You want to make sure you are getting the home you are paying for – a dry basement, a water tight roof, a heating and air conditioning system that works properly, etc. Look for a well respected, experienced home inspector with all the proper certifications. He or she should be a member of either ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) or NAHI (National Association of Home Inspectors). Go ahead and find the best inspector in your area. The difference in price between a good home inspector and a great one is negligible anyway.
Here in the Louisville, Kentucky area, three inspections are standard:
- Inspection of the home
If the home was built before 1978, it is a good idea to do a risk assessment for lead-based paint. And if the home has a septic system, as so many homes have in nearby counties such as Oldham County, a thorough septic inspection is highly recommended.
Some home inspectors offer “one stop shopping”. They partner with termite, radon, and septic inspection companies, making it easy for you to arrange to get all inspections scheduled with one phone call.
What Is The Best Strategy For Negotiating Repairs?
There is no set standard when it comes to asking for repairs. However, I can offer some tips that may help:
A thorough home inspection will, almost without exception, reveal problem areas in the home that you will want the Seller to address. When you are sitting down with your Realtor to go over the home inspection report and discuss what items you want the Seller to repair, replace, or correct, it is important to be realistic. Factor into the equation what concessions, if any, the Seller has already offered. I think it is crucial to always look for the reasonable give-and-take.
Make a list of the most important repairs first. Of course you will want to ensure your home is safe, so anything deemed a “safety issue” should take priority. The foundation should be secure, and the basement water tight. The inspection report will also outline a host of minor issues as well. How important are those to you? If there are items you can easily repair yourself after the home is yours, weigh that against the possibility of overwhelming the Seller and killing the sale. Once again, the best policy is to look for a win-win, so that all parties are seen to be cooperative and working toward a smooth closing.
Even if you are buying new construction, I highly recommend a home inspection. Many home buyers don’t think this is necessary, but even with a new build, things can be overlooked, items can be installed improperly, etc. I have found that most home builders will take care of these items, and the home inspection can help create that “punch list” that will assist the builder to ensure everything is as close to perfection as possible. Yes, even the smallest cosmetic imperfections can be pointed out, and you can and should expect them to be fixed.
Writing Up The Repair Request:
This can be an extremely emotional ordeal for the Seller. They fear the day of the home inspection, and especially dread the repair addendum that follows. It will help your cause if your repair request addendum contains:
- A copy of the home inspection report. If you do not wish to share the entire report, the Seller should at least be given a copy of the pages that pertain to the items in need of repair, correction, or replacement.
- Photos of the issues found. (Most home inspection reports now come with photos).
- A typed report that addresses each issue in clearly. Give a detailed explanation of the problem, and refer to the page and item number from the inspection report. I recommend you use a template especially for repair requests because it states in clear language that all repairs are to be made in “workmanlike” and “timely manner”. All repairs should be performed by licensed professionals and receipts for all work done should be specific as to how the repair was performed. All the receipts should be ready for you to review by the time of the walk through inspection, which is typically 24-48 hours prior to closing.
Once again, keep it real. Keep it reasonable. A home inspection is meant to give you a good education about how the home runs and operates as well as pointing out issues. If there are items that you would prefer to fix yourself anyway, leave them off the list.
Personally, I think it is a good idea to share the entire report with the Sellers so that they realize you are not asking for everything to be fixed. Let them see that, even though there were many other things you could have asked for, you only addressed the things that are of most importance.
Two More Tips:
If you find something about the house that is purely cosmetic, but that you do not want to take on yourself as a home project, add it to the initial sales contract. For instance, if the home has a room or two of wallpaper, and that’s the last thing you want to do again in your lifetime, ask the Seller to remove it and paint. You may even be in a position to choose your own paint brand and color.
If the home inspection report points out that at item is nearing the end of its lifetime but is still working properly, the Seller is going to be very reluctant to replace it. Consider asking the Seller to offer a one-year home warranty. Depending upon the age of the unit, the warranty company may cover that item if it fails within the first year after closing. After the first year, you can renew the policy as well.
What If The Seller Says “No” To Repairs Requested?
Our Greater Louisville Board of Realtors contracts allow the buyer to declare the contract null and void if the Seller is “unable or unwilling” to make repairs. Even if the Seller is willing to make some of the repairs asked for but is unwilling or unable to make the repairs that are of most importance to you, you may have the option to either go forward with the sale, or cancel the contract. Locally, our contracts provide for the Buyer’s good faith deposit to be returned, however all other expenses incurred (at this point they should just be the cost of inspections), will not be returned. But look at it this way: It was a relatively small price to pay. You may opt not to go forward with the home if you already paid fair market value and the Seller is not going to make needed repairs.
Another option: It may be possible to renegotiate the sales price. The Seller is often happy to do that in lieu of making repairs. And the up side for you is that you will have control over who makes the repairs and that they will be done to your satisfaction.
I hope this has been of help to you. If you would like a list of preferred home inspection companies here in the Louisville area, please leave a comment and I will get back with you.