When a home inspection report comes back, many buyers start to wonder what they can negotiate with the seller. What’s a reasonable ask? What isn’t? Is there a way to meet in the middle?
Here are some tips for negotiating repairs after a home inspection:
1. Know What’s Reasonable or Mandatory
Assuming that a standard purchase agreement is in effect, the seller is typically not legally obligated to fix things that come back in the inspection report. However, there is usually a contingency in the purchase agreement that says the buyer can back out of the deal if major issues are found in the home inspection.
If there are major structural or safety issues with the home, a mortgage lender may require that those issues be resolved before they agree to lend the buyer a loan. This means that even if the buyer is willing to purchase a home with defects, they may not be able to obtain financing.
Common (and reasonable) repair requests include:
- Electrical – Frayed wiring, improper wiring, or wiring that’s out of code may be found during a home inspection.
- Roofing – Roofing problems can range from missing shingles to major leaks, which may require a full replacement.
- Foundation – Cracked foundations or basement leaks are commonly found in home inspections.
- Plumbing – Leaks, water damage, failing water heaters, and sewer problems can be uncovered in home inspections.
- Windows & Doors – Particularly in older homes, doors that don’t open properly or windows with broken panes may be found.
2. Avoid Nickel-and-Dime Requests
Things caused by normal wear-and-tear or general cosmetic fixes aren’t going to seem like reasonable repair requests to the seller. Chipped paint on baseboards and minor scratches in flooring are examples of these things. Other examples include:
- Inexpensive repairs – Things like a torn window screen, a cracked light switch plate, or a burned-out bulb in a light fixture. As a general rule, if it costs less than $100 to fix, it’s probably a repair request that you shouldn’t make.
- Renovations you’re planning – It’s important to remember that the seller is not responsible for any customizations you may want to make to a home. Asking the seller to cover the costs of renovations you want to make to the home may put the sale at risk.
- Loose fixtures, railings, and similar issues – A loose railing on a stairwell or deck could potentially be unsafe, but the buyer (or a contractor) can solve these problems very quickly with basic tools. If there are obvious signs of rot or decay that can be a health or safety concern, it may be reasonable to request a repair.
- Cosmetic issues – A deck that needs restaining, a bathroom that needs refreshing, and other cosmetic problems are things that the seller probably won’t consider necessary repairs to make. If other buyers who saw those issues during their walkthrough ignore them when they make an offer, the seller is liable to accept their offer over yours.
Figure out the things you can live with for now and fix up later. Making cosmetic changes over time can be more cost-effective and help the resale value of the home for whenever you’re ready to put it on the market. If you have a question about something that is a reasonable request, a REALTOR® will be able to guide you in the right direction.
3. Get a Quote For Repairs
After receiving the inspection report, the buyer may want to ask the inspector for estimates on how much the necessary repairs could cost. However, the inspector may be unable to provide an accurate estimate & will most likely direct you to a contractor who can provide you with ballpark numbers.
Your REALTOR® may be able to provide you with some ballpark numbers based on their past experience, and they will also be able to refer you to some trusted local contractors to get in contact with.
Once the necessary repairs have been made to the home, keep the receipts for the work. You may need to show them at closing.
4. Understand the Seller’s Point of View
It may be easy to get frustrated if the seller does not accept your requests, but try to see things from their point of view, as well. Sellers have tons of costs and fees to consider. Most sellers are willing to help the buyer with repairs in order to expedite the deal, but they may have financial limitations preventing them from putting extra money into repairs.
Approaching the seller with gratitude can go farther than attacking or demanding repairs. Demanding can be a poor way to communicate, especially since repairs can be as shocking to the seller as they are to the buyer. This is typically because most repairs that appear in inspection reports are hidden out of sight behind the surfaces of the home. Sellers could have been living with major issues – like a faulty foundation – for years without knowing until the inspection report.
5. Know How to Negotiate
Understandably, the seller will often want to spend as little money as they can and sell their home in the shortest time frame possible. So, sellers would typically rather give the buyer a credit to take care of repairs versus having to spend more money (and time) to take care of the repairs themselves.
Your REALTOR® will be able to provide the best recommendation on how you should negotiate the repair requests you want to make. Use your discretion in determining what’s worth requesting and what’s not. Gather rough estimates from trusted contractors on how much the repairs could cost. Doing these things will set you up for an optimal outcome, even if you have to bounce ideas back & forth with the seller a few times.
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