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Ask Adam: Repairs After the Home Inspection?

by ARLnow.com | November 13, 2012 at 1:15 pm | 5,743 views | 17 Comments

This periodic sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty. Please submit follow-up questions in the comments section or via email.

Question: We are purchasing a home in Arlington and want to know what we should be able to ask the sellers to fix as a result of the home inspection.

There isn’t a set standard when it comes to asking for repairs. However, I can provide some tips that may help you decide for yourself.

If you are buying new construction, I highly recommend a home inspection even though many buyers will forgo this step in the home buying process. In my experience, builders are willing to take care of any reasonable request. It is your opportunity to get the home as close to perfect as possible. Even the smallest cosmetic blemishes are fair game. If the builder thinks you are taking your requests too far, I’m sure he or she will let you know.

When it comes to resale properties, things changed a little bit in 2012. The standard purchase contract was updated and paragraph 7 was modified. Previously it required that the following items be in normal working order at the time of settlement:

  • heating
  • air-conditioning
  • plumbing
  • electrical
  • appliances
  • smoke detectors

There is no longer this minimum standard unless you add it to the contract yourself. More pressure is placed on the home inspection and your ability to convince the seller that he or she should agree to your requests.

Many sellers think their home is in perfect condition so it is never easy to convince them that they should pony up for repairs on a home they are soon leaving. It will help your cause if your inspection report contains the following:

  • Well written descriptions of the issues found.
  • A typed report that is easy to read and share.
  • Photos of the issues found.

You should prioritize your list. If there are items you are planning to replace anyway or don’t mind fixing yourself, put them at the bottom of your priority list. I find that sellers are much more reasonable when they feel that you are also being reasonable with your requests. Sometimes this means focusing only on the major concerns.

Additional Tips:

  • If you have concerns about items that are cosmetic, include them in the initial contract as an addendum.
  • You are going to have a hard time convincing a seller to replace an item that is at the end of its estimated life, but working properly. You may want to consider purchasing a home warranty to cover these types of items if they fail within the next year.

Also take into consideration that if the seller makes the repairs, they are likely to do so at the least possible expense.  You may want to ask for a credit so that you can have more control over the quality of repairs. If you go this route, be sure to check with your lender first to be sure they will allow a closing cost credit.

If you decide to ask the sellers to make the repairs, I recommend using the standard Home Inspection Contingency Removal addendum. It has boilerplate language requiring that all repairs be performed by a contractor licensed to do the type of work required and receipts or other written evidence that the repairs have been completed be provided prior to the purchaser’s final walk through inspection of the property.

I hope this help. Please email me if you would like a list of the home inspectors we recommend.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

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  • Hokie

    It may be worth noting that you may want to include a requirement that a certified HVAC technician look at the system. Home Inspectors are not experts at systems- they can tell you basics “it looks rusted” but workds. An HVAC technician can give you a better idea of the system- this was something I wish I had learned as my home inspector said the HVAC was ok- the HVAC person that came out 3 months after I moved in identified that the entire system was rusted out on the inside- and could not continue running without damaging the house. Thus because I didnt’ have a specialist come out for a $100 and maybe an hour inspection- I was stuck with a several thousand dollar repair.

    • drax

      A home warranty would have covered that.

      • Hokie

        Not necessarily. The Home Warranty people came out and determined that neglect of ensuring clean lines was the reason for the failure (non cleaned internal lines led to backup and rusting through of internal components). Even though it was not neglect on my part- it was therefore not covered by home warranty people. A Home inspector does not do those internal inspections.

        • drax

          Never mind. That sucks. A better home warranty might have covered it though.

    • MM

      +1 My wife and I got a bit lucky with this…Our home inspector said “Furnace looks good, but it’s making a funny sound.” We could’ve ignored it, but we chose to add it to the fix list since the inspector thought it would be a simple bearing replacement. Turned out the repair cost was something like $2300 (only about $900 less than a full furnace replacement), so we had the sellers purchase a new system and we covered the cost differential between the repair and the new furnace…basically getting us a new furnace for $900.

  • veeta

    +1 on asking for credit, not an owner repair. I was naive, and they did a subpar job on their repairs. Also, don’t be nitpicky–you are almost always going to be better off dealing with it yourself.

  • Short Sale Hell

    I still have yet to receive third party approval but once that comes back that will be when an inspection takes place. They don’t have any money for repairs (it’s an As Is 7 y.o. property that at least from the walk through prior to my bid). Can I still ask for a credit if the inspection turns anything up, or is it take it or leave it? Thanks.

    • Quoth the Raven

      You can always ask for credit, and they can always say no! At the end of the day, in “as is” sales, it’s an opportunity for you to know what you’re getting into, and to judge for yourself whether or not the necessary repairs (if any) are or are not too costly.

    • Short Sale opportunity…

      Yup, we just did this last week on an As-Is property owned by Fannie Mae- kind of a PITA and they negotiated hard (we asked for $10K off, they started at $3K and we eventually took $4K) but it worked out- the worst they can do is say no. As I understand it, with REO properties (at least) it can be easier to go after closing costs than a price reduction because the pricing is set via some sort of internal system

  • Buttweiser

    If the appliances are old (especially the AC) definitely get the home warranty. It’s amazing how with a screwdriver those old things can suddenly break and you are able to get a new one.

  • BettyBoop

    It is unfortunate that Adam’s posting lacks a mention of the seller’s listing the property “As Is”, which can allow the seller to make no repairs at all. Also, an option with an AS IS listing is to accept a contract clause that allows the buyer to pay for an inspection and to void the contract within a few days if it reveals problems s/he doesn’t want to accept. For a senior or retiree this avoids up costly up-front expenditures and post-contract haggling. For example, an old but functioning furnace or water heater. Also, it may mean that the list price is mid-range rather than the top end. In sum, IMHO before selecting a listing agent a property owner in Virginia, a seller should explore “As Is” in interviewing at least 3 realtors before deciding on a listing agent. XX

    • Helen

      As Adam mentioned the sales contract in NoVa is an AS IS contract based on a timeframe that the buyer chooses. It is then listed in the MLS as sold as AS IS. This was changed in 2010 for the regional contract that covers No VA, DC and parts of MD.

      • BettyBoop

        The phrase “AS IS” does not appear in Adam’s posting! Nor does it contain any guidance for how the seller can use it. Granted he “question” was posited as from a buyer BUT I reiterate that Adam’s posting does not address why a seller might emphasize AS IS i.e. get an inspection but take it or leave it–the seller is not interested in repairs. If the property is in an excellent location and there are not other comparable properties on the market due to limited inventory the suggestion that a buyer can expect repair concession is presumptuous.XX

  • FCGirl

    Always ask for closing cost credits – and make sure you add a contingency in case the problem costs more than the seller thinks it will cost to fix and in case something else goes wrong with the same item before you’re able to get it repaired. Given that you, not the seller, will be living in the house, you need to protect yourself from potentially shoddy work done by the seller just to close the deal.

  • http://nelsm4517@mac.com Ballston Commons

    Adam,

    You do a good job with this column.

  • Helen

    Again as mentioned by Adam, it depends on your lender if you can get a concession and how much. FHA is notorious for not allowing concession because it then affects the sales price.

  • Home Warranty Guy

    As the CEO of a major home warranty company, I can tell you that no he warranty will cover previously known problems or conditions that were identified on a home inspection. Our home warranty (and a few others) will cover unknown pre-existing conditions, but no one covers previously known problems with a home’s systems or appliances. So, this is not a good or valid tip!

    The best bet is to request the seller to make the repairs. Although they are not required to make repairs, most sellers do not want the deal to fall through. Furthermore, if they let the deal fall through, then the seller will be required to disclose the problem to prospective buyers which will reduce the marketability of the home. The Seller’s listing agent is going to everything he/she can to advise the seller not to reduce the marketability of the home. For that reason, the seller will usually agree to perform repairs on any faulty joke system or appliance.

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