In many parts of New England – real estate sales and continually increasing prices have been the norm for the past five years.  With sellers in the driver’s seat – a significant number of homes have been sold ‘as-is’ with little or no regard for repairs.

As we begin to see a shift in the market, however, requests for repairs are beginning to reappear.

Because many newer real estate agents have never written a request for repairs – we are seeing requests that are totally unrealistic.

Rule 1 – It is reasonable to ask that the home’s primary systems be working correctly.  The property inspection report deals with the condition of the property’s major systems – electrical, plumbing, HVAC, foundation, etc.)  The report is broken into categories for each system in the home and provides an overview of each system’s condition along with any issues identified.

Inspection reports do not come with projected costs to remedy said issues.  It is reasonable to request that the home’s primary systems be functioning correctly as of the date they were installed in the home.

You need to be able to turn on lights and use the outlets without being shocked.  Requesting that toilets flush properly – that sinks, tubs and showers operate correctly – and that all plumbing is watertight is also the norm.  The heater should heat safely – the air conditioning should cool – the foundation should be sturdy – and the all windows and doors should open, close and lock.

If a seller accepts a contract from a buyer with an FHA or VA loan – any items called out by the appraiser must be remedied to complete the transaction.

Sellers concerned about potentially excessive repair costs can contractually negotiate maximum amounts – and have the buyer cover costs over the specified limit.

Rule 2 – It is reasonable to ask for roof and termite clearances.  In normal market conditions, buyers have historically asked for roof and termite clearances.  To make this happen, most roof and termite inspection reports come with cost estimates.

Termite reports come with section 1 – any actual damage from infestations of wood destroying insects or fungus and section 2 – items that if left unmitigated could lead to section 1 damage.

A termite report clearance is issued by the termite inspection company when all section 1 items have been taken care of.  This not only includes abatement of wood destroying insects but also any structural work required to make the property whole.

Typically, sellers remedy section 1 items and buyers address section 2 issues after they own the property.

To obtain a roof clearance – the roof inspection company or roofing contractor needs to complete the recommend work.  Good roofing companies usually offer a warranty along with their repairs.  When a roof is in such poor condition that it is impossible to repair a new roof may be recommended.  If this is the case buyers will want to get quotes and factor this into their negotiations.

Rule 3 – It is not reasonable to ask for upgrades.  Homes are built to the building code in place at the time of construction.  When buying an older home you are purchasing it with the applicable building codes of the day it was built – or the day any permitted upgrades were constructed and signed off by the town building department.

For example, older homes may have an electrical system that is no longer in compliance with the current electrical codes.  As the 20th century progressed increasing consumer protections resulted in better electrical building codes.  Although, some of these improvements would be good to have in an older home – if they are not present at the time of sale they are considered upgrades.

While it is okay to ask a seller to ensure that the existing electrical system is working correctly for the date it was built – it is not acceptable to request that the electrical system be upgraded to current codes.

This is also true with other systems as well.  A buyer should not be asking sellers to upgrade galvanized pipes to copper or PEX – install new furnaces if the old ones are still working properly (even if they are old) – replace single pane windows with dual pane windows – and install insulation, and so on.

Rule 4 – It is not reasonable to ask for cosmetic changes.  Expect seller’s response to be less than cooperative when asked to make cosmetic changes to a home.

Some buyers insist that houses be repainted, carpets be replaced and wood floors be refinished.  Or they ask for extensive landscaping/hardscaping – pools to be removed – AC units to be installed. 

In the majority of these cases the requests were not only refused – but they insulted the seller in the process.  The rule of thumb is the more realistic you keep the negotiations – the better the chances of a win-win for both the buyer and the seller.

Rule 5 – It is not reasonable to ask for an abatement.  Older homes may have materials in the deemed hazardous – especially asbestos and lead paint.  Seller and their agents are required by federal law to disclose any known hazards.  You can order an inspection to ascertain levels and locations of these materials – but you cannot reasonable request it be removed.

Have any questions or require more information on negotiating home repairs – please feel free to give Gillian a call at (508) 361-3362.