In this article, we’ll discuss what buyers need to know about home inspections. First, we’ll cover the questions buyers should ask home inspectors, whether buyers should request repairs, and how buyers should request home repairs if they’re not going to get a credit instead. We’ll talk about how to negotiate home repairs, and close by talking about why you need receipts after inspection repair is completed. Read on for more information about buyers’ rights during home inspections!
What Should Buyers Ask the Home Inspector?
Most buyers think only about what to ask before hiring a home inspector. Asking what they charge, what they look for, and how long the inspection will take are run-of-the-mill questions. However, smart buyers (and their knowledgeable agents) know to ask questions afterward as well.
“Asking questions of the inspector is especially important when you don’t understand something that was said,” advises Bill Gassett, a nationally recognized Realtor. “Almost always what you hear in person sounds a lot less threatening than what you see in the report. The best time to pick the brain of the inspector is right now after the inspection has been completed, before you give the seller your money.”
Here are some questions that he advises every buyer to ask the inspector after their home inspection:
- What does this mean? If your buyer doesn’t understand part of the inspection, they should ask for clarification. It’s a good idea for them to write down questions and ask on a phone call if they’re not in person.
- Is this a big problem? Inspection reports can be overwhelming, so it can be helpful to ask which of the issues is a significant concern.
- Should I get an expert on this problem? Home inspectors have general knowledge of the home, but they aren’t experts. Be sure to ask if you should call in experts to diagnose an issue and give you an estimate.
- Is this normal? This is a great question, not just for buyers to ask, but for real estate agents as well. If you’re attending the inspection with your buyer, you can ease their worries by asking the inspector how often they see those kinds of issues.
- What should I fix when I move into the home? There may be repairs that should be taken care of as soon as possible. If you don’t, you may end up causing damage to the property or increasing the cost of repairs. Be sure to ask your inspector which repairs should be done as soon as possible.
Should Buyers Request Repairs After Inspection?
According to Reuben Saltzman’s Home Inspector Blog, buyers should think twice before they request repairs on the property. Why? “If the seller is going to make repairs, they’re probably going to do the least amount of work possible, and the repairs will often be sub-par. It’s often better to ask the sellers to fund repairs or ask for the price of the home to be adjusted accordingly. The downside, however, is that the buyers will need to come up with the cash to make repairs.”
If your buyer’s got the cash to make the repairs themselves, they’ll be better off than if they request them from the seller. They’ll be more likely to stay on good terms with the seller if they opt to do them, and they’ll expedite the process more quickly. What this means for the buyer is that they’ll have more time to negotiate with the seller about coming down on their price or decide to take on the repairs themselves. They can hopefully close on the home more quickly since they’ll be doing the repairs after the home is purchased.
If the buyer is able to complete the repairs themselves, they will be done exactly as the buyer intended, and the home won’t need to be re-inspected. Some home inspectors don’t even like the idea of re-inspections.
Reuben Saltzman continues, “I don’t do many re-inspections. When I get hired to re-inspect a property, I base my price on how much time I think it’s going to take. If the seller is a property flipper who was given a list of twenty things to repair, I know from experience that maybe half will be completed properly, and the other half won’t be done or will be done incorrectly. I charge the most for these types of transactions because they become a contentious pain.
“On the other hand, if I’m going out to look at three specific repairs and the buyer or buyer’s agent provided me with receipts from licensed contractors, I won’t charge nearly as much because the repairs will probably be fine. Those are a breeze.”
How Should Buyers Request Repairs?
If a buyer does decide to request repairs, Reuben Saltzman advises them to be very detailed. “Make sure everyone understands the issues, request building permits, and be specific,” he says. Rather than saying, “Have the leaking laundry sink repaired,” he gives a specific example of what to say instead.
“The concrete sink in the laundry room is cracked and leaks when filled with water, creating unsanitary conditions. (Get) it replaced by a Minneapolis licensed plumber, and (get) an appropriate plumbing permit obtained and approved by the Minneapolis plumbing inspector. The seller shall have the corrections complete, inspected, and approved no later than one week prior to the date of closing. Documentation of the repairs, including applicable receipts, permits, and lien waivers shall be provided to the buyer no later than one week prior to closing.”
The example above left no wiggle room for the seller, which puts the buyer in a much better position than the first one. (If a seller wanted to, they could repair a leading laundry sink by putting caulking on it. That’s the kind of shortcut we want to avoid!)
How to Negotiate Repairs with the Seller
The art of negotiation is a delicate one, and your buyer will want to put their best foot forward. Here are some tips they can use to negotiate as well as they can.
Buyer decides what they’d like the seller to repair
“As a buyer, always try to come to the seller from a kind, courteous place. Hefty negotiations will take place, which your realtor will handle for you,” says Ryan Fitzgerald on the Raleigh Realty blog. As a real estate agent, you’ll need to walk the line between being professional, friendly, and firm about the repairs your buyer wants. Be realistic about what repairs they should ask for and the ones they can handle on their own.
Talk about what they can live with and what they can live without
“When reviewing the list, break it down into three sections: 1) major defects that will be expensive to repair, 2) issues that aren’t overly costly or overly cheap, 3) minuscule items that aren’t important. Try to focus on major defects as opposed to the issues that aren’t as important,” advises Ryan Fitzgerald.
Get a quote for repairs from a general contractor
“The buyer may feel inclined to ask the inspector for estimates on how much repairs will cost. In almost every situation, the inspector will be unable to provide an estimate. A contractor can give some ballpark numbers,” says Ryan Fitzgerald. As the buyer’s agent, you may also be able to provide estimates or put your client in touch with home inspection repair contractors.
Let your buyer know the seller is not obligated to make repairs
Give your buyer a moment to assess whether they’d really like to have the home. Facilitate discussion about the repair costs and how manageable they are. If the costs are manageable and it’s the buyer’s dream home, they likely won’t want to walk away from it due to some simple repairs they can afford to do.
Approach repair requests with gratitude
“The worst way to communicate with a seller is by demanding that they pay for repair costs. Repairs are typically just as much a surprise to the seller as they are to the buyer,” Ryan Fitzgerald states. As the buyer’s agent, you can put the buyer’s mind at ease and reassure them. No matter how the negotiations pan out, let them know you’ll help them look for their dream home. The old adage “You catch more flies with honey” rings true, especially in real estate.
Do You Need Receipts After Inspection Repair?
Yes, you should have receipts after inspection repair. Receipts help the buyer verify that inspection repairs were completed as intended. It’s not just highly recommended, though. In Florida, it’s required.
“According to the NEFAR contract, the seller is required to provide a copy of receipts for all work to the buyer. Once the buyer moves in, the buyer will be able to contact the vendor listed on the receipt if the repair has an issue later down the line. Additionally, the receipts show that a licensed professional completed the repair. The NEFAR contract requires licensed professionals to do all the repairs,” states Realtor Laura Garcia on her Agent Millennial blog.
The NEFAR contract is the contract for the North East Florida Association of Realtors, and it states that repairs need to be made by a licensed contractor, roofer, plumber, electrician, or another home specialist. Laura Garcia also reiterates that contract wording needs to be very specific to ensure that all repairs are made exactly as they were requested.
Let Close Concierge Handle it
There’s a lot to think about when it comes to inspections. When you’re negotiating home inspection repairs, be courteous and talk to your buyer about what requests should be the top priority. Advise them that sellers aren’t legally obligated to complete repairs, and walk them through the kinds of questions they can ask the inspector during the inspection. Give your buyer time to consider the pros and cons of taking on the repairs themselves.
Is the inspection process something you’d rather not deal with? Close Concierge is an upstanding agency that handles transactions for busy real estate agents. You’ll get your own dedicated Transaction Concierge who will provide white-glove service to your transactions. We exist to save you time and protect your paycheck by completing transactions without error. Your Concierge will maintain compliance and save you 15 hours per transaction so you can close new contracts. Contact us today to schedule a demo! We’d love to hear from you.
Sean is CEO at Close Concierge. His goal is two-fold: to create the best company in the world to work for & to create the number one customer service company in the world, regardless of industry. He believes achieving both of these goals happens at the same time
Sean started his career at the Boston Consulting Group, where he met his wife. They live in Chicago with their son, London. Sean graduated The Wharton School with honors.