How to Negotiate Repairs After a Home Inspection
A home inspection is a deep and thorough look, from the roof to the foundation, at the home you're interested in purchasing. The list may be long, but don’t get discouraged—it will likely include a number of small repairs that you can do yourself. However, larger and more expensive issues raise the question of who will pay for the repair.
You can protect yourself from purchasing a home with hidden, extensive damage by making your offer “contingent on home inspection.” This contingency enables you to make an initial offer with the understanding that you can renegotiate or withdraw your offer if the home inspection reveals problems that you don’t want to be responsible for.
Negotiating for home repairs after the inspection is about coming to an agreement that is manageable for both parties. The seller can only give what they can afford, but you shouldn’t buy a house that needs repairs you can’t afford to make. Here are a few tips to help you find middle ground.
Determine What You Can Fix Yourself
Identify the repairs that are cheap or easy to fix yourself, and leave those out of the negotiation. You should also plan to take care of any cosmetic repairs. Even if you’ve never been much of a DIYer, with the help of the internet there are plenty of home repairs you can make yourself, such as repairing a leaky faucet, caulking gaps, replacing trim and baseboards, or patching a hole in drywall.
Don’t forget to look at the long-term vision. If you’re planning to put in hardwood floors as soon as you move in, then it wouldn’t make sense to take issue with the current flooring. If you know you’re going to do a kitchen remodel in the near future, then leave kitchen repairs off the list and add them to your remodeling plans.
Understand the Seller’s Motivation
You should go into this negotiation with an estimate of how much or little the seller will likely agree to. First, you have to know what’s motivating them. If they’ve already moved into a new house, they may be more interested in getting rid of their second mortgage than getting the most for their sale.
Also consider how much the seller paid for the home. If the value has more than doubled and the owner is 15 years into the original mortgage, then they can probably spare a few hundred dollars to cover repairs. However, in a situation where the seller is desperate just to break even on the sale, there’s going to be considerably less wiggle room when it comes to home repairs.
If the seller agrees to make “some” of the repairs and you give them the entire inspection list, they may pick and choose the repairs that are most convenient for them. Or, if your list of requests is too long they may get overwhelmed and pass on your offer. Avoid this by making your requests short and specific. Stick to the items that are most difficult or expensive to fix, such as a broken water heater or a roof that needs to be replaced. Seeing the long list of repairs needed in contrast to your short list of requests will show that your requests are reasonable, and may appeal to the seller’s sense of fairness.
Request a Cash Credit
You can request to have the seller pay for the cost of repairs with a cash credit at closing. This is often a win-win situation: the seller doesn’t have to shell out cash up front, and you don’t have to pay for the repairs. It also saves the seller the time and headache of hiring professionals and coordinating the repairs. Hiring your own professionals and overseeing the work yourself may ensure that you get the best quality. After all, since you’ll be living in the house, you have the most at stake in making sure the work gets done properly.
Keep in mind that there is a limit to how much a seller can credit to a buyer at closing. The maximum amount varies by loan type, but closing costs count toward it. If you are planning to have any portion of your closing costs covered by the seller, then you may want to take that into consideration before you request a credit for repairs.
Robert Kociecki has more than 15 years of experience as a real estate executive. He is Senior Vice President of Property Management and Renovation at Altisource, which includes home buying resources like Owners.com, where you can save money on your next home.