Reuben's Home Inspection Blog

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Should The Seller Fix This?

"Does the seller need to fix this?"  This is a common question I'm asked when I find defects at houses that I inspect, and the answer is always no. When I find defects during a home inspection (and I always find defects), there are four ways for the buyer to deal with them: Do nothing, have the seller do repairs, have the seller fund repairs, or cancel the purchase. I'm going to discuss these different options, and go over why some are better than others... in my opinion, of course.

Do Nothing. This is usually the best option for buyers. When buying a used home, buyers shouldn't expect everything to be perfect, because it never is. Walls get damaged, faucets leak, appliances age. This doesn't mean buyers shouldn't address defects after they've bought the house, but it's unrealistic to expect sellers of used houses to fix every little defect. Asking sellers to address a long list of minor repairs will often make the seller feel defensive about their home, make the buyers look petty, and make the home inspector get labeled ‘nit-picky'. Bad feelings all around :(. This typically comes from a misunderstanding of what a home inspection is for; home inspections are meant to allow the buyers to make an informed decision about their potential purchase, not to give sellers a long list of little repairs.

Ask The Sellers To Make Repairs. This is usually, but not always, the worst option. If a seller has performed improvements at their home and it was done wrong, why would they get it right the second time? When a buyer asks a seller to repair things, they are basically making the seller the general contractor for their new home. I don't think this makes any sense.  The seller has no motivation to do high quality work, and I know from experience that the work is usually done wrong, or the work will be sub-par and the materials will be the cheapest possible. It's a very frustrating situation for buyers when I go out to verify repairs the day before closing and nothing is done right.  What happens now?   If the seller is going to do repairs, language should be included in the purchase agreement that requires licensed contractors to do the work, permits pulled and inspected by the authority having jurisdiction (the city), and proof of both should be given to the buyer well in advance of the closing date.  Just about anything related to plumbing, electrical, or HVAC requires a permit, and much of the work performed by carpenters also requires a permit.  This should be done for projects of any size; if a project is too small to require a permit, why have the seller do it at all?

Foundation wall caving inAsk The Sellers To Fund Repairs. This is usually a much better option than having the seller do repairs.  The buyer can hire their own contractors to do the work, and they can oversee the whole project after they own the house.  This is definitely the most logical approach, but it doesn't happen as much as it should because emotions get in the way.  Many home buyers have a mindset that they're not getting a good deal if they buy a house and need to do repairs right away, no matter what the price is... and family members help perpetuate this idea, especially fathers (I'll probably do it too someday).

Cancel The Purchase. This happens when the buyer decides there are too many problems with the house and they don't want to spend their time dealing with repairs, or when buyers and sellers can't come to an agreement.  In most instances when a deal falls apart because of an inspection, it happens because neither the buyers nor the sellers are aware of a major problem, and the buyers don't want to spend their time and energy overseeing repairs.

Sometimes issues come up during an inspection where the extent of the damage or the cause of the problem is not always apparent, and these are times when a buyer should definitely not wait until they own the home to undertake repairs. 

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections - Email - Minneapolis Home Inspector

RELATED POSTS:

Inspect The Common Areas on Townhomes?  Yes.

I Didn't Kill The Deal, The House Did.

POST EDIT  3/4/09

I've received a number of comments that made me realize I wasn't clear about the question that buyers ask - "Does the seller need to fix this?"  This question is typically asked by first time home buyers who confuse me with a code enforcement official.  I always say "No" because I have no authority while performing private inspections.  I can't make the seller do anything.

When buyers ask me "Should the seller fix this?", I recommend they ask their agent for advice.  This isn't my realm, and I'm not in a position to give an educated answer. 

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections

        

76 commentsReuben Saltzman • February 28 2009 07:20AM

Comments

Thanks Reuben, good information! I have an inspector I use who, when he meets with the buyers tells them what they will have at the end of the inspection is a "guide to a used product". I love that expression.

Posted by Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties) almost 6 years ago

That is a great expression!  I might have to steal it...

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Minneapolis Home Inspections (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 6 years ago

Great information.  Have you noticed any major changes in the demands of the buyers with changes in the economy?  It seems to me that with money being so tight my buyers seem to be asking for more repairs from the seller..Just wondering if you have noted any changes?

Posted by Vanessa V. Simmons, Realtor (Real Living HER) almost 6 years ago

Reuben...

I've actually seen Realtors tell their Buyers that the Seller is responsible for every defect. It always just blows my mind and makes me wonder where they obtained their RE License. The Seller doesn't "Have" to do squat :)

TLW...ROAR!

Posted by "The Lovely Wife" (Broker Bryantnulls Wife) The One And Only TLW. (President-Tutas Towne Realty, Inc.) almost 6 years ago

Reuban - Congratulations on the feature!  Too many buyer's have the perception that the seller HAS to fix everything.  (Unfortunately, some agents perpetuate this myth).  The inspection has great value when it comes to insuring the buyers understand what they are buying.  However, a repair request is a negotiation not a decree. 

Posted by Erik Hitzelberger, Louisville - Middletown Real Estate (RE/MAX Alliance - Louisville REALTOR-Luxury Homes) almost 6 years ago

Great post and comments so far !  You are right, often times buyers think the seller must fix everything which is not accurate.  Of course, in a buyers market, buyers have more leverage for concessions and repairs to be negotiated as a result of the inspections.

Posted by Christopher and Stephanie Somers - Realtors - Philadelphia Real Estate (Realtor / Owner - RE/MAX Access) almost 6 years ago

Reuban, good article,  I encourge the Buyers to be present when the inspection is being done, so they can see first hand what they will find later in the report.  In our area we have an abundance of short sales and bank owned properties.  These are always "As Is" sales with no option for the seller to address any repairs. It is really a Buyer Beware sitution.  Some of these homes are really trashed.

Posted by Bill Driscoll, GRI, CRS (RE/MAX Realty Affiliates) almost 6 years ago

Thanks for the descriptions.  Perfect explanation of the options available.  Too many buyers still think the house should be perfect the day they move in.  I agree with the above - use your leverage to receive a better credit and then do the repairs your way after settlement.

Posted by David Henke, Realtor, Homes Just West of Philadelphia PA (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc) almost 6 years ago

The very best is when the buyer has offered a very fair price...and the seller is willing to bend over backwards to help the buyer enjoy the house they have called home.

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Short Sale - CDPE, REDS (Keller Williams 414-525-0563) almost 6 years ago

It is always smart for the Realtor to pre-educated a new buyer before the home inspection process, as to what to expect. At least pointing out some of the most common things found. That unless it is a major defect it is best to keep an open mind on the items found because often they are not that costly to correct but there are often numerous things explained and it starts sounding bad and over whelming. There is no such thing as perfect... 

Posted by Mary Strang, Real Estate almost 6 years ago

A couple of points to ponder:

  1. The lender may not approve an allocation of funds for repairs after closing; get this squared away in advance with the lender.
  2. Not all contracts allow for cancellation based on the findings of an inspection report; they may allow for requests to make repairs only.

A buyer should definitely consult with a versed professional before entering into a real estate transaction; one should not assume anything. These two points are samples of landmines that can potentially crop up.

Posted by Stephen Graham (Inactive) almost 6 years ago

Reuben,

Good review. I always counsel buyers that the role of the professional inspection is to evaluate those things that they didn't have the training to do on their own. I can't tell you how many times I see buyers hide behind the inspection report to demand that the seller fix things like cracked windows and missing cabinet pull knobs. These items were clearly visible when you toured the home and calculated your offer price! Issues like radon, dangerous electrical or plumbing work and structural problems are beyond what an average buyer can recognize or evaluate. Since the buyer assumed they were in proper working order at the time the price was agreed to, then these things should be addressed after the inspection. But as is correctly pointed out here, the seller doesn't need to do anything...except disclose newly found defects to the next prospective buyer.

Posted by Harold "Hal" Benz, CEO/ Team Leader (Keller Williams NJ Metro Group) almost 6 years ago

Thanks Reuben.  I totally agree.  Especially the part about having the seller repair.  It will almost invariably the cheapest, homemade, not up to code repair possible and will create additional problems for the sale.

Posted by Gabe Sanders, Stuart Florida Real Estate (the BlueWater Realty team specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales) almost 6 years ago

"have the seller do repairs, have the seller fund repairs,"

You do mean "try to have the seller. . . . . .".

Our contract clearly states that repair list is submitted.  Nowhere does it say that the seller have to do anything. 

Too many buyers believe that sellers have to make repairs.  They are not educated by their agents, who also often don't understand the home inspection contingency. 

Resale real estate is sold by an "as is" contract that may have contingencies such as an acceptable home inspection. 

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) almost 6 years ago

I try to keep it clean and not ask for repairs.  Most of my sales are bank owned and the client knows its unlike they will get any repairs from the BANK.

Posted by Chuck Carstensen, Minnesota Real Estate Expert (RE/MAX Results) almost 6 years ago

Those little repairs seem to always get us in trouble.  I like your post I think I'll use it in our sales meeting next week.

Posted by Connie Lou Barnett, GRI,CRS,CRB,SRMM,ARA,PRS,SFR,QSC (Real Living/Home Realty) almost 6 years ago

Hi Reuben,  We write our contracts with specific percentage rates in the event repairs are needed. 

Posted by Bill Gillhespy, Fort Myers Beach Realtor, Fort Myers Beach Agent - Homes & Condos (16 Sunview Blvd) almost 6 years ago

Hi Reuben,

This is a great list. Buyer's need to realize they are buying a "used" house. There are going to be a few issues. Nothing is perfect.

-Lisa

Posted by Lisa Udy, Logan Utah Realtor ( Platinum Real Estate Group) almost 6 years ago

I am so glad I read this! I am on my way to an inspection this mornign and think this is great info for my buyer! Thanks so much!

Posted by Cristal Drake, Realtor - Fullerton Real Estate (Prudential California Realty) almost 6 years ago

Hi Rueben -- In theory, I agree with you.  In practice, however, these things rarely result in a problem.  When sellers have correct repair items, and we stipulate that licensed contractors will perform the work, I have never run into issues thus far.  It's not to say it won't happen, but it's not a built-in travesty waiting to unfold.  Most sellers are decent people and don't want to jeopardize a transaction to save a few hundred dollars or cut corners.  A lot of this has to do with having excellent seller representation, which I have had the good fortune to have had most of the time.

That said, you are right about the respective pros and cons.

Posted by Chris Olsen, Broker Owner Cleveland Ohio Real Estate (Olsen Ziegler Realty) almost 6 years ago

Reuben: Have you been called "The Deal Killer" before? LOL

So many times the agents want to blame the inspector for the problems that are found with the house. I want the inspector to find the problems before the house closes and not have the buyer find anything afterwords, that was there, before they bought the house. This is what we recommend to sellers: Have you house inspected BEFORE you put it on the market!!!! This way they know upfront what the repairs are! We also advise them to make the necessary repairs. We go over the Buy and Sell Agreement with the seller and explain to them what can happen concerning repairs after the buyer has had a home inspection. We do all of this before we take the listing.

We sit down with the buyer - before they make an offer - and explain the Buy and Sell Agreement and expalin what can happen concerning repairs with them.

The main problem is that the buyers and the sellers must be educated, by their agents, as to what to expect after a home inspection. In our contract either party can walk away. The buyer cannot make the seller fix anything found on a home inspection. Buyers also need to understand that when they make an offer on a foreclosure, most every time - it is - AS IS.

You wrote a great post! Congratulations!

Posted by Sandy Childs, Realtor - Spartanburg, SC (Keller Williams Realty) almost 6 years ago

Great post, Reuben.  Excellent explanation of the actions a home buyer could take.  The last option of canceling the contract... I must say if there are that many problems, you would hope a buyer would catch that prior to even putting an offer in.

Twitter

Posted by Kris Kombrink ~ The Kombrink Team (RE/MAX Excels - Chicago's Western Suburbs) almost 6 years ago

You state the alternatives clearly so that the buyer knows what the options are.  Great post!

Posted by Bruce & Mary Smith, REALTORS, Savannah Lakes Village McCormick SC (Savannah Lakes Homes) almost 6 years ago

I have always taught my buyers that not everything that comes up in an inspection is of critical importance.  And those issues that might be critical become a negotiating tool - not a deal killer.  So far (knock on wood) I have not had a deal go south because of an inspection.  And some of those inspections were full of what I would call 'critica' defects (ie foundation issues, water intrusion, etc.).  We just go back to the negotiating table and everyone goes away with a realistic understanding of what they are getting into.

Posted by Carol Smith (Casmi Photography) almost 6 years ago

Nicely stated Reuben.

Posted by Tad Petersen / Home Inspector, Mpls (Safeguard Home Inspections, Inc.) almost 6 years ago

Your post is a great perspective of the inspection process and end result.  I think a lot of buyers get hung up if small items are discovered and they lose track of the big picture.  Thanks for sharing this.

Posted by Maureen Bray Portland OR Home Stager ~ Room Solutions Staging, "Staging that Sells Portland Homes" (Room Solutions Staging, Portland OR) almost 6 years ago

Great information! I think a lot of these issues could be avoided if sellers would have their homes inspected before the home goes on the market. A pre-inspection could save the sellers thousands of dollars when renegotiating a sales contract.

Posted by Steve Zarry, Austin Central Texas, Real Estate (House Buying Now) almost 6 years ago
If we all educate our buyers during a orientation meeting and stop meeting unknown callers at Homes for sale we could save a lot of heart ache. Great thought provoking post.
Posted by Connor T. MacIvor, The Paris911 Team at RE/MAX of Valencia CA (RE/MAX of Valencia CA - Paris911) almost 6 years ago

You're so right. I don't understand why any buyer would want a seller to repair anything in the house! I have always encouraged the seller to provide a credit at close of escrow for any defects the buyer and seller agree need to be rectified. That way the buyer can hire who they want to make the repair, and it's made to their satisfaction. The last thing the seller needs is a buyer calling them up after the transaction is months past closing to say "the repair they made didn't fix the problem". A seller credit usually - if worded correctly - relieves the seller from liability associated with the repair done incorrectly...and the buyer doesn't have to worry that the seller hired a lackey to do a poor repair.

 

Posted by Christianne Gordon, REALTOR e-PRO CDPE, SFR Carson Valley Real Estate Specialist (Carson Valley Homes and Land - RE/MAX Realty Affiliates) almost 6 years ago

Wow, thanks for the responses everyone!  How did this get featured?

Vanessa - the biggest change I've noticed is that with so much inventory, buyers can definitely be pickier about the house they buy.  If there are big problems, they often don't want to deal with them.  Even though every problem can be fixed, they're often just not interested in spending the energy fixing or making sure problems get fixed.  They just move on to the next house.

Lovely Wife - unbelievable.  I hope I never hear that, because I wouldn't be able to keep a poker face!

Stephen - great points.  I'm glad I don't have to worry about those kinds of things in my profession!

Lenn - sorry if I wasn't clear.  I don't mean to say that these are options for every transaction; I'm just trying to review all potential options for any transaction. 

Connie and Cristal - I'm honored, thanks!

Chris - you're right, I might be a little pessimistic with my stance on seller repairs.  I've been hired by the buyer many times to go back out to a property to inspect the repairs, but I don't recall a single instance where the repairs had all been properly completed.  Give yourself credit for never having had a problem with this - it's not just fortune!

Sandy - Deal Killer?  Only jokingly (I think?) - it doesn't happen a lot.  I completely agree with you about having a sellers inspection.  I wrote about this recently - Sellers Inspections.  Thank you!

 

 

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Minneapolis Home Inspections (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 6 years ago

Excellent post and well deserved star.  Too many buyers think that a property should be priced as is, and then deleivered perfectly... 

Posted by Lane Bailey, Realtor & Car Guy (Century 21 Results Realty) almost 6 years ago

Dear Reuben,

I like the way you think! I always prefer for the buyer to have the work done themselves. The contractors then have accountability to the buyers. The buyers have a resource for future problems.

Sometimes that just won't work. The buyers, just want it done.

Great post. Congrats on your star!

Barbara

Posted by Barbara Delaney (Park Place REALTORS, Inc.) almost 6 years ago

This is a fantastic post!  Finally, some good advice coming from the an actual Home Inspector and not an agent or an interested third party.  I love this.  Thanks you made it so simple.

Posted by Debbie Cook, Silver Spring and Takoma Park Maryland Real Estate (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc) almost 6 years ago

I agree that an inspection helps the purchaser decide whether or not they want to purchase a property.  I have had buyers walk away from homes after an inspection.  In today's market, the lender may not allow for money to be put in escrow for repairs, especially if there is already a seller subsidy given for closing costs.  I think buyers are expecting sellers to make more repairs in today's market.  Buyers are expecting much more in today's market.

Posted by Michelle Buckman (W.C. & A.N. Miller) almost 6 years ago

It's a great point.

Some of the lenders offer 203 (K) or Streamline for upgrades/repair. We already asking Sellers to cover closing costs etc. I think that buyers are still getting great deals with so many choices on the maket.

Posted by Irina Riley, GRI, SFR, CNE, e-PRO, SRES (Blue Picket Realty) almost 6 years ago

You gave a really good explanation of options.  Of course it all depends on what type of contract is written.  I always make sure buyers know what their "rights" are with the home inspection.  I also prepare them to fix items on their own.  I call the home inspection the START of their home history. Sure there will be things wrong, sure the seller might fix some, and I tell them  that they will fix some too. After all they will be the homes owner and they will want it right - Buyers must be prepared!

Posted by JO SOSS, Kitsap County WA Real Estate - HOMEFRONT Realty (HOMEFRONT Realty) almost 6 years ago

Great explaination. i tell my buyers the same thing basically. No the seller does not have to fix. You can negotiate for them to fix it or you can fix it.

Posted by Robin Scott, Broker, CRS, ABR, SRS, REALTORĀ® - Austin Texas (Robin Scott, REALTORĀ®) almost 6 years ago

I don't understand your point.  Are you an inspector, or a licensed real estate agent.  If the latter, why are you telling sellers/buyers anything?  Wouldn't that be practicing real estate without a license?  If the home inspectors in my area would tell the sellers/ buyers anything about the contractual aspects of the home inspection contingency we'd be a little ticked.

GEEZ . . . everyone wants to play Realtor(r) . . . and now the home inspectors?!?

What is Debbie Cook thinking -- I would want nothing but the facts about the home inspection presented to me by the home inspector.  NOT what the seller and/or buyer can do in their deal to remedy the defects.

Posted by Carla Muss-Jacobs, Principal Broker/Owner, Buyer Focused ~ Buyer Results (BuyersAgentPortland.com | (503) 810-7192 Portland Metro Exclusive Buyers Agent | 100% Buyer Representation ~ 100% of the Time) almost 6 years ago

Reuben; Usually, when the inspector finds a lot of minor repairs I like to ask the Seller on behalf of my Buyer for a certain small amount in lieu of repairs and let my Buyer handle these minor repairs. Sometimes they substantially larger. The last one was an REO duplex where the wall heater unit had been turned off because it was leaking carbon monoxide. The Bank answered that they had sold the house "in as is condition". Nevertheless, we insisted in the replacement of the wall heater based on the fact that it was a"Hazardous" condition and the Buyer could not move in and use the wall heater. The Bank agreed to replace it. We got three bids from heating/air conditioning contractors and the Bank selected one of them that did the job to my client's satisfaction. 

 

 

 

Posted by Isaac Bensussen (Pacific Coast Real Estate Group) almost 6 years ago

She beat me to it...The Seller doesn't have to fix squat :)

Posted by Bryant Tutas, Broker/REALTOR, Tutas Towne Realty, Inc (Bryant Tutas-Tutas Towne Realty, Inc) almost 6 years ago

there's no such thing as defects, only opportunities to negotiate

Posted by Jaime Tineo almost 6 years ago

"Ask The Sellers To Fund Repairs."

We always try to get the seller to offer a credit.  Having work done to the satisfaction of two parties can be a nightmare at times.  And, a deal-breaker!

Posted by Colleen Lane, Kennewick Realtor, 509.438.9344 www.LaneRealEstate (Kennewick Richland (and West) Pasco WA Homes For Sale) almost 6 years ago

Great way to break it down on what a buyer should do when there are repairs.

Posted by Russ Ravary, Metro Detroit homes - Michigan Real estate & Mortg (Keller Williams Commerce) almost 6 years ago

I try to help the buyer understand that the main focus of a home inspection to inspect major systems in the home.  Incidental or cosmetic changes is not something the inspectors I deal with are focused on.  My experience has mostly been that buyers understand and accept this.

Posted by Donna Yates Real Estate - serving, North Georgia Metro & Mountains (ReMax Town and Country) almost 6 years ago

You've pretty much laid out all the options very clearly.  It's basically a new negotiation at that point in time.

Posted by Christine Donovan, Broker/Attorney 800-610-7253 DRE01267479 - Costa M (Donovan Blatt Realty) almost 6 years ago

Reuben - good information and this is generally what I tell buyers.  Sellers do not have to fix anything and will generally not fix anything cosmetic.  The idea of a seller credit is a much better idea for everyone involved as the buyer may not be satisfied with the way the seller completes the repairs.

Posted by Lori Mode, Mode and Durham, Your Elk Grove Real Estate team (Keller Williams Realty - Elk Grove, CA Homes for Sale) almost 6 years ago

Reuben: (1) do nothing -- is not acceptable for some health & safety issues.  (2) have seller do repairs -- I always ask for it to be done by a licensed person, and to supply receipt of such. (3) have seller fund repairs -- I estimate that 90% of buyers NEVER use the extra money for this purpose, even after complaining about it non-stop during escrow. (4) This is why the home inspection should be completed by the seller and PRESENTED to prospective buyers BEFORE they make an offer!

Posted by Regina P. Brown, e-Pro Realtor (California Coast & Country Homes, Inc.) almost 6 years ago

Reuben - I think it's always best to set the appropriate expectations when I'm dealing with buyers, and I like this simple approach.

Posted by Jason Crouch, Broker - Austin Texas Real Estate (512-796-7653) (Austin Texas Homes, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Reuben - I had a seller once who refused to fix anything and the buyer went ahead with the purchase anyway. 

Posted by Jennifer Fivelsdal, Mid Hudson Valley real estate connection ( JFIVE Home Realty LLC | 845-758-6842|162 Deer Run Rd Red Hook NY 12571) almost 6 years ago

Excellent Post, Reuben.  It's very informative, glad I read it!   Basically, it can go either way (good/bad) depending on how an agent tells or educates the client-Buyer or Seller ahead of time.  They usually have pre-conceived ideas from well-meaning friends, or neighbor who just bought a home and this is what they did. 

Posted by JoAnn Borelli-Mardesich almost 6 years ago

A Big Amen to Sandy and Stephens points.  Get that inspection before hand and with contracts in different states the inspection contingency can be quite different.

People especially now in this market need to anticipate problems ahead of time and get that inspection ahead of time and deal with any serious issues upfront. Then this whole gut wrenching inspection issue can be a thing of the past as you can show the buyers, here is the report, this is what was fixed and the seller IS NOT fixin' anything else. So if buyers know this upfront things tend to go smoother.

Same thing for Appraisals...Have a pre-listing and pre-buying appraisal done to protect yourself. This way you get the real deal on the value of your home. In these times as a seller you need to know what your home is worth so you do not over or under price your home and as a buyer you want to know what you should offer so you do not offer too much or be insulting with your offer. You may just turn the seller off and you won't get that home you want. Just because times are tough does not mean sellers are going to bend over and take it ALL the time! So be reasonable in your offer if you really want that house.

Remember if there are issues with your home that can be dealt with upfront all the better, WHY? Because as an appraiser I can tell you that people tend to double the cost of repairs in their heads when they look at a property. So get them fixed ahead of time and save yourself some money and a whole lot of grief!

Great Post!

Mary Thompson-Certified Appraiser

 

Posted by Mary Thompson, Lake Lanier Appraiser in North Georgia (Lanier Appraisal Service) almost 6 years ago

Again, everyone, thank you for the comments.

Jo Soss - That's a great point you make.  Prepping buyers on what a home inspection is all about probably saves a lot of headaches later.

Carla - I'm a home inspector.  I don't share the information in this post with my customers; I tell them about their new home.  I didn't mean to give that impression.

Isaac - Your case is a great example of a time when the buyer's shouldn't wait to have the repairs completed.  Congratulations on getting the bank to do a repair - I've heard this is often difficult or impossible.

Broker Bryant - ha!

Regina - I completely agree with your views on 1, 2, and 4.  You're probably also right about your estimate for #3... but what can you do?

Mary Thompson - getting a house appraised ahead of time sounds like a great idea. Thanks!

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Minneapolis Home Inspections (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 6 years ago

Reuben, this is gret, I am going to reblog this one. I answer this with one sentence though, because it is not my business. "You will hae to talk with your realtor and map out a plan of actionn as to how you are going to approach this." Keeps the realtor happy, and doesn't get my customer too freaked out.

Posted by Ian Niquette (Square One Home Inspection) almost 6 years ago

Ian - Thanks!  I use a similar line - "No.  But it might be negotiable.  You'll need to talk to your realtor about it - I don't want to step on any toes."

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Minneapolis Home Inspections (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 6 years ago

Our purchase contract spells out how repairs are to be handled and the seller doesn't not have to fix anything found in the inspection.  The inspection is to provide full disclosure to the buyers not provide a list of repairs for the seller to complete.  The options you have stated for resolution of buyer concerns are on the money.

Posted by Mark Watterson, Utah Real Estate almost 6 years ago

Our contract specifies that HVAC, electrical, plumbing, appliances and smoke detectors must be in normal operating condition - not new, not gorgeous, just operating normally as the manufacturer intended.  We provide a list of those items that are not working normally and the seller is contractually obligated to repair them, although sometimes "normal" is interpreted differently by buyers than by sellers.  Depending on the item, we can specify that a licensed contractor must do the work and provide receipts.  Anything else is purely negotiable and many times results in a credit for the buyers to get the work done themselves, but these days when sellers are routinely giving a 3% credit for closing costs to buyers in the initial contract, if we ask for more credits, the lender can't approve them.  What I like my inspectors to do is point out what is routine maintenance and what is really a problem and explain the difference to a buyer.  First-time buyers can so often get spooked by something that we experienced folks know is trivial and it helps me to have the inspector point that out so it's not just me saying so, with all the liability that entails.

Posted by Valerie M. Blake (Prudential Carruthers Realtors) almost 6 years ago

My fave inspector always says to the buyer, 'this is the problem, and this is how you fix it'. So the buyers don't feel like it's all a big mystery, or too much for them to handle.  They feel a lot less frightened by the inspection, and a lot more confident that they made a good decision.

Posted by Joetta Fort, Independent Broker, Homes Denver to Boulder (The DiGiorgio Group) almost 6 years ago

Reuben,

Good post you stated basically what i tell my buyers and sellers in home inspections sometime

you have to have the good discussion with the other agent as well to review the process two

Realtor's working together will eliminate a lot of confusion.

 

Posted by John Douglas (Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Partners Realty) almost 6 years ago

Certainly the price of the house should reflect the condition of the house, but sometimes buyers want sellers to fix the defects/faults because they want the cost of the repairs rolled into the loan, as the buyer may not have the cash to make the repairs themselves.

Posted by Tim Bradley, Commercial Real Estate Expert in Jackson Hole, WY (Contour Investment Properties) almost 6 years ago

My favorite addendum that fits this situation is the "As-Is" Addendum. Why Buyers might think that the resale house that is 20 years old is the same as a brand new house is really something. It further amazes me that they think they can renegotiate the purchase contract after the home inspection. Real estate purchase transactions would be far easier if an "As -Is" addendum was included in all of them as standard practice. The buyer being eligible for an earnest money refund if they decide they do not want to follow through with the deal is part of the the addendum.

Posted by Patrick Burno (CENTURY 21) almost 6 years ago

Reuben,

Great post. 

You would be amazed how many problems come up related to home inspections and repairs that need to be made. Every realtor has at least one horror story involving a home inspections. This is one area of buying and selling real estate that can be very confusing.  The buyers always want every little item fixed and of course, the sellers don't want to repair anything.

This is when the realtors really earn their commissions working out the details.

Posted by Linda DeRusha, Broker/Realtor, ABR,ASP,CDPE (Coldwell Banker Advantage) almost 6 years ago

"Do Nothing" is the best option?  For minor issues sure, but for major system problems that would not have been determined without benefit of an inspection I would always recommend the buyers seek credit toward closing costs.

Posted by Jenny Durling, For Los Angeles real estate help 213-215-4758 (L.A. Property Solutions) almost 6 years ago

Reuben

Good article! As a licensed home inspector in Massachusetts I'm often asked about who is responsible for handling the repairs of defects that crop up during an inspection. This is usually followed up with a question as to the cost of the repairs. Here I have to be a diplomat, since we can't be the person who makes the call about repairs or the costs. I defer to the Realtor to advise them as to how to approach needed repairs. To be truthful, the majority of minor defects turned up in a home inspection can usually can be fixed with a quick run to a home center to pick up some items and a buyer can handle those little fixes themselves without muddying up the waters creating a deal killer situation that loses the house for them. I always tell potential buyers that no house is ever perfect, even newly built ones. When I turn up a major defect such as a necessary roof replacement, unsafe wiring, or a heating system that is due for replacement I tell the buyer to discuss their options with their Realtor, who usually will ask for a discounted price to allow the buyer to hire their own contractor to do the work. I try to put a positive spin on it by saying "you might be able to get the house with money leftover for the new roof, or furnace, etc, but that's the Realtor's job to work that out, not the inspector. I stay out of the negotiation, since this is not my call.

Of course I know full well that my report has often become a negotiation tool to beat down a seller's asking price.  If more sellers were smart enough to have their homes "pre inspected" before the sale to know what the buyers will be finding,  a lot of the negotiations could be avoided. Some real estate offices are simply demanding a pre listing home inspection to avoid wasting time on a closing that blows up over an inspection report.  It can be a positive thing of there is a pre listing inspection and the items turned up have been repaired or replaced recently. In other words, the house was "debugged" of defects before the buyer's inspector got there.

Posted by Jim Morrison, Home Authority of Massachusetts almost 6 years ago

Rueben,

   This was a good read.  It brings a little more information to the table about how to counsel our buyers during the home inspection process.  Thanks for the information.

Scott

Posted by Scott Harrison (Sea Shore Realty) almost 6 years ago
As a home inspector I try to report to all of my clients what I find, what it means in terms of problems ignoring it might cause and what to do about it. This latter information is usually in the form of having further evaluation by a professional in the appropriate field in complex situations or suggestions specific to the problem of service/repair/replace in simpler cases. This is a little subjective since something that might seem daunting to a novice may be trivial to a home handyman. I agree that the "What to do?" discussion is best held between the client and their agent but I have had Realtors come back to me for suggestions. I use the same scenarios you suggest. There is one alternative that is tried from time to time, "Have the inspector pay for it." I have had this come up with a water heater that failed after the inspection, and even a ceiling fan that was improperly installed AFTER the inspection. I am also criticized occasionally for reporting truly small items such as dripping faucets and doors that do not properly latch. I agree that these are minor items but subtract the cost of having a service person correct and you have zero profit for doing the inspection. Unfortunately all reports appear to need to address some self defence issues, sad but true.
Posted by Marshall Brown almost 6 years ago

Reuben,

 

Good post!   It puts things in the "proper perspective" and that's the real job of the home inspector.  I spend the first ten minutes before I jot note #1 at the inspection going over what I am going to do and NOT going to do.  So my clients (and any seller or realtors present) know what to expect that day and after that day (i.e. uncompleted lab reports).

Even if the occaisional realtor has read me the "as is, riot act disclaimer," I always tell my clients to have any major or minor issue THEY feel needs to be addressed directed back through their realtor back to the seller for "consideration for potential remedy."   New construction, resale, short sale, foreclosure... attached, detached, single wide... major issues especially need to be addressed and I leave it up to the agents and interested parties to seek a common ground and I stay out of it.... but keep myself available for further consultation if need be.

That being said, I do pickup some new business from realtors who may not have met me before that particular inspection or they may at least put me on their "list".   It's usually the ones who have seen too many deals killed by overstepping inspectors who cite code or "ball park" estimate repairs.  Neither of which are in our purvue of the inspection process. 

In the end, all the people present at the inspection are on the same sheet of music.   You'd be amazed how often I hear back from my client or their agent saying how the selling side ended up fixing or crediting certain repairable items and the deal closed and everyone was happy.

Posted by David Andrick - Pres. A1 Home Inspection Svcs. almost 6 years ago

Great article, so I went ahead and expanded for readers on my web site (will send you separate email).

Posted by Tina Gleisner, Home Tips for Women (Home Tips for Women) almost 6 years ago

Wow what a great post.  As a Realtor, I wish my current buyer had read this.  Buyers are getting great prices and they are asking for more because the stigma of an underpriced home indicates to them there is a problem, when the real problem is just financial.  I printed your post and gave it to my buyer who handed me a 21 item list he wanted done, most all were asthetic.  I am his representation and it embarassed me to send it to the seller.

Posted by Rebecca Byers almost 6 years ago

Defects in the home for sale are just a negotiating tool that provides leverage.

Posted by Deanna Casalino, Fort Myers Florida Homes, (Right Choice Realty) almost 6 years ago

Valerie - If ever asked, I would be hesitant to opine on what is 'normal' operating condition.  Something easier to answer might have the language 'safe' and 'proper'.  It's 'normal' for a 30 year old furnace to have a cracked heat exchanger :-)   Just something to think about.  Otherwise, I like your approach.

Jenny - I agree, major items would definitely not fall under the "Do Nothing" category.  I would guess that I make about 20 - 70 suggestions to buyers during every inspection, and I note all of these things in my report.  Most of these fall under the "Do Nothing" category - it's homeowner maintenance stuff that buyers typically shouldn't be asking the seller to address.

Marshall - I hear you.  I also note minor things like dripping faucets and doors that don't latch as a courtesy to my customer.  I don't include them in my 'summary' report, but I do note this stuff in the body of the report.  Our customers always appreciate this.

Tina - I checked out your web site, thank you!

Rebecca - I know the type of buyer you're talking about, they inspired me to write this post.

I see two common ideas from everyone that could alleviate a lot of hassle after the inspection.

  1. Have the seller get a home inspection before putting the house up for sale
  2. Have a chat with the buyer before the inspection to let them know what a home inspection is all about.  The home inspector shouldn't be the one telling a buyer not to make petty demands.  The buyer should know this before the inspection.

 

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Minneapolis Home Inspections (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 6 years ago

Great tips, we are trying to sell our older home that has no major issues but I've felt everything has to be perfect! Now I feel better and so worried about every little thing. Thanks

Posted by Jill Nelson almost 6 years ago

There's another option other than the four you have listed. You can still buy the home and have the repairs done yourself with your own money. While doing nothing is an option, it's by far not the best one, and just because the Seller will not do the repairs or fund the repairs doesn't mean that the house is not worth purchasing.

Posted by Jim Frimmer, Realtor & CDPE, Mission Valley specialist (HomeSmart Realty West) almost 6 years ago

Jim - I didn't mean to imply that problems found with the home should not be fixed; I was just listing the courses of action that a buyer can take before they own the home.  The buyers should definitely make all of the repairs after they own the home!  Thanks for reading.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Minneapolis Home Inspections (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 6 years ago

Good explanation and information.

Posted by Kathy Booth, Setting the Stage, Home Staging and ReDesign Professional (Setting the Stage) almost 6 years ago

Hi Reuben.  A very popular topic!   Many good points and comments.

In my opinion. - No.

When I sold my house, and I had the request for "repair funds", I said No.

My house got to its present condition because of my choices.  My house was listed at a price representative of its value.  The condition of the house was one of the factors in determing its listing price.

I then had my realtor go back and ask the buyer how the inspection changed their value of my house.  I was not about to start a process of getting repair estimates to come up with an agreeable amount for "repair funds". 

I (the seller) did not make repairs.  I (the seller) did not fund repairs.  I (the seller) had my real estate agent work with their agent on getting to the change in value based upon what they discovered in the home inspection.

I wanted to add this comment to your blog since I feel it is not in one of your four categories.  The buyer did something.  The buyer did not cancel.  The buyer did not ask for repairs.  The request for repair funds was rejected and we moved on to a discussion in home value.  My realtor did a wonderful job representing the value of my home to the buyer.  The buyer did not get any "repair funds" from the seller.

In the end, we were all happy.  The seller and the buyer.  I feel one of the key components to happyness on both sides is that both sides hired professionals (buyers agent, sellers agent, home inspector, and lawyers) and both sides agreed to the value of the transaction.  The value of the transaction does include the value of the professional services.

 

 

Posted by Jim Mushinsky (Centsable Inspection) almost 6 years ago

Except for safety hazards, what is major, minor, medium or do nothings?

 

Is a leaking sink drain a major or minor thing?

 

If the buyer is the best plumber on the east coast, it's probably not a big deal.

But to that lady who just had her new $10,000 custom cabinets seriously damaged by a water leak, it could be a VERY major thing.

My point is, I don't think we are there to say something is major or minor (again Safety is different). I tell my clients, I'm there to provide the facts and to give them the information they need to make the decision. They can decide if something is major or minor, not me.

We could go round and round with examples that different people would classify as something different. Missing screws in an electrical panel, missing caulk around the 2nd floor tub, a leaky kitchen sink. Yes, a roof held together by tape and bubble gum can of course be more expensive than missing flashing over a window. But almost anything, if not given the attention it deserves can become a HUGE and EXPENSIVE problem. Some just take longer than others. Some are not as visible as others. Some don't scare as much as others. 

At my pre-inspection brief I tell my clients just that, I give you the tools to make the decision.I don't give repair estimates nor do I suggest what should be repaired or not, nor who should do it. When I am asked what would I do if I was buying the house, my simple reply "I don't know, my wife hasn't told me my opinion yet"

Of course, in principle I agree with your classifications in your post.

 

Again, safety hazards I do point out as such.

Posted by John Coker, Virginia Beach Home Inspector (Family Home Inspection LLC) over 5 years ago

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