How to Negotiate Home Repairs When Buying a Home

How to Negotiate Home Repairs

No home is perfect, and this is especially apparent after the inspection phase of the home-buying process. Once the inspector looks at all of the nooks and crannies of your soon-to-be home they might find a few things that need to be fixed. Unless you are purchasing a brand-new home, it’s likely that your home inspector will call your attention to some issues (even a brand-new home can still have issues).

Don’t panic when your home doesn’t come away with a completely clean bill of health. After you’ve figured out what problems the home has, you must negotiate whether you or the seller are going to pay for the fixes. So, how do you best navigate this as a buyer? Here are some things to keep in mind as you negotiate home repairs when buying a home.

First, Be Reasonable

As a buyer, you should exercise good judgment about asking for repairs on the home after the inspection.

“Some buyers just want the world and will shoot for it and sometimes [they] can shoot themselves in the foot,” says Bill Gassett, a real estate agent for RE/MAX in Massachusetts.

Understand what things qualify as nitpicky and what items the seller has a responsibility to take care of. Buyers have the right to make sure that everything in the home is safe and in good working order, such as the electrical wiring, the plumbing, the roof, and the foundation — and they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for those fixes in the negotiations. However, many buyers (particularly first-time buyers) have a tendency to want a turnkey home, and that’s not always possible.

“Don’t give the seller a laundry list of things to try to make the home perfect for you. Understand that every home is going to have issues,” Gassett advises.

Examples of repair requests that might drive your seller crazy might be fixing a single cracked clapboard on the outside of your home or repairing a little bit of loose mortar on brick stairs. The bottom line is you should be willing to accept that the home won’t be picture perfect when you move in.

What Are Your Options?

After you’ve found out the problems in the home, what exactly are your options for taking care of them? This all depends on the situation of course, but typically you will either ask the seller to take care of the repairs, or say that you will take care of the repairs and ask for a credit from them.

“A lot of times what I see happening [is] a seller says, ‘I don’t really want to repair something myself but I’m willing to give you a credit for whatever the issue is.’ Most of the time, the buyer will ask somebody to give them a quote,” Gassett says.

Ask a professional for a good estimate on how much it would cost to do the repairs. From this estimate, you will have to negotiate with the seller on how much they’re willing to pay.

Understanding the housing market you’re buying in is also a key to negotiating home repairs. If you’re in a hot housing market, you don’t want to seem too demanding of the seller. It’s likely that if your market is competitive, the seller can find other buyers who would be willing to let small problems go. However, it’s important to note that if there’s a big-ticket item that needs fixing, the next buyer will also be inclined to ask for the repair. In other words, don’t be afraid to ask for a repair on something that affects the safety or normal use of the home.

Rely on Your Real Estate Agent

When it comes to negotiating home repairs, let your real estate agent be your guide.

“A good buyer’s agent should be counseling you on your home inspection and giving you their opinion on how things should be addressed; whether it’s asking for a credit or just asking straight up for the seller to make a repair,” Gassett says.

Don’t think that you’re on your own when it comes to repair negotiations. In this stage of the home-buying process your real estate agent should be there to let you know if you’re being too demanding or if you’re not asking for enough when it’s time for repairs. They should also be able to work out the details with the seller.

Be Willing to Walk Away

If your seller is being unreasonable or if you can’t seem to get repairs worked out, there is always an opportunity to walk away.

“I think you’ve got to look at what you’re buying the home for, what the problem is going to cost to solve, and how that’s going to relate to the ultimate value on what you’re getting for the property,” Gassett notes. “If you’re paying top dollar for the home and you find a big problem with it and the seller says, ‘No I’m not going to do anything,’ are you then overpaying for the home because there’s a $15,000-dollar problem that you have to deal with?”

When negotiations aren’t going well, ask your real estate agent what kinds of consequences there may be to walk away from the home at this stage. They should be able to advise you on what’s best for your personal situation and help you move on, or they can help you revisit the negotiations and help you bargain with the seller.

About the Author
Benjamin Feldman Director of Content