Will the Bank Pay for Repairs in a Short Sale?

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Question: Will the Bank Pay for Repairs in a Short Sale?

A reader asks: "After waiting for almost 3 months to get approval on a short sale, I was finally allowed to do my home inspection. The inspector said the water heater was leaking and had been leaking for months. Much of the drywall in the garage is damaged. When I told my agent we wanted either the seller or the bank to pay for the repairs, my agent said we were buying the short sale in 'as is' condition, which meant no repairs. This doesn't seem fair. The water heater wasn't leaking when we first looked at this home. Do you think the bank will pay for repairs in a short sale?"

Answer: Some real estate agents say home buyers conveniently forget that they promised to buy that short sale in "as is" condition -- without any mandated repairs -- but it doesn't sound like that was a detail you overlooked. If you look at standard California (C.A.R.) purchase contracts, for example, they contain verbiage that say the home is sold in its present condition, whether or not the home is a short sale. These regular homes are sold "as is," too.

However, it doesn't mean that a buyer can't issue a Request for Repair to a regular seller and ask for a repair or a credit toward closing costs. It does mean that the regular seller is under no obligation to honor that request. But do they? Do sellers pay for repairs? All the time, especially if the repair issue was an item that was not readily apparent upon initial inspection, and the seller is eager to close.


Short Sales and Reasons Banks Reject Repairs

Short sales, however, are different.

Part of the problem with asking a bank to make a repair on a short sale or issue a buyer credit is the bank has probably not listed the home for sale. Notwithstanding a few banks such as in a Wachovia short sale or a HAFA short sale preapprove short sales, many short sales are not preapproved. In most short sales, the seller is generally asking the bank to approve a short sale.

The bank is not obligated to oblige.

You might think the bank cares about the condition of the home, but the bank does not. The bank cares about getting its mortgage payments and, in the event of a short sale, getting market value for that home. Here are a few reasons why the bank is likely to reject a request for repairs:

  • The bank doesn't want to lose money on the sale.
  • The bank agreed to sell in "as is" condition.
  • The bank doesn't need to accept the short sale when it can instead foreclose.
  • If the home goes back on the market, the next buyer might not squabble about the repairs.
  • The seller doesn't have any money to make the repairs.

How to Persuade Short Sale Banks to Pay for Repairs

Sometimes short sale homes are vandalized while the buyers wait for short sale approval, especially if the home is vacant. For example, I had a short sale listed in Roseville that was vacant. Thieves swiped the AC unit from the side yard and ripped out the electrical panel. The buyer could have persuaded the bank to lower the price if the buyer had not become greedy.

The buyer asked for a credit equal to 4 times the amount of the repair, so naturally the bank rejected the short sale offer.

Here is the procedure to increase the odds that the bank will pay for repairs on a short sale:

  • First, make sure the repair is serious. Don't ask the bank to repair nickel-and-dime items.
  • Present a case as to why you didn't ask for the repair in the initial offer.
  • Obtain at least 3 bids from recognized professionals and submit with your request.
  • Realize that if the bank approves the repair, it will choose the lowest bid.
  • Request an extension to close the short sale if the repairs are to be made prior to closing.
  • Present your case, an executed addendum and the bids to the bank.
  • Have a plan B in case the bank rejects the repairs.

Just like the terms for buying a foreclosure, short sale banks generally do not pay for repairs. But if you have time to wait for a response and a good case to present, it might be worthwhile to ask.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, DRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.

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