Negotiating Repairs While Under Contract for your New Home

OK, so you have completed your inspection on your new home, and probably even met the inspector at the home to get the "highlights" in person.  Now you will be introduced to the art and science of negotiating repairs on the home.

But first, a couple of observations. Some Sellers are very meticulous about the condition of their home, and if something was discovered in inspections, they probably didn't know about it.  Others don't put much effort into maintenance, and don't think that everything in the home "has to be perfect". Most Sellers would prefer not to have to fix anything (we sometimes run into Sellers who want the home to be perfect as a matter of honor -- but not many!), while the Buyers would prefer that every defect (no matter how small) be corrected at the Seller's expense.  So, from the beginning, you know it's going to be a negotiation -- and sometimes a difficult one.

There are a few questions to ask yourself before working with your Realtor on a repair request:

  • Will the defect matter, or affect the livibility of the home?  Is it creating a safety (perhaps faulty wiring), environmental (mold, radon) or other "habitability" issue?
  • Would any other Buyer ask for it to be corrected?  In other words, can you tell the Seller "If you don't fix it for me, I may have to walk away from the deal and you will have to fix it for the next Buyer -- whever you get one."  This is sometimes a strong negotiating point among Realtors.
  • Is it something that you need to have corrected by the Seller so YOU don't have to correct it for your Buyer when you sell the home?
  • Did you pay market price for the home, or leverage the Seller into taking the lowest possible price for the property?  Sometimes, after an especially difficult price negotiation, Sellers feel as if they have given up "all they should give", and significant repair requests will be difficult to negotiate.

If the inspector has found a lot of minor things wrong with the home and only a few significant items, it's better to keep the list short and only ask for the major (potentially dangerous or expensive) things to be repaired.  If there's aren't many major items, you can ask for quite a few smaller repairs and your Realtor can say "the list is fairly long, but we don't expect that these repairs will be expensive".  Of course, you can always shoot for the moon, but this can create an impression in the Sellers' minds that the Buyer is being greedy, making them less willing to negotiate a fair resolution.

So, negotiating repairs is often more art than science.  You should, of course, select a Realtor who is a skilled negotiator.  Usually, a win-win solution is possible among reasonable parties.  Sometimes, it just comes down to how badly the Seller wants to sell, or how badly the Buyer wants this home.  If you can't reach a deal with the Sellers, you DO have the right to walk away from the transaction if that's your choice.

If you have questions about this process or want to hire a team of skilled negotiators, call us!

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