Don't overwhelm a seller with repair requests

Most homeowners do their best to keep their property in good repair. But busy schedules, tight budgets, and other factors can lead to some problems going unchecked. After awhile, they'll just learn to live with a sticking window or cracked floor tile instead of fixing it.

Visitors aren't used to these flaws, so they may seem particularly glaring if you are touring a home that's listed for sale. But while asking for repairs is part of the negotiations of many home sales, requests considered to be unfair can cause the seller to reject your offer.

The typical buyer makes their offer contingent on a number of conditions, one of the most important of which is a home inspection. An inspector's report will look at the condition of various systems and features, such as the roof and foundation, and identify any obvious problems. The buyer can then use this report to ask the seller to repair the issues or lower the asking price.

Consult with your real estate agent to see what problems you may be able to ask a seller to remedy. This professional can also advise you if any flaws are serious enough to make you consider withdrawing the offer.

In general, repair requests should be limited to more serious problems with the home. Blake Miller, writing for the real estate site Trulia, says the most crucial areas to focus on are the electrical system, HVAC system, plumbing, and roof.

Buyers shouldn't ask a seller to fix anything that can be considered a cosmetic issue. Some examples might include dirty siding, a deck that needs restaining, or peeling paint on the baseboards. In most cases, the buyer can easily fix these problems on their own after a purchase, and do it to their own personal tastes.

Similarly, buyers shouldn't request repairs for anything that can be fixed at minimal cost. The rule of thumb is to leave anything that would cost less than $10 to fix to repair on your own. Empire Inspections & Appraisals, a business based in Harriman, N.Y., suggests that buyers set a $100 limit to avoid overwhelming the seller with requests.

Buyers may consider the replacement or installation of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to be a reasonable request, but a seller might also consider this to be frivolous. The Eastern Connecticut Association of Realtors concurs with Missy Yost, of Weichert Realtors, who writes that completing this task on your own will also give you the chance to choose your own detectors and ensure that they are working properly.

Even if a problem is related to an essential issue, it might be minor enough to fix on your own or with the help of a handyman. Some examples include a dripping faucet or a non-functioning light switch.

Loose railings, doorknobs, and other fixtures can also be repaired easily. Sometimes you might just need a screwdriver to tighten up a fastener or two.

Avoid asking for repairs on outbuildings, such as a deteriorating garden shed. Empire Inspections & Appraisals says the condition of these structures is rarely as good as the home, and a buyer shouldn't expect that a seller will fix them up.

If you are planning on renovating part of the home, you won't want to risk the offer by asking the seller to make a repair which will soon become moot. Your requests should also be limited to existing systems. Amanda S. Davidson, writing for the real estate community ActiveRain, says you shouldn't ask for a repair if it's intended to be part of an overhaul of the home instead of a fix for a current system.

It's also inadvisable to ask for a repair of an outdated but still functional system unless an inspector determines that a fix is necessary. If the furnace is on the older side but still cranking out heat, you shouldn't demand that the seller replace it with a new HVAC system as part of the offer.

Sellers are often irritated by repair requests because they are hoping to move out by a certain date, and it can be time-consuming and tedious to complete a list of fixes. Buyers can often ask for a credit toward the repair of a problem, since a seller will consider it easier to grant this reduction in costs instead of doing work on the home.


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