When you are purchasing a home, one of the most important steps you can take is to have a professional inspector evaluate the property. The inspector’s job is to point out flaws and defects on the property, especially if they will impair your ability to use the home. Major problems are referred to as structural or mechanical defects and include the roof, foundation, and HVAC systems. These are critical parts of the home that you would expect to be in good working order when you are considering a purchase. However, over the year’s buyers have begun to lose sight of the purpose for the home inspection, and it is becoming more common for their repair requests to be unreasonable.
As a buyer, when you find a home you like it is important to be realistic and pick your battles when it comes to repair requests. Don’t go at it alone – a good listing agent should be able to counsel you on what is important and what is trivial when it comes to repairs. Make sure that your listing agent and the selling agent are in the know and have read and evaluated the home inspection. They understand how to negotiate home inspection problems and after a bit of negotiating, they are likely to come to a reasonable conclusion where both parties are satisfied.
Significant problems that will negatively impact your ability to use and enjoy the house are repairs that you can reasonably expect a seller to take care of. It would be nice to have the seller fix everything before you make a purchase, but the home inspection is not intended to be used as an itemized list of every little problem with the home. If repair requests start to stray from the original goal of the home inspection then, you can expect the sellers to push back; and in the case of unreasonable requests, it could end up sinking the sale. Remember: You are not buying a new home! Now, let’s cover some of the most common unreasonable requests to give you some guidelines when buying your next home.
Anything Under $100
As a rule of thumb, if you are asking a seller to fix things that cost less than $100 then you are being nit-picky. A buyer should never expect perfection in a home; if you present the seller with a list of little repair requests, it’s likely they could get overwhelmed, especially with the limited time you have to close a deal. In this situation it’s not uncommon for the seller’s agent to suggest passing on the sale. If the repair is going to cost $100 or less, it’s better to take care of it yourself; or, if there are multiple small repairs try asking for a credit. A seller will be far more likely to agree to a small credit than repair a long list of inexpensive issues.
Cosmetic problems are not items that need to be taken care of right away, plus they are usually fairly inexpensive to fix. Common complaints with cosmetics include: decks that need staining, touch up paint, and cracked tiles. To increase the resale value of the home real estate agents generally advise sellers to make these types of repairs before the home goes on the market.
However, many sellers lack the time and money to get them all done. Chances are any cosmetic repairs that need to be done have already been factored into the selling price of the home. In this situation, other buyers are going to be willing to overlook the issues, so you will need to temper your expectations if you want to beat the competition.
Glass that has become fogged as the result of a failed window seal is almost always visible during a home inspection. Home inspectors classify this as cosmetic because the amount of energy lost from the failure is miniscule. If there is a significant number of windows that need to be replaced then mention it in your offer; however, don’t ask for repairs on items that were clearly visible before you made your offer.
Minor Water Damage
Stains from water damage are easy to spot and can look pretty bad. It is common to see stains on the celling of the bathroom from an overflow or years of steamy showers. Your home inspector will catch them too, but they will know how to spot a real problem. For a professional it will be easy to differentiate between a cosmetic problem or a serious ongoing issue. If there is significant damage its okay to request the appropriate repairs. However, if the damage is merely superficial you will need to fix it yourself.
Any loose fixtures like doorknobs, light fixtures, and even railings are probably going to fall under the $100 rule, even if they seem unsafe. This is because they can typically be repaired or tightened with a simple set of hand tools. Even if you can’t make the repair yourself you can hire a handy man to repair the problem for you at a reasonable price. As mentioned before, your home inspection will have pointed out if the loose fixtures are the result of a more major problem such rot or decay, so don’t fuss over the minor issues.
Minor Electrical Issues
Electrical systems in the house can be tricky, especially if it is an older home. Wires become loose and parts wear out causing light switches and sockets to stop functioning over time. These issues can be annoying but they are not usually a sign of a major safety or electrical problem. Your home inspector will inform you if the electrical system in the home is safe to use and up to code.
The home inspection can be one of the biggest stumbling blocks in the purchase of a home. If you are a buyer negotiating a home inspection remember to be reasonable, especially if you want the home. You don’t want the negotiations from the home inspection to cause the sale to go down the tubes.