THE BIG ASK

When and how to ask for re­pairs af­ter a home in­spec­tion

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - HOMES - BY ERIK J. MARTIN

The pro­fes­sional home in­spec­tor you hired has com­pleted his re­port and iden­ti­fied some red flags within the prop­erty you’re ea­ger to buy. Now comes the tricky part: get­ting the seller to agree to make the nec­es­sary re­pairs or come down in price to cover the costs of later fixes.

It’s a del­i­cate dance that many buy­ers need to pre­pare for, say the pros, and know­ing what to ex­pect and how to pro­ceed can lead to bet­ter out­comes and less frus­tra­tion.

“A home in­spec­tor could iden­tify ma­jor de­fects that will cost you a lot of money above the pur­chase price to re­pair. This may give you an op­por­tu­nity to fur­ther ne­go­ti­ate the

fi­nal price or walk away from a deal that may not be right for you,” said Chrisoula Papout­sakis, agent with Triplemint in

New York City.

Ron Humes, bro­ker/owner of Lex­ing­ton, Ky.-head­quar­tered HomeS­elect Realty, said se­ri­ous de­fects that the seller should pay for in­clude any­thing the in­spec­tor found that could be haz­ardous to your health or pock­et­book. “This in­cludes mold, radon, elec­tri­cal shock risks, foun­da­tion is­sues, struc­tural in­sta­bil­i­ties, ma­jor heat­ing, ven­ti­la­tion and air con­di­tion­ing prob­lems, and roof and plumb­ing leaks,” said Humes.

Then there are cat­e­gory B items – mi­nor de­fects that don’t nec­es­sar­ily need to be re­paired im­me­di­ately and that may or may not be worth hag­gling with the buyer over. “These are things like a door­bell that doesn’t work, a wob­bly ceil­ing fan, lack of weather seals on doors and win­dows, or a range hood light that doesn’t func­tion,” noted Gor­don Jones, owner of GI Jones Home In­spec­tion in San An­to­nio, Texas.

Iden­ti­fy­ing im­per­fec­tions is of­ten the easy part. Things get more com­pli­cated when re­quest­ing re­me­di­a­tion.

“If the in­for­ma­tion is pre­sented in the wrong fash­ion or if too many in­signif­i­cant re­pairs re­lated to cos­metic or main­te­nance items are re­quested, the seller may elect to re­ject all re­quests and can­cel the con­tract,” Humes said. “This is where a real es­tate agent can be very help­ful.”

“A good agent will be able to ad­vise on how much to push a seller on cer­tain re­pairs,” said Jones, who added that a thor­ough and de­tailed in­spec­tion re­port cou­pled with pho­to­graphic ev­i­dence can help your cause.

If the seller balks at mak­ing re­pairs, “your only re­course is to lower your of­fer price to ac­com­mo­date these re­pair costs. Re­mem­ber that if you pur­chase the prop­erty with­out any guar­an­tees from the owner, you’ll have no re­course af­ter you close to re­coup funds from the seller,” cau­tioned Do­minic Longcroft of Berk­shire Hath­away Home Ser­vices New York Prop­er­ties. “So, it’s im­por­tant to get the buyer to ei­ther make re­pairs now or ac­cept your lower of­fer now. These is­sues must be raised be­fore an of­fer is made or af­ter an of­fer is ac­cepted, but sub­ject to a home in­spec­tion.”

Note that if mak­ing re­pairs is a con­di­tion of your lender such as those re­quired by an ap­praiser to ap­prove the loan, “The seller will have to make those re­pairs and the ap­praiser will have to re­visit the prop­erty in or­der for the loan and trans­ac­tion to pro­ceed,” said Humes. “If the re­pairs are ma­jor and there will be sur­viv­ing war­ranties to be passed along, it may be bet­ter for you to con­tract those fixes and take money from the seller at clos­ing in lieu of the re­pairs. This way, you can se­lect the ap­pro­pri­ate sub­con­trac­tor and over­see the qual­ity of the work.”

But if the re­pairs are mi­nor and will not have any as­so­ci­ated war­ranty, “it may not mat­ter who com­pletes the re­pairs,” Humes added.

Fi­nally, give thought to back­ing out of the con­tract if the in­spec­tor’s re­port finds ma­jor mul­ti­ple de­fects that make you feel un­easy or over­whelmed – even if the seller agrees to cover these re­pair ex­penses. “When sig­nif­i­cant re­pairs are iden­ti­fied and the seller is not will­ing to fix them or ne­go­ti­ate a lower price, it’s time to walk away from the deal,” noted Papout­sakis.

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