Asking the Seller for Repairs or Replacements
The hard part is over! You’ve found that nearly perfect home that your family has been looking for. You’ve made an offer and it’s been accepted, and now you’re settling into the nuts and bolts of getting to closing. If you’re like 95% of home buyers, you’ve had an inspection done because you want to make sure that your new home is as safe, reliable, and valuable as you hoped it would be. A certified home inspector will do a very thorough job of checking out the property from top to bottom, and it’s inevitable that they may find anywhere from a few minor things out of sorts, to a long laundry list of desperately needed repairs. If you’ve included a contingency clause, which gives you the right to exit the contract under certain circumstances like an unfavorable inspection, the inspection report is your chance to renegotiate your deal, attend to unknown issues before you move in, or possibly even walk away from that property — sad though that may be.
In addition to including a contingency clause relating to the inspection, most contracts include a dollar amount that repairs will be limited to, agreed upon when the contract was first negotiated. An important thing to realize is that this dollar amount is not necessarily fixed. If your contract limits repairs to $2,000, but the inspection uncovers $5,000 worth of repairs, the seller may agree to exceed that dollar figure in order to not lose that sale. Strategy enters into the equation at this point… If the inspection turns up a significant number of problems, do you want to ask for a long list of expensive repairs? Or assume responsibility for some of those repairs yourself? Or walk away from the deal? It can be an incredibly emotional and stressful time – take your time and talk to your realtor about your options, as they may be able to suggest some innovative solutions.
When it comes time to make that wish list of repairs, there are a number of approaches you can use. While the inspection report is a great place to start, you might not be limited to its findings. After making your initial offer, you may have seen things on or around the property that need updating or become aware of conditions that weren’t previously disclosed. How much you ask to have repaired or replaced is ultimately up to you. One way to approach this task is to create a comprehensive list of everything you can think of, from major replacements to minor fixes. Then take a day or two to prioritize those items. Put five stars by the items you absolutely have to have done, down to one or two stars by the minor inconveniences and repairs you can make yourself, or issues you can live with. Then talk to your realtor about what you want to ask for, realizing that this will also be a negotiation with the seller. Sometimes the seller will come back from your request with a smaller list, or one limited to a set dollar amount.
Some popular things to ask the seller to attend to include
- A new roof. This is often a very big ticket item and isn’t the kind of thing you can just ignore. A leaky roof not only drives up your heating and AC bills, it can lead to water damage to the home and your belongings. Most sellers understand that a roof in good condition is really important to home buyers.
- New HVAC system for your heating and air. Another big-ticket item, but one that you may be able to postpone for a few years, depending on your climate and the condition of the system.
- New hot water heater, dishwasher, or garbage disposal. These are items that most homes don’t want to do without, but typically aren’t an exorbitant cost to bear.
- Refrigerator and washer/dryer. Historically home sales have been varied as to whether these are included in the sale of the house. The buyer is often expected to bring or purchase their own, and asking a seller to provide new appliances may be construed as illogical. Again, it’s your choice to ask for what you want, but you might investigate the cost of these items before adding them to your repair list.
- Carpets. Replacing the carpet can be a sticking point with sellers, and often the choice of carpet is highly personal. If the carpet is in bad shape or you want to replace with hardwood floors, you might offer to do them yourself in order to win concessions on repairs in other places. But if you do require that the carpet is replaced, be sure to carefully spell out what type of new carpet, color, brand, and padding you want, and the proper disposal of the old carpet.
- Refinishing hardwood floors. This is a cost that you might feel more comfortable letting the seller handle. You can pick out the color of stain, giving you more control of how the final product might look.
- Holes in the walls, old electrical outlets, light switches, ceiling fans, weather-stripping, and light fixtures. These items might be very nice to have included, particularly if you feel uncomfortable tending to them yourself. But if you are looking to slim down your required repair list, these may be things you can handle after the sale.
- Water stains on the ceilings. This is one area I wouldn’t just ignore. The painting of a ceiling is typically not a big deal, but you need to be sure that the leak isn’t an ongoing concern or future problem. Speaking of paint… Most buyers won’t ask the seller to paint rooms in the house, although you could if you wanted to. Paint is typically not very expensive and like carpets can be a highly personal choice. Plus you really want whoever is doing the painting to take their time and do it neatly, so you don’t end up having to endure a sloppy job.