During your buyer’s investigation period, your property inspector goes through every inch of the home with a fine tooth comb. Later, he emails you his report with a list of items he recommends get fixed.
Your agent submits a “request for repair” on your behalf, detailing the items you are asking the seller to fix. All of a sudden, the seller is no longer your best friend, reminds you of the backup offers ready to go if you want to cancel, is completely non-cooperative and you are left feeling confused and angered that your repair request is being disregarded.
What went wrong? Is there a better way to approach the concept of repairs that can keep all parties happy and enable an escrow to keep moving forward? The simple answer is, “Yes!”
Request for repairs is an incredibly sensitive portion of the escrow process, with issues that can stem largely from misguided expectations on both sides.
Here are some excellent steps, guidance, and an overall repair strategy that can help you, as a buyer, achieve your goals, keep you happy, and allow your escrow to progress…
1) Choose an inspector whose report clearly identifies items deemed as immediate safety concerns versus cosmetic fixes or speculative future issues.
For example, a water heater that isn’t properly strapped, or exposed electrical wiring would be considered a safety concern, whereas paint chipping might be considered cosmetic, and a roof that isn’t currently leaking, but which the inspector feels only has “a few years of life left” would be deemed future speculative.
2) Understand that as a buyer, the home you are purchasing is generally assumed to be sold in its “as is” current state.
You should never tether your decision to move forward on the home based on an expectation of a certain portion of the house getting “fixed” by the seller.
Certainly, if an alarming issue surfaces that both sides can’t reconcile, you would want to cancel. But you don’t want to enter into escrow assuming a buyer is going to fix every last little item, or even anything, for that matter.
3) Generally speaking, sellers are more likely to accommodate repairs that are immediate safety-related in nature, so this is where your focus should be with your request.
4) Be realistic, leave the cosmetic fixes and future preventative repairs out of your request, and don’t annoy the seller.
Say your inspector claims the roof has 5 years of life left to it, and estimates a replacement would cost $10,000. If you were to request a seller pay for a full roof replacement, likely, they will come back to you with the assertion that the inspector’s claim is purely speculative, there is no current damage, and therefore paying for a replacement is unnecessary.
A seller would likely rather cancel escrow with you and begin again with a buyer willing to accept the roof in its current state, and save themselves the $10,000.
The thing is – your agent representing you should already have let you know that requesting roof repair when there isn’t existing damage is an unrealistic ask. Incorporating that into your requst risks annoying the seller, who may then reject your overall request outright.
Some buyers think the right strategy is to ask for everything so a seller will meet in the middle with a compromise. But this rarely works out for the buyer. Making an extreme request tends to elicit an extreme response.
The better strategy is to be sensible and respectful with your request, and this tends to generate a more favorable response.
5) Decide whether you are better off asking the seller to complete actual repairs, or if you should ask for a credit towards closing costs in lieu of repairs.
The benefit of asking for a credit is that you have control over the repair itself, from hiring the professional to making sure the job is completed to your standards.
Also, performing actual repair work may feel like a hassle to the seller, a credit is much easier, and therefore a seller may be more inclined to agree to a credit in lieu of actual repair. The right decision for you really is dependent on the scenario and condition of the property, so be sure you consult your real estate agent and inspector for the proper recommendations and guidance.
Ultimately, if your repair request is presented in the right way, with the right psychology and in a professional manner, you should see fantastic results and your escrow process will continue to move forward, pleasantly and amicably.
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