The all-important home inspection can be as revealing as expertly peering into a crystal ball, especially if it turns out the home needs repairs you didn’t foresee when you first toured it.
If you’re a first-time home buyer, you may not even know what to ask for after a home inspection report comes back recommending repairs.
Whether you’re unsure or already have a list of requests, we’ve got some tips to help you figure out which requests are reasonable and how to make your requests after a home inspection.
What Does a Reasonable Repair Request Mean?
A home inspection is a thorough, visual examination of a home by a professional home inspector who looks for any issues or defects in the structure and systems of a home.
The home inspector writes a home inspection report. A buyer can use the inspector’s report to help them decide whether they want to buy the home. If a buyer chooses to buy, the issues or defects outlined in the report may help them negotiate better terms with the seller, like a lower asking price or asking the seller to pay for repairs.
If you ask the seller to pay for repairs after a home inspection, it’s reasonable to ask for repairs on anything that poses major health and safety concerns, structural issues or some building code violations.
What Do I Ask for After a Home Inspection?
A real estate agent or REALTOR® can walk you through all of the issues in the home inspection report and help you decide what you can reasonably ask the seller to repair.
While health and safety concerns are considered reasonable repair requests, what you can reasonably ask for may be impacted by the real estate market.
- In a seller’s market: (Think: there are more buyers in the market than there are homes.) In this scenario, sellers likely have an advantage over buyers when it comes to negotiating reasonable repair requests because there’s more competition among buyers. Since there are more buyers, a seller may prefer to go with an offer that has no repair requests.
- In a buyer’s market: (Think: there are more homes on the market than there are buyers.) In this scenario, buyers likely have an advantage over sellers when it comes to negotiating reasonable repair requests because there are plenty of homes to choose from. In this case, a seller may be more willing to negotiate because there are fewer interested buyers.
Here’s a list of some repairs you should and shouldn’t request after a home inspection.
Repairs you should request
No matter what state the real estate market is in, there are repairs you should always request.
- Structural issues: Foundation or roof damage, improperly working windows and doors
- HVAC problems: Improperly functioning systems
- Plumbing issues: Leaks and pipe damage
- Electrical and fire hazards: Improperly wired electrical systems or gas leaks
- Health concerns: Lead paint, asbestos, high radon levels or pest infestations
- Major water damage: Mold or mildew removal
Repairs you shouldn’t request
Making unreasonable requests when buying a home may hurt your chances as a buyer, especially in a seller’s market. To keep your offer competitive, there are some home repairs you shouldn’t request.
- Cosmetic issues: Paint issues, spots or stains, broken trim or landscaping
- Fixes to extra buildings: Detached garages, sheds or guest houses
- Normal wear and tear: Minor driveway cracks, scuffed floors or loose fixtures
- Inexpensive repairs: Small fixes you can repair on your own (think: inconveniences, not major health or safety concerns)
What Fixes Are Mandatory After a Home Inspection?
In most cases, there are no mandatory fixes after a home inspection. You should request major safety and structural repairs, but the seller doesn’t have to fix them.
There are, however, some repairs that are nonnegotiable because of state regulations or the lender has requested them to approve the loan. These must-fixes will affect the buyer’s situation more than the seller’s.
Some states have nonnegotiable rules on home repairs. Talk with your real estate agent or REALTOR® to see if there are state regulations that would give you more leverage when asking for certain repairs.
Most lenders will require that major health and safety repairs are completed (or a plan is put in place to complete them) before they approve a mortgage.
How Do I Negotiate My Reasonable Repair Requests?
When it comes to negotiating reasonable repair requests, every situation is unique. Deciding what repairs to ask for, how to ask for them and who pays for them will depend on many variables.
Here are a few different ways you may be able to negotiate repair requests:
- Seller pays for repairs: Most repairs relating to the safety of a home are paid for by the seller before or at closing and are included in the purchase agreement.
- Contingencies: Your sales contract may include a home inspection contingency that outlines who pays for repairs requested after a home inspection and which party can walk away from the deal without any financial or legal penalty after problems are found.
- State nonnegotiable repairs: Some states require certain repairs. Use state regulations to give you leverage when you’re asking for certain repairs.
Tips for negotiating repair requests
If you’re going to negotiate repairs, here are some tips to help you get what you want:
- Prioritize: You should prioritize your repair requests by cost and severity.
- Get quotes: Getting formal quotes from contractors for repairs rather than pulling numbers out of thin air might give you a stronger bargaining position because the seller knows you’ve done your research.
- Be reasonable: Put yourself in the seller’s shoes. Would you agree to what you’re asking for?
- Know the sale: You should confirm if the home is being sold as-is.
- Know the real estate market: You should figure out if it’s a seller’s or buyer’s market.
- Keep your plans to yourself: The seller may be less likely to agree to your repair requests if they know you plan on making lots of renovations to the home anyway.
When a seller won’t repair any issues
Sellers aren’t obligated to repair every issue.
When a seller won’t agree to your repair requests, you might be able to negotiate:
- Asking price: Try negotiating a lower asking price after an inspection to offset the cost of making any repairs yourself (but the seller doesn’t have to agree to your terms).
- Deal sweeteners: Try negotiating items that “sweeten the deal,” like keeping the appliances or asking the seller to pay your closing costs.
- Purchase a home warranty: Try negotiating with the seller to pay the first year of a home warranty policy. A home warranty covers repairs and replacements on major appliances and home systems.
When Should I Walk Away After a Home Inspection?
Sometimes negotiating repairs after a home inspection works and sometimes it makes more sense to walk away from the sale.
It might be in your best interest to walk away if:
- The seller won’t negotiate any “deal sweeteners,” a lower asking price or paying for repairs.
- You can’t afford to pay for the repairs.
- You’re on a tight schedule and can’t wait for the repairs to be completed before you can move in.
Keep in mind that including a home inspection contingency in your sales contract may protect you from losing your earnest money deposit if you decide to walk away from the deal.
It’s a difficult decision, but knowing what you’re willing to do and not do when it comes to buying a home that needs repairs can help you decide whether to negotiate or walk away.
Without a (Reasonable) Doubt
As a general rule, the home you buy will need repairs. You may not be able to spot the problems right away, but a home inspection will uncover any issues.
Your real estate agent can help you identify both reasonable and unreasonable repair requests so you know what to negotiate with the seller and what to fix on your own.
Bottom line: When it comes to health and safety concerns, don’t hesitate to ask for those repairs to be made.