You've made an offer, the seller has accepted, and now it's time for the home inspection. The purchase agreement has been signed, and the funds are in escrow. During the home inspection, the inspector will attempt to find as many defects as possible in the home's roof, floors, walls, windows, and structural support members.
After the inspection is done, you can begin to make repair requests with the seller—you generally can't start making requests before that. Once you have the inspection report in hand, you can request that the seller repair the items found. They may agree or decline; or, in some cases, they might offer you “repair credits” instead. These essentially lower the selling price, giving you more cash to do the repairs yourself once you own the home.
Learn more about serious issues to look out for, tips for making requests after a home inspection, and the different ways to pay for repairs.
- In most cases, home inspections are done shortly after a homebuyer's offer is accepted.
- The buyer has to decide which issues warrant a repair request with the sellers, and which they'll ask for cash for, handle themselves, or let slide altogether.
- There are certain repairs that are mandatory for sellers to fix, including issues related to safety.
- Sometimes, buyers are better off asking for cash credit on a repair item instead of asking the seller to replace or repair something.
Serious Repair Requests to Watch For
Your job as a buyer is to figure out which issues warrant a repair request with the sellers, and which you’ll ask for cash for, handle yourself, or let slide altogether. But if serious issues are found on your home inspection, you should request repairs from the sellers.
Some of the more severe issues you should keep an eye out for in your home inspection report include the following:
Homes built before 1960 often have ungrounded wiring and polarized receptacles. These are two-prong outlets that come with a higher risk of electric shock than current standards allow.
There's nothing bad about ungrounded wiring, but it's not a good idea to plug sensitive electronic equipment into an ungrounded outlet, such as computers or televisions, or appliances that draw a lot of power, such as microwaves or newer refrigerators.
If a home you’re looking to buy has ungrounded wiring, you might want to request that it be rewired before closing. If the sellers don’t agree to your demand, you may consider a newer property with modern wiring instead.
Galvanized Water Pipes
Most homes built before 1970 have galvanized steel pipes. Minerals in the water supply can cause a buildiup inside these pipes over time. This buildup could become a problem if you notice low water pressure. Galvanized pipes can also rust and leak.
Many homeowners don't replace galvanized pipes; they repair them when they leak. It's not unreasonable to ask a seller to repair a leaking galvanized pipe.
You may also ask them to replace all galvanized pipes with copper, CVPC, or Pex, though they might be less likely to take on such a large project just before moving out.
Orangeburg Sewer Pipes
Ask your real estate agent whether other homes in the neighborhood have had Orangeburg or "tar paper" sewer pipes. Orangeburg pipes are common in homes built between 1945 and 1972. These pipes can absorb moisture and become distorted, causing poor flow and other issues.
You can hire plumbing specialists to insert a camera down the sewer line to look for tree roots or to find out whether the sewer line is Orangeburg. If so, these types of pipes last about 50 years before they disintegrate. They can also cause a need for thousands of dollars in repairs if a pipe should burst.
When having your home inspection done, you can also ask for a sewer inspection. Replacement of sewer lines is expensive, but it's an item that many sellers will replace if asked.
If roof issues crop up during your inspection, you can certainly ask for them to be repaired. Usually, sellers will get a roof inspection when these requests are made. These are conducted by a roofing company and are designed to find any issues with the roof, its materials, and its features—ridges, caps, pipes, and more. The roof inspection will give you a complete estimate of the damage and costs to repair.
If the roof needs a full replacement, there’s a chance that the seller will replace it or have it replaced under their home insurance policy. Sometimes, they will offer cash credits instead.
Once the repairs are made, the roofing company will issue a roof certification to show that it’s in good condition.
HVAC Systems and Water Heaters
Age is a good indicator for determining when heating and cooling systems should be replaced. The average life expectancy of a central A/C unit is usually 15 to 20 years.
Be wary if a system is nearing its age limit. If your home inspector notes a unit’s old age on your report, have it inspected by a licensed HVAC professional to make sure it’s up to snuff.
It's not unusual for a buyer to request new systems, but they're expensive to replace, so keep that in mind if you intend to request a full replacement.
Mandatory Repairs After a Home Inspection
After a home inspection, there are certain repairs that are mandatory for sellers to fix. They include issues related to safety, such as structural damage, mold, and fire code violations.
If you’re a home buyer, getting a professional home inspection is an important step in the process. Home inspectors are specifically trained to find deficiencies in residential properties. They can also advise you as to what deficiencies are most important or pose safety issues.
Some of the most common mandatory repairs include:
- Water damage
- Fire or electrical hazards
- Chemical hazards
- Pest infestation
- Structural hazards
- Building code violations
If your home inspection report notes issues in those areas, it is the responsibility of the seller to fix them.
Tips for Successfully Making Requests for Repairs After a Home Inspection
When it's time to make repair requests, you’ll generally want to focus on the bigger-picture items. Remember that sellers are on their way out of the home (they may already have a new one), and they probably don’t want to put much time or cash into a property they’re just about to leave. They may also be on a tight timeline.
Here are some general tips for making repair requests as a homebuyer.
1. Consider Which Repairs the Seller Should Handle
Remember that the sellers will be responsible for any repairs that are crucial to health and safety. But beyond that, how can you know what types of repairs to ask for?
If you're not sure, you can always ask your real estate agent. They should be able to help by letting you know what typically happens in your local market.
Keep in mind that sellers don’t have to agree to any repair requests. In fact, if it’s a seller’s market, and there are lots of buyers vying for the property, they may reject them altogether.
Consider asking the seller to pay for a home warranty. Home warranties cover major defects for a year and provide added peace of mind.
2. Determine What Is a Need and What Is a Want
While there might be lots of changes you'd like to make to the home, take a step back. Read through the inspection report, and begin to separate out what is a need and what is a want.
Needs are things that need to be addressed during the homebuying process to ensure that the house is safe and habitable. Wants are things that can probably wait a while—like a new water heater.
And of course, it's not a great idea to make repair requests for items that could have been easily noticed during your initial walk-through of the home, such as cracked sidewalks, a bad paint job, or uneven floors.
3. Get Relevant Quotes and Estimates
When making decisions about repairs, it's a good idea to get a variety of quotes from experts in order to get an estimate on costs. Your real estate agent can likely point you toward reputable businesses in your area.
Whether the seller ends up making the repairs or you do as the buyer, knowing what to expect from a cost perspective can help.
4. Approach the Requests for Repairs Carefully
When it comes time to make repair requests, be sure you approach the sellers carefully. Keep in mind that they may not have been aware of the repairs that need to be made. They are not required to cover anything that isn't mandatory from a safety perspective.
Being respectful when requesting repairs from the sellers can go a long way.
5. Know When to Walk Away
Keep in mind that the seller is not responsible for covering every single repair request you may have. But if they are refusing to cover the costs of important repairs—such as electrical hazards or pest infestation—it may be time to walk away from the sale. You deserve a safe place to live, and if the seller isn't willing to give you that, it's likely best to look elsewhere.
It also may be time to walk away if the home inspection report reveals an extreme number of hidden problems. You didn't know about these issues when you agreed to purchase the home, so you may be able to exit the agreement if you have a home inspection contingency.
A home inspection contingency is a clause in the purchase agreement that allows the buyer to back out of the sale if necessary due to the results of the inspection report.
Understanding Cash Credit vs. Repair
Sometimes buyers are better off asking for cash credit on a repair item instead of asking the seller to replace or repair something. The seller has no vested interest in the home after it's sold, and they might not hire the most qualified contractor or do the repair in a manner that's satisfactory to the buyer.
Sellers may have different aesthetic tastes and standards from yours. If it’s important to you to have something repaired or updated a certain way, you may want to wait and handle it yourself.
Ask your lender whether a cash credit is allowed before asking for one, and work with your agent to determine the best strategy for working with the home’s sellers. The current market, the condition of the home, and the exact sellers you’re working with will all play roles.
If the credit is approved, it can work in a few different ways. The seller may pay some of the buyer's closing costs, so the savings can be used to make repairs, or the credit can be included in the final sales cost, which gives the buyers more time to pay off the repairs.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is a cash credit?
A cash credit is a way that a home seller can pay for home repairs for the buyer without actually having the work done themselves. They may apply the credit to the final sale price or pay some of the buyer's closing costs, so that money can be used for repairs.
What to do if the seller refuses to make the requested repairs?
The right way to handle a seller that won't make requested repairs depends on the type of repairs they are refusing. If they refuse to make mandatory safety repairs, you can walk away from the purchase contract. If the repairs are more cosmetic, you may need to make them yourself.
Are any repairs mandatory to make?
Some types of repairs are mandatory for sellers to make after a home inspection. These include issues related to safety, such as structural damage, mold, and fire code violations
Is cash credit for repairs a good idea?
Seller credit for repairs often benefits both sellers and buyers. It helps sellers move forward with selling their home without having to spend time making repairs on a property they are leaving. And it helps buyers make the repairs they want and need—done in the way they want.