What Buyers Should & Should Not Request to Be Fixed.
When you find a home you want, it is important to pick your battles when it comes to repairs requested from a home inspection. While it would certainly be nice for the seller to fix every little home inspection issue before you put your money down, there are only so many repairs most sellers are willing to commit to – especially in a seller’s market.
Electrical, plumbing, roof, HVAC – these are repairs that you can reasonably expect a seller to take care of under most circumstances, as long as the problems are significant enough to impact your use of the house negatively. But there are some repairs that sellers will push back on in many cases, repairs that you should avoid asking for if you want to make it through to closing.
Unfortunately, on occasion, some buyers can lose site of the purpose of a home inspection. For those that don’t buy and sell homes every day, the purpose of a home inspection is to find out if there are severe structural or mechanical defects.
The issues should be large enough that they could have a significant impact on the use and enjoyment of the home now and in the future. A home inspection should not be to create a punch list that itemizes every minor defect with the home you expect the seller to fix. Remember you are not buying a new home!
The home inspection should not be explicitly used for renegotiating the offer to purchase with the seller either. In other words, if you have noticed defects before making your offer that is clearly visible, don’t expect the seller to fix them. An excellent buyer’s agent should be able to counsel you on what is worth focusing on and what should be considered trivial.
One of the questions I often get from my clients is what reasonable requests from the home inspection are? There really is not a standard for what is reasonable and what isn’t, however, below you will find a bit of guidance.
If the real estate agent you have hired just submits your requests to the seller or their agent, without giving you any advice, there may be a problem. This is not the kind of agent you want representing you. A “yes” man or woman is not a good thing. You want someone who will give you an informed opinion.
This is a major reason why both the listing and selling agent should be at the home inspection representing their respective clients. Do you know many times over the years I have seen home inspection requests that were completely unreasonable and not even based on what the home inspector said? The answer is far too many to count! If you have found a home that meets all your needs, consider being a reasonable buyer when it comes to home inspection requests.
The best real estate agents understand how to negotiate home inspection problems. There is usually a give and take where both parties feel like the conclusion is a reasonable one.
Below you will find some of the more common home inspection repair requests that a buyer should not make. Use some common sense and focus on the repairs or improvements that really matter for you and your family.
Home Inspection Repair Requests To Avoid
1. Cosmetic issues
Cosmetic problems like a deck that
needs staining, touching up the paint or repairing a cracked tile may catch your eye and bother you a bit, but they are not the kind of problems that need dealing with right away. Cosmetic issues are at the top of the list to avoid asking a seller to fix.
Many of these problems are relatively easy to handle, and can be taken care of without spending too much money.
Frankly, real estate agents often advise owners what to fix before selling a home and it often boils down to what makes a property more salable. This puts more money in their pocket but some sellers don’t listen or don’t have the budget to do it.
Even if the repairs are somewhat expensive, if they are the kind of issues that other buyers may be willing to overlook, you will need to be flexible if you want to get the house and beat out the competition.
When I am advising my seller clients on what they should agree to fix and what they shouldn’t, there is one line of thinking when determining what’s reasonable. If the sale fell apart and the home went back on the market would it be sensible to assume the next buyer to come along would also have the same request? Would the problem with the home stop the customer from getting financing?
These are two tried and true methods for determining what is reasonable and what is not. There is, of course, the possibility that there are things that should be repaired that don’t fall under either of these categories. These things can be assessed on a case by case basis.
2. Anything under $100
Minor issues under a hundred dollars to fix are definitely home inspection repair requests a buyer shouldn’t make! Problems that arise from repair requests are not always about the financial cost, however, this is taking being nit picky to the extreme.
There may be a hundred little things that need to be fixed on a home, but both you and the seller only have so much time to close a deal. When you hit a seller with multiple little repair requests, he or she may feel overwhelmed simply due to the time required to make the repairs.
The seller’s agent may encourage him or her to pass on your offer if the requests become ridiculous. If the repair is going to cost around $100 or less, just plan on taking care of it yourself after you buy the home.
If you are purchasing a home in a seller’s market, be especially careful not to piss a homeowner off to the point that they look to cancel the deal and go with a different buyer. Over the years there have been plenty of occasions where a seller has terminated the contract and moved on to a backup offer due to a buyer being completely unreasonable.
3. A window with a failed seal
Failed window seals are quite common in homes. Glass that has become fogged is almost always visible when viewing a home unless you are not paying attention. This falls into the category of something you should be paying cognizant of when viewing properties. Most home inspectors will tell you that a failed window seal is purely cosmetic. The is very little energy lost through a failed window seal. The insulating value loss is extremely minimal.
Keep this in mind when making your offer. If there are a significant number of windows that need replacement, account for that in your offer up front. Explain to the agent that the window failure is why have made the bid at your number. Don’t ask for something to be fixed that you clearly noticed before making your offer or was disclosed up front.
4. Renovations you are planning
You may look over the house and imagine some improvements that will make it perfect for you and your lifestyle. However, it is important to remember that the seller is not responsible for preparing your dream home. He or she just wants to sell the home for the best possible price and be done with it.
Avoid asking for repairs that relate to your planned renovations. Doing so will put the sale at risk, which is unnecessary since you are just going to renovate anyway. This is the kind of home inspection request a buyer should never make and will just piss off everyone involved in the transaction.
5. Cracks in a basement floor
Concrete by nature is a very porous substance. It absorbs water and naturally settles. Cracks in concrete floors are entirely expected and not a structural problem. A concrete floor does nothing to hold up a structure. The cracks are purely aesthetic. In fact, if you are purchasing a home that doesn’t have a few cracks you’re lucky. Cracks in the basement walls, however, is a different story altogether.
If you are purchasing a home that has cracks in the cellar wall, it is important to determine if they are structural or not. Most of the time they are not a concern unless the wall has shifted, or the size of the crack has opened up a significant amount.
Typical “spider” cracks should not be anything to worry about. If you find, however, that either type of crack is letting water into the building, it would be reasonable to ask for a repair. Some companies can seal a crack with an epoxy injection that is fairly reasonable in price.
6. Loose fixtures, railings, and similar issues
A loose doorknob, light fixture or railing on a deck or stairwell may be annoying, or even potentially unsafe, but these problems are also often fixable with basic hand tools and a little effort. If you can’t tighten the screws yourself – such as if they are stripped out, or if the material involved is old and worn out – you can hire a contractor to fix the problem for a reasonable price.
Obviously, if there are vast areas of rot or decay, or major safety concerns, the inspector with say so, and you can demand a repair. But if the issue is minor, avoid stressing about it for the moment.
7. Minor water damage
When water saturates interior building materials, like drywall, it can look pretty bad. You are unlikely to miss such damage as you wander through the house. Fortunately, the home inspector is not going to miss the signs of water damage either, and he or she can tell you the severity of the problem. If the water has caused significant damage, the inspector will let you know, and you can request appropriate repairs. But if the water damage is merely cosmetic, don’t stress about it. You can fix cosmetic stuff later.
One of the more common water stains you will see in a home is in the ceiling over a bathroom. This condition is often caused by either a toilet that has overflowed at some point in time or a kid who left a shower curtain open. Water stains are usually easy to discern whether they are ongoing and still an issue.
The exception to the rule is water stains from ice dams. This is the kind of problem that should be investigated completely and do what is necessary to prevent the ice dams from reoccurring in the future. If the seller has already taken care of fixing the ice dam problem but there are just stains left in the ceiling don’t worry about it. You can remove ice dam staining by bleaching that area of the ceiling avoiding a complete paint job.
8. Non-functional light switches and sockets
Avoid requesting repairs for minor electrical issues. The electrical system in a house can be quite finicky. If wires come loose, or a part wears out, like with a switch or a socket, it may no longer function. Flipping a switch that fails to turn on or off a light can be annoying, as can dead outlets, but they are not necessarily signs of the large electrical problems. Your inspector will inform you if the electrical system in the home is safe to use and up to code.
One of my big pet peeves is buyers who make a big deal about older homes not having GFCI outlets in kitchens and baths. Relax people; we have lived in homes for decades without this being a big issue. The chance you are going to drop your blender in the sink and electrocute yourself is minimal. You have a much greater chance of getting hit by a car crossing the street!
9. External buildings – sheds, garages, etc.
If you are in a competitive market, you are going to have to be able to let some things go when it comes to other buildings on the property. Sheds are prone to rot; garages tend to get dirty. Owners are prone to let external buildings get run down more often than they are the main house.
If there are serious issues, it may be reasonable to ask for a fix, but if the shed or the garage looks like every other shed or garage in the neighborhood – that is, less that perfect – it may just be something you are going to have to deal with yourself. It is also likely you were aware of the sheds general condition before submitting your offer to purchase.
10. Cosmetic landscaping or minor yard problems
You can’t expect the seller to plant the flower beds and install a fountain just for you. The seller also won’t be too keen on making minor landscaping repairs that you can just do yourself after you have bought the home. A missing rock from the border of a flower bed, leveling a few bricks in a walkway, trimming the tree in the backyard – other buyers may not care at all about these things, buyers the seller will be happy to work with if you insist on minor landscaping repairs.
What Inspection Items Should Be Fixed?
As mentioned previously, the issues a buyer should focus on asking a seller to repair or replace are significant structural, mechanical, or environmental defects.
These are the substantial home inspection problems. It is reasonable to assume that any buyer would want these items fixed if discovered after a home inspection has taken place. Some of the major home inspection items worth addressing are:
Termites or other wood destroying insects.
Wildlife infestation like bats or squirrels in the attic.
Major drainage or on going water problems.
Elevated Radon levels above EPA suggested levels.
Major electrical defects that cause safety issues.
Significant plumbing problems that interfere with the use of the home.
Lead paint. It should be noted that it is a federal requirement for sellers to disclose the known presence of lead paint in a property.
Well water problems, such as a lack of pressure or volume of water.
Major structural issues such as a leaking roof or substandard building violations.
The above items are a condensed list of possible issues worth asking a seller to address. There certainly could be others but these are without question reasonable repair requests that any buyer would have.
If you are concerned about whether the seller will do an adequate job making these repairs then it may be advisable to ask for a sellers concession instead. This is often referred to in the contract as a closing cost credit. You can then take these funds and make the repairs/modifications yourself.
If you are a buyer and are in the midst of negotiating a home inspection above all else be reasonable, especially if you want the home. If you are a homeowner, understand how a seller should prepare for a home inspection. By taking care of most of the issues mentioned, you won’t have to worry about having a stressful home inspection negotiation with your buyer.
Sellers will often ask should I get a pre-listing home inspection? If you have an older home and know you have some defects needing attention, it might be worth the money! Anytime you can prevent a home inspection from causing your sale to go down the tubes is a good thing. The home inspection is one of the biggest stumbling blocks in a real estate transaction.