyers seeking for a really good deal on short-sale or foreclosure properties, however, may have to sign multi-page addenda that take away any binding pre-settlement inspection of the property. While a property inspection may be allowed, foreclosure sellers don't want to fix anything found on the house as they are already losing equity because of the defaulting seller.
Most lenders will request a termite inspection, but even if they don't require it, buyers should request it (at the seller's expense) to make sure you know what's behind the walls. Many times while training contract negotiation, I have found it interesting that new agents are fearful of asking the seller to pay for anything -- particularly the termite inspection. The rationale is that the seller's already "losing" money with the below-list sales price. That sounds "nice," but the buyer is paying the agent to negotiate in their best interest, not in the interest of the seller's bottom line.
Radon inspections have nearly gone the way of the escalation clause -- never asked for and barely remembered. In many places around the country Radon -- a tasteless, odorless gas that can cause cancer -- is found in the ground below houses. A radon inspection doesn't cost that much and remediation is pretty affordable as well, depending on what is found.
The home warranty is a no-brainer in my estimation regardless of what kind of market you're negotiating in. Even if you pay for it yourself ($299-plus for a year's coverage) the home warranty protects the new homeowner from any costly surprises. My clients have never complained about having one in place, but they sure get upset when something happens to the air conditioner or plumbing when they don't have it in place.
Title insurance is usually required by the lender to protect its interest in the mortgage in case a previous owner can claim title to the property you live in. Believe it or not, in today's age of digitized and searchable land records, there are still plenty of cases each year where title problems cost lenders and homeowners financial headaches.
While most transactions involve a title search to guarantee a clear title, sometimes a previous owner can come up with a title that no one knew about. If they can demonstrate that they are a true title holder of your property, then they can demand payment for the property – that's where title insurance comes in to pay off the lender. If the owner has a policy in place, they will also have their interest taken care of. Be sure the policy covers current market price, not just the mortgage amount.
Don't forget the basic homeowner's policy. While most people have this in place, many times they find out (too late) that they don't have enough or proper coverage on the house and their personal property. Is it market value based or replacement? Does the insurance company pay you directly and with an estimate or do you have to go buy replacement products then show them the receipts to get reimbursed?
Have you remodeled the house? Then be sure you have the policy updated. If the carpet is damaged by fire, for instance, did you have builder grade installed or was it an upgrade carpet? What does your policy agree to pay? Visual documentation is also a plus. With the advent of digital photography, this has become even easier to document and store. Be sure to store a CD in a separate place than the house, however, such as a safety deposit box at your local bank.
Finally, in today's litigious culture, have you considered an umbrella liability policy? In case you're sued or someone is hurt at your home, the umbrella policy provides more protection than just for personal property.
As with any type of financial decision, check with a professional to determine what you need to maximize the protection of your home and your family.