The home inspection is perhaps the most important part of the home buying process because it can uncover what kind of home you’re buying (and if you have a home inspection contingency, you can bail out of buying a lemon).
You can request the seller to fix broken items (called a request for repair), but the seller is under no real obligation to do so. Sellers can decline to fix anything at all (often, that’s when a house is sold in “as-is” condition).
However you can expect most sellers to fix or compensate for certain issues, like termites or a faulty light switch.
Negotiating for repairs or a lower asking price is one of the most important — and tricky — parts of buying a home. You don’t want the sale to fall through, but you also don’t want to overpay.
What Home Inspectors Look For
The inspector’s report offers a professional opinion on the remaining life expectancy of components of the structure and electrical and other systems, and provides comments on needed repairs. A detailed home inspection usually takes around two to three hours.
The inspector will examine:
- Other major mechanical systems
- Electrical systems
- Major appliances
- Yard grading
What Home Inspectors Don’t Look For
Inspectors typically have a sharp eye for issues, but they can’t see through walls. And, they usually don’t inspect with an eye toward interests outside the scope of their inspection, such as:
- Hidden mold
- Pests or termites
- Air quality
- Other hazards that may require inspections by specialists
- Child safety
These inspections cost extra. Some inspectors will offer them as a bundled deal with a regular inspection.
What Can You Expect Sellers to Fix
After the home inspection, you shouldn’t ask your seller to correct minor defects. Repairs you request should correct problems that significantly impact the value of the house, or the your use or enjoyment of it, such as:
- Leaking roof
- Major drainage problems
- Termites or other destructive insects
- Major foundation defects
- Other significant structural issues
- Major electrical problems
- Plumbing issues that affect use
- HVAC problems
- Other major mechanical issues
- Major safety issues
- Wildlife infestation (bats, squirrels, etc.)
- Large areas of decay or rot
- Significant mold growth
- Radon levels exceeding the EPA’s suggested levels
- Lead paint (you are required by federal law to disclose lead paint)
- Other major environmental issues
- Well water issues (poor water pressure)
Instead of asking you to make repairs, you can request a seller’s concession in the sales contract, which means you get a closing cost credit. If you ask for too many repairs, the seller will likely decline, or say that the purchase price accounts for those issues.
What You Shouldn’t Expect Sellers to Fix
Generally, sellers aren’t going to be receptive if you ask them to make cosmetic changes to the home or landscaping (don’t ask them to repaint the house in your favorite color). They may also decline very minor repairs – like a cosmetic crack in a concrete floor, loose fixture, issues with the shed, paint touch-ups, etc.
Be reasonable with your ask and keep in mind that if it’s something minor you can do yourself quickly and affordably, it’s best to leave it out of your sales contract.
As a buyer, it’s up to you to make sure you’re satisfied with the results of your home inspection – and it’s up to you to request any necessary repairs. If you have serious concerns about the house, talk with your agent because it might be worth bailing on one home to go find a better one.