How to negotiate repairs after a home inspection

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Ask a Lender
October 20, 2017 | Updated October 23, 2017


Key Points

How to negotiate repairs after a home inspection

  • Make a sincere purchase offer
  • Arrange a home inspection
  • Determine what you need repaired
  • Decide whether you want the seller to fix it or offer credit
  • Submit a list of repairs to the seller
  • Accept the seller's decision or walk away

You’ve found the one: That perfect house. The trouble is, there’s some work to be done to transform the property into the home of your dreams. There are cracks in the bathroom tile, and most of the outlets are two-pronged instead of three. Oh, and a home inspection discovered some mold in the basement, too.

Now the big question is, who is responsible for paying for these issues: The buyer or the seller?

Like many elements of a home purchase, the answer depends. Most purchase contracts include a home inspection contingency allowing the buyer to back out if major defects are discovered. Unless the property is listed “as-is,” however, there are no hard and fast rules as to how repairs are negotiated after a home inspection. Here are some steps that will put you in a stronger position to negotiate.

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Note that the home inspection is separate from the home appraisal, which is what your lender will require to determine the value of the home. While condition affects the home value, lenders typically do not ask for the home inspection report unless you have a property type prone to certain issues.

Make a sincere purchase offer

You should not anticipate using the result of the home inspection to negotiate a lower purchase price. If you noticed some wear and tear during the viewing that influences how much you are willing to spend, inform the buyer that you have factored that into your initial offer. Your offer should indicate that you are willing to buy the home in its current condition, provided there are no major problems that would affect your ability to live in the home.

Arrange a home inspection

The purpose of a home inspection is to identify major structural, mechanical and environmental problems. The inspection is all but guaranteed to uncover a long list of issues, but not all of them are the seller’s responsibility. As the buyer, look for defects that would render the house unlivable or jeopardize your financing — not simply things you don’t like or want fixed.

Determine what you need repaired

Minor blemishes are not the responsibility of the seller, though they can be indicative of larger flaws that the seller should rectify. This is why a professional home inspection is essential. The following is a general idea of who should cover what repairs.

Buyer responsibilities
  • Cosmetic changes like kitchen cabinets, landscaping and damage that is easily identifiable in a walkthrough.
  • Defects that are inexpensive to fix, such as a damaged window seal or missing smoke detector.
  • Any defects outlined in the seller’s property disclosure statement.
  • Dead power outlet that does not indicate a larger electrical problem.
  • Wall cracks that do not indicate a larger structural problem.
  • Cosmetic water damage that does not indicate rot or structural damage.
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Seller responsibilities
  • Roof damage including leaks, missing shingles, improper installation and roofing at the end of its service life. Note that some home inspections do not include a roof inspection. Ask the seller to provide a certification from a roofing company if you have concerns.
  • Major electrical problems that endanger the home.
  • Major plumbing problems such as disintegrating sewer pipes, clogged drains, leaks and inadequate water pressure or flow.
  • Structural problems with the chimney or other masonry.
  • Broken HVAC system or water heater.
  • Water damage in the home and basement that indicate rotting walls, siding or decks.
  • Mold.
  • Wet basement and structural problems with walls and foundation.
  • Insect and rodent problems such as termites, rats and bats.
Grey areas
  • Ungrounded electrical systems with no damage. Rewiring the whole house when the electrical system is in good condition is typically not realistic. If you must have grounded power, however, you may be able to negotiate this cost.
  • Galvanized steel pipes that are not leaking or rusty. If the plumbing is old but in functional order, the seller may not be willing to replace it.
  • Functional HVAC systems and water heaters approaching the end of their service life. If the seller has been up-front about the age of these systems, they may not want to replace them following an inspection.
  • It is not the seller’s responsibility to upgrade an old home to modern city codes. If it is advertised as fully renovated, however, it is reasonable for the buyer to request these upgrades.
  • The disclosure of lead paint is federally mandated, and many states require asbestos and radon disclosure as well. The seller is not required to rectify or replace the materials, however.

Decide whether you want the seller to fix it or offer credit

Asking the seller to take care of home repairs may not always be the best idea. It is in the seller’s interests to spend as little as possible, as quickly as possible to get the house sold. You may request closing cost credit instead so that you can take your time renovating your new home exactly as you want it. While the credit may not cover the entire cost of the repairs, you will have far more control over the work.

Submit a list of repairs to the seller

Submit a Request to Repair form listing the defects you require the seller to fix. Include quotes for the major repair jobs and the maximum dollar amount you expect spent on each. Be sure to require that licensed contractors take care of the work, permits be inspected by the city, if applicable, and proof of repairs be provided well before the closing date.

You may want to show the seller the home inspection report to convince them that the problems are worth addressing and demonstrate that you are not asking for excessive repairs. The seller has the option to accept, reject or make a counter-offer.

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Accept the seller’s decision or walk away

Assess the seriousness of each defect, how receptive the seller is to repairs and how badly you want the home. If you are buying a historic property in a hot market, it likely makes sense to accept some of the defects as-is. If the home was advertised as newly renovated and the seller is eager to close the deal, however, you may convince them to cover more repairs.

The bottom line is to make reasonable requests and negotiate gently. If the seller agrees to pay for a few major structural issues, you might want to cover some lesser costs yourself as a compromise. Not only will it encourage a more amicable sale, if the seller refuses your proposal, you can feel confident walking away from the purchase knowing that you made a fair offer.

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