Reasonable repairs for home sellers

Heed inspector's advice on what's petty vs. serious

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jul. 7, 2011

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Heed inspector's advice on what's petty vs. serious

Barry Stone
Inman News™

DEAR BARRY: The people who are buying my house just invaded my space with a nosy home inspector, and you should see the crazy repair list they hit me with.

Just for samples, they want replacement of some moldings, a new bathtub drain stopper, replacement of loose bathroom tiles, replacement of the window wells, extend the bathroom vent from the attic to the exterior, and have the air conditioner checked. Oh yeah, they also want the house treated for termites, and it's only been five years since we killed all those bugs.

Anyway, that's what they want done. Nothing major, just petty things. Is this normal today when you sell a home? --Dale

DEAR DALE: Home inspection is a routine process today in nearly all home purchases. In most transactions, sellers are not required to repair every defect that is listed in the inspection report. In your case, some of the repair requests are reasonable, while others have a nit-picky flavor.

Minor items not worth a haggle include loose moldings and the faulty drain stopper in the bathtub. Items of greater importance are the bathroom exhaust fan, because venting to the attic is not legal, and the recommendation to have the air conditioner professionally serviced.

Negotiable conditions, those that may or may not be serious, include defective window wells and loose tiles. You didn't mention what is wrong with these components. In each case, however, there is the potential for moisture intrusion, and this could be significant.

In most states, termite infestation is not included as part of a home inspection. Such conditions are typically evaluated by a licensed pest control operator. Five years, by the way, is more than enough time for termites to reinvade a home.

The main thing to keep in mind is that repair lists arising from home inspections can be viewed as requests, rather than demands. Except for repairs and upgrades required by law or specified in the purchase contract, all property defects are matters to be negotiated between buyers and sellers.

DEAR BARRY: Are home inspections required by law when houses are sold, or are they optional for homebuyers? --Andy

DEAR ANDY: States cannot legally require that a homebuyer purchase a product or service. Home inspections are available to homebuyers at their own discretion, as an elective means of consumer protection and as a proactive way to practice the age old caveat: buyer beware.

Buyers who hire a qualified home inspector are exercising common sense in their own best interests. Buyers who forgo home inspections are exercising blind foolishness to their own risk.

When performed by a truly qualified professional, a home inspection provides the best pre-emptive defense against negative surprises after the sale. The benefits of a competent inspection serve the needs of all parties in a real estate transaction, by reducing the likelihood of conflicts after the sale. State requirements to protect a homebuyer's financial interests should not be necessary. Buyers should have the prudence to do this for themselves.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

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