The right way to make the right repair request…
Here’s the scenario: You’re a buyer who just entered into escrow on your very first home. Congratulations! Thus far, things couldn’t have gone more smoothly. The listing agent has been respectful. The sellers could not have been nicer. Wow, this is all too good to be true!
During your buyer’s investigation period, your property inspector goes through every inch of the home with a fine tooth comb. Later, he emails you his report with a laundry list of items he recommends get fixed. Your agent submits a “request for repair” on your behalf, detailing the items you are asking the sellers to fix. All of a sudden, the sellers are no longer your best friends, the listing agent is now grumpy and starts throwing out phrases such as, “We have backup offers ready to go,” and you are left feeling confused and angered that your repair request is being disregarded.
What went wrong? Is there a better way to approach the concept of repairs that can keep all parties happy and enable an escrow to keep moving forward? The simple answer is, “Yes!”
Request for repairs is an incredibly sensitive portion of the escrow process, with issues that can stem largely from misguided expectations on the part of buyers as to what they can expect from a request, and how much leverage they really have as it relates to repair. Here are some excellent steps, guidance, and an overall repair strategy that can help you, as a buyer, achieve your goals, keep you happy, and allow your escrow to progress…
1) Choose an inspector whose report clearly identifies those items deemed as immediate safety concerns versus cosmetic fixes or speculative future issues.
For example, a water heater that isn’t properly strapped, or exposed electrical wiring would be considered a safety concern, whereas paint chipping might be considered cosmetic, and a roof that isn’t currently leaking, but which the inspector feels only has “a few years of life left” would be deemed future speculative.
2) Understand that as a buyer, the home you are purchasing is always generally assumed to be in its “as is” current state, so you should never tether your decision to move forward on the home based on an expectation of a certain portion of the house getting “fixed” by the seller.
3) Generally speaking, sellers tend to accommodate with repairs deemed immediate and safety-related in nature. They are more inclined to work with you when your request is presented properly, respectfully, and within reason.
4) Understand your leverage as a buyer where repairs are concerned.
Say your inspector claims the roof has 5 years of life left to it, and estimates a replacement would cost $10,000. If you were to request a seller pay for a full roof replacement, more than likely, they will come back to you with the assertion that the inspector’s claim is purely speculative, there is no current damage, and therefore paying for a replacement is unnecessary.
A seller would more than likely rather cancel escrow with you and begin again with a buyer willing to accept the roof in its current state, and save themselves the $10,000. Making a request such as this could annoy the seller, who may then reject your overall request outright. The key is to know, in advance, what a realistic ask is versus what isn’t proper.
5) Decide whether you are better off asking the seller to complete actual repairs, or if you should ask for a credit towards closing costs in lieu of repairs.
The benefit of asking for a credit is that you have control over the repair itself, from hiring the professional to making sure the job is completed to your standards.
Where performing actual repair work may feel like a hassle to the seller, a credit is much easier, and often a seller is more inclined to accommodate here and save themselves the headache. The right decision for you really is dependent on the scenario and condition of the property, so be sure you consult your real estate agent and inspector for the proper recommendations and guidance.
Ultimately, if your repair request is presented in the right way, with the right psychology and in a professional manner, you should see fantastic results and your escrow process will continue to pleasantly move forward.