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The Commonwealth Blog

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Home Repair Requests: What Home Buyers Should and Shouldn't Ask

Whether you’re buying a home that’s five or fifty years old, you can expect it to have some minor quirks and features that could use an update. However, you should refrain from presenting a home seller with a page-long list of small repairs you’d like them to take care of before the sale.

Having too many repair contingencies could give a seller pause and cause them to go with another offer, especially in a competitive market. And even if they do agree to all the repairs, they may have to push back the closing date to accomplish them all.

However, that doesn’t mean that you should avoid all repair requests. If your home inspection turns up any serious problems that could prevent the home from being move-in ready—or even pose safety risks to you and your family—it’s perfectly reasonable to ask the seller to fix them.

Let’s look at some examples of repairs that you should ask sellers to make and other items that you should handle yourself after you buy the home.

Repairs to Request Before Closing

Roof Repairs. The home seller should be able to present you with a roof certification showing that their roof is still in good shape. If they’re not able to show you this certification or your home inspector uncovers roof problems, you should talk to the seller about repairing or replacing the roof. If the seller isn’t willing to repair the roof themselves, you may be able to negotiate a lower price that reflects what you’ll have to pay for the repairs.

Leaks. Small spiderweb cracks shouldn’t be cause for concern, but if a house has larger cracks that are letting in water, you may want to ask the seller to repair them. It should be straightforward to seal the cracks with epoxy resin.

Radon Mitigation. Radon is a carcinogenic gas that can increase your risk of serious health problems if you’re exposed to high levels for a long time. If your home inspector finds that a seller’s home has radon levels of 4.0 pCi/L or higher, ask to have a radon mitigation system installed.

Lead Paint. It’s a federal requirement for home sellers to tell buyers if there’s any lead paint in their house. If your seller hasn’t already removed lead paint in their older home, they may be willing to get rid of it when you make a direct request.

Mold. Mold is likely a sign of a water penetration problem, which a home seller should be willing to resolve before closing.

Old Furnace or Water Heater. If a furnace is more than 20 years old and a water heater is more than 10, they’re likely near the end of their lifespans. You may want to ask the home seller to replace them or negotiate a reduced listing price based on what it will cost you to replace them.

Safety Code Violations. It’s reasonable to ask a seller to repair any issues that are a safety code violation, such as an unstable deck.

Repairs to Handle Yourself After Buying a Home

Minor Electrical Problems. If your home inspector tells you the electrical system in the home you’re planning to buy isn’t up to code, that’s something you may want to negotiate with the seller. If, however, there are one or two light switches that don’t work, don’t add that to the seller’s list of things to do.

Renovations Designed Around Your Lifestyle. Don’t ask the seller to take out a wall between the kitchen and living room just because you really want a house with an open floor plan. The seller doesn’t have a stake in the home’s appearance after they sell it, so they’re not going to be eager to do non-essential renovations just to please you.

Minor Cosmetic Issues. A cracked tile or chipped paint may not look good, but these little issues will be inexpensive and easy to fix once you move in.

If you spot any other small issues that you’d like to have repaired, ask yourself if it’s worth the hassle and potential delays involved with asking the seller to fix them, or will it be easier just to resolve them yourself? And if you’re unsure whether to ask for a repair, talk to your Realtor. They handle buyer and seller negotiations all the time and have a good idea what a seller will be willing to do.


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