Cook’s Corner: Who Handles Home Repairs When Buying Or Selling?

by Steve CookFebruary 14, 2017

When I list my home for sale do I have to declare past repairs and replacements?

who handles home repairs
In most states, you may be obligated to disclose problems that could affect the property’s value or desirability. It is illegal to fraudulently conceal major physical defects in your property such as a basement that floods in heavy rains. When selling your home, you may be obligated to disclose major problems. Many states now require sellers to take a proactive role by making written disclosures about the condition of the property.

If you have already made repairs and corrected the problem, you are not required to disclose them unless you have evidence those repairs did not solve the problem. However, be aware that buyers will probably conduct a home inspection that will probably surface major problems. If you have even the faintest question that you should disclose something to potential buyers, avoid the potential for liability and tell all. Full disclosure of any property defects will help increase the buyer’s confidence that you’re dealing fairly. And it will protect you from legal problems later, such as buyers who want out of the deal or who claim damages suffered because you carelessly or intentionally withheld information about your property.

Check with your real estate agent or attorney or your state department of real estate for disclosures required in your state. Also, check with your city planning department for information on local ordinances and disclosures that affect your sale.

I’m the buyer. Inspection reveals the need for necessary repairs that will exceed closing costs. Should I ask the seller to pay for repairs or lower the price?

Yes. Negotiations over repairs are coming in home sales. Inspections frequently reveal problems that require repair, such malfunctioning appliances, cosmetic damage or more. Your contract with the seller should also include an inspection contingency clause, which allows you to cancel the contract get your deposit back within a pre-determined period, usually 30 days.

Inspect the house yourself and note any damage that needs repairing that the inspector may have missed, such as electrical outlets and cable connections that don’t work, or damage to gutters or external wood trim. Obtain estimates from one or two contractors to make the repairs cited in the inspector’s report and from your inspection. Share the inspector’s findings, your findings, and your estimates and ask the seller to make the repairs before closing or agree to lower the selling price to compensate you for making the repairs.

Most sellers will be reasonable and will agree either to make the changes or to lower the price. However, your seller’s willingness to negotiate will reflect the nature of your market. If you live in strong seller’s market and the seller knows there are potential buyers standing by, the seller might decide not to agree to many of your requests and take a chance on finding a buyer who won’t be as thorough.

I sold my home six months ago — can the buyer come back to me now and ask me to pay for repairs?

No, not unless you withheld information about a problem that could have affected the value or desirability of your home, such as a flooding basement or structural damage. If so, you might have violated your state law governing disclosure. Contact your real estate attorney or your state department of real estate for information on disclosures required in your state.

Otherwise, the closing legally ended your obligations to the property and the buyer. Most closing documents say the buyer accepts the condition as it is on the day of closing so the seller has no further obligations. Review your contract and closing docs should you have any doubts.

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About The Author
Steve Cook
Steve Cook is editor and co-publisher of Real Estate Economy Watch. He is a member of the board of the National Association of Real Estate Editors and writes for several leading Web sites, including Inman News. From 1999 to 2007 he was vice president for public affairs at the National Association of Realtors.