If you're selling your home, you might wonder if there are common repairs needed after a home inspection. Most buyers, after all, won't commit to purchasing a place until there's been a thorough inspection by a home inspector—and rest assured, if there are problems, this professional will find them!
So if your home inspection turns up flaws that your home buyer wants fixed, what then? To be sure, repair requests after an inspection are a hassle, and liable to cut into your profits. So for starters, make sure to read your inspection contract carefully to make sure you don't get locked into mending something you don't want to fix.
"As a seller, you should never sign an inspection contract until you fully understand its obligations, particularly where it concerns your responsibility for fixing things," says Michele Lerner, author of "Homebuying: Tough Times, First Time, Any Time: Smart Ways to Make a Sound Investment."
And rest assured, there's no need for you to fix everything a home inspector thinks could stand for improvement; a home inspection report is not a to-do list. Basically inspection repairs fall into three categories: ones that are pretty much required, according to the inspector; ones that typically aren't required; and ones that are up for debate. Here's how to know which is which.
Common repairs required after a home inspection
There are some fixes that will be required by lenders before they will release funds to finance a buyer's home purchase. Typically these address costly structural defects, building code violations, or safety issues, sometimes in the attic, crawl spaces, and basement, and those related to the chimney or furnace.
An inspector will also check whether your septic system and heater are in good condition and verify whether there's a possible radon leak or the presence of termites (homeowners tend to have many questions on these topics). Other conditions of the home that an inspector may report on include those related to the roof, electrical systems, and plumbing lines and the condition of your HVAC system.
If a home inspection reveals such problems, odds are you're responsible for fixing them. Start by getting some bids from contractors to see how much the work will cost. From there, you can fix these problems or—the more expedient route—offer the buyers a credit so they can pay for the fixes themselves. This might be preferable since you won’t have to oversee the process; you can move out and move on with your life.
Home inspection repairs that aren't required
Cosmetic issues and normal wear and tear that's found by the inspector usually don’t have to be fixed.
"Some inspection contracts will expressly state that the buyers cannot request any cosmetic fixes to be made and can only ask that structural defects, building code violations, or safety issues be addressed," says Lerner. Furthermore, "state laws may also impact your liability as a seller for any issues uncovered during an inspection."
Be sure to check your local ordinances to know which fix-its that are found during an inspection legally fall in your realm of responsibility.
Home inspection repairs that are negotiable
Between fixes that are typically required and those that aren't is a gray area that's up for grabs. How you handle those depends in part on the market you're in. If you're in a hot seller's market, you have more power to call the shots.
"While buyers are always advised to have a home inspection so they know what they are buying, when there are a limited number of homes for sale and buyers need to compete for homes, they are more likely to waive their inspection right to ask a seller to make repairs," says Lerner.
In fact, "the best contract for a seller would be for the buyer to agree to purchase your home as is or to request an 'information only' home inspection, thus absolving you of any need to pay for any fixes found by the inspector," she adds.
However, in a normal market, you won't be able to draw such a hard and fast line related to an inspection.
Work with your real estate agent to understand what items you should inspect and then tackle—and where you might want to push back. You’ll want to be reasonable as you’ve already put a lot of time into the selling process, and it’s likely in your best interest to accommodate some fixes rather than allowing the buyer to walk away. Also, depending on the magnitude of the requested fix, it’s not likely to go away. Now that it’s been uncovered by the home inspector, you’ll need to disclose the issue to the next buyer.
How to negotiate home fixes
Here are two sneaky but totally effective ways to handle this home hurdle that's been uncovered by your inspector:
- Offer a home warranty: “I sometimes keep a $500 one-year home warranty in my back pocket as a token to ease concerns found during a home inspection,” says Kyle Springer, a Realtor® with Coldwell Banker in Bowling Green, KY. That can come in handy if there is an element that doesn’t truly need fixing but is still worrying the buyers, such as an aging HVAC unit.
- Barter for something of value to the buyer. Often sellers will suggest their real estate agent ask the buyer’s agent if the buyers want appliances or furniture if they have no plans to move them. Springer advises sellers to wait to make that offer until after they get the list from the inspector, because they may be able to beg off certain fixes in exchange for items such as the washer and dryer.