Does the seller have to fix everything on a home inspection?

Friday, October 19, 2018

Not exactly. The real estate contract between you and the seller defines what, if any, defects that we uncover will need to be repaired. We use the word “defect” to describe anything we find that is not acceptable in the home, and that includes a wide range of house problems--from something minor such as drooping ceiling fan blades to much bigger issues, like a leaking roof or foundation damage.

   Every defect or “area of concern” that we call out will not necessarily to be a defect as defined in the real estate contract. For example: a roof that is not leaking but is near the end of it serviceable life, with only a year or two before it has to be replaced, is not deemed to be a reason for a new roof courtesy of the seller.  An active roof leak would definitely kick it over to the repair list, but then it would further require a licensed roofer (or two) to state that repairing the leak would be a waste of time, based on the overall condition of the roof, before a simple roof repair at the leak area would be eliminated as an option for the seller.

   Sometimes a homeowner’s insurance company will require that the roof has to be inspector-certified to have 5-years of life remaining before they will issue insurance for the home. Because insurance is necessary for financing, and acquiring reasonable financing is a contract contingency, a new roof may be necessary in order for you--or anyone financing their purchase of the home--to buy the home. This scenario can help you get a new roof, for example, but will likely require some negotiating give-and-take between both sides of the deal.

   There is one simple parameter that applies to most real estate contracts regarding seller’s obligation for repairs: if it’s functional, it is acceptable. A “cosmetic” defect (usually defined as any problem that is unsightly by does not affect the functionality of the home) is normally excluded from the seller’s repair list. A rusty cabinet of the a/c condenser unit, or some dings in the baseboard are typical examples. Occasionally, a defect can ride the line between cosmetic and functional. An insulated window that has become slightly fogged over due to loss of the seal between the double panes can be argued as merely cosmetic. Or, since the loss of the inert gas reduces the insulating quality of the window, it can be considered a functional defect. 

    There are also often dollar-limits in the contract for the repairs in different specified categories. If the cost of the repairs exceeds the dollar-amount of the seller’s obligation, the rest will come out of your pocket or remain undone until after you close and take possession of the home. 

   And, of course, if you have signed an “as-is” contract, then the seller is not obligated to fix anything. The purpose of the inspection is for you to determine whether the cost of any necessary repairs is affordable, when factored into the buy price of the house.

   The point of all this is that, 1) it’s a complicated issue and, 2) it’s a negotiation. The process of determining what repairs the seller will make, or price concessions the seller will give you for the repairs, is what an experienced, professional realtor is good at. We provide you with a list of defects, then you and your realtor sort through it, determine what your priorities are, and your realtor negotiates the best deal possible from your prioritized list.

    Also, see our blog post Can a home inspector do repairs to a house after doing the inspection?

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  To learn more strategies for getting the best possible home inspection, here’s a few of our other blog posts:

How can I make sure I don't get screwed on my home inspection? 

How thorough is a home inspector required to be when inspecting a house?

Should I trust the Seller's Property Disclosure Statement?

Can I do my own home inspection?

How can homebuyers protect themselves against buying a house over a sinkhole? 

The seller gave me a report from a previous home inspection. Should I use it or get my own inspector? 

If we already looked at the house very carefully, do we still need a home inspection?

    To read about issues related to homes of particular type or one built in a specific decade, visit one of these blog posts:

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1940s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1950s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1960s house?

• What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1970s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1980s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1990s house?

What problems should I look for when buying a country house or rural property? 

What problems should I look for when buying a house that has been moved?

What do I need to know about buying a foreclosure? 

What should I look for when buying a former rental house?  

What problems should I look for when buying a house that has been vacant or abandoned?

What are the most common problems with older mobile homes?

What should I look for when buying a house that is being "flipped" by an investor seller? 

What do I need to know about a condo inspection?

What are the "Aging In Place" features to look for when buying a retirement home?

   Visit our HOME INSPECTION page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.

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