If you’re buying a home, you’ll want to know how to negotiate repairs after a home inspection. After all, odds are even the dreamiest house will have problems, and sellers might be quite receptive to the notion of fixing a few flaws to sweeten their end of the deal.
So once your trusty home inspector scrutinizes this potential purchase and hands you his report, what should you say to the sellers from there? Look no further than this handy haggling guide for home buyers on how to negotiate repairs after a home inspection.
Pick your battles
While it’s tempting to start nickel-and-diming the sellers so that your new home can be as pristine as possible when you move in, that’s just not realistic, warns Realtor® Kyle Springer, with Coldwell Banker in Bowling Green, KY. Instead, he advises, “concentrate your time and attention on major, structural issues, rather than cosmetic ones.”
So if that cracked faceplate is bugging you, head to the hardware store and get another one for a few bucks rather than adding it to a long laundry list of repair requests—which will no doubt annoy the seller.
So which repairs fall into the “need” versus “want” categories?
Required repairs after a home inspection
Here are two of the Items a seller must fix:
- Any water penetration issues such as a wet basement or moldy walls
- Local code safety violations such as missing handrails or an unstable deck
If you have a mortgage, your lender will likely require certain repairs before handing over your loan. As such, certain repairs listed on the home’s appraisal report will have to be fixed, too.
Common home repairs to request (but you may not get)
Here are some common items on buyers’ home repair lists, although sellers may or may not be willing to fix them:
- Upgrading ungrounded electrical wiring if the house was built before the 1960s
- Replacing old-style galvanized water pipes or any leaking pipes
- Making roof repairs
- Changing disintegrating sewer pipes
- Upgrading heating/cooling systems and water heaters
Back up your requests with research
It’s easy to eyeball a potential problem and say, “It looks like there’s been water damage” or “That roof is looking a little worn.” It’s quite another to have evidence on how extensive the damage is and an estimate of how much it will cost to fix. The more specifics and backup you can provide, the better.
This is why a home inspection is so important; it helps when sellers hear it from a pro. For example, telling the seller you want the porch repaired because it feels shaky will not hold weight unless a professional home inspector submits a report about the porch’s structural damage.
Ask for a repair credit
Rather than having the seller coordinate and pay for the work, ask for a “repair credit” instead.
Scott Brown, owner of Brightside Home Inspections in Syracuse, NY, recommends asking for a repair credit on any problem that’s more than $500. This is actually in the buyer’s favor, as the seller no longer has a vested interest in ensuring the job will be done right.
“Otherwise the home seller will almost always find the cheapest available contractor or family member to fix the problem,” says Brown. “Meanwhile, you as the buyer would, of course, prefer the best contractor available.”
Aviva Friedlander contributed to this story.