Don't lose real estate buyers over minor fixes

February 22nd, 2011 12:04pm
How to gauge what are reasonable repairs, what aren't

Barry Stone
Inman News™

DEAR BARRY: Our home is in escrow. We disclosed every defect we could think of, but the buyers relied on their home inspector. The inspector didn't find any serious problems, but he did list a number of cosmetic defects and routine maintenance repair needs, such as peeling paint, loose exterior trim, a cracked window and a damaged bedroom door.

All of these were listed on our disclosure statement, so we thought the buyers would be satisfied with the inspection report. But they are demanding that we fix every single defect or they won't buy the property. This seems very unfair to us. What do your recommend? --Angie

DEAR ANGIE: The days that follow a home inspection can be the most difficult time in a real estate transaction, even when no major defects are found by the inspector. It is when the final decision to proceed with the purchase is affirmed. It is when all contingencies are set aside, when the deal becomes definite and moves toward completion. Much is at stake for all parties, so tensions can run high.

In this atmosphere, common sense and reason can be overshadowed by emotions.

On one hand, buyers can make overreaching demands. On the other hand, sellers can make shortsighted refusals. In either case, their positions can be self-defeating, allowing the transaction to fall though over a difference of a few hundred dollars.

Buyers and sellers should negotiate with the main objective at the center of their thinking. Your goal is to sell your home and move on to new horizons. If the path to that outcome is to repair some routine defects, consider what you value more highly. You can decide, as a matter of principle, that it would be unfair to repair these defects because you disclosed them in advance.

But ask yourself: Is that principle so important that you would rather put your property back on the market and wait for another buyer to come along sooner or later?

The same reasoning applies to the buyers. They contracted to buy a home that apparently meets their wants and needs. The qualities of the home and its price were apparently satisfactory to them. They knew at the outset of the transaction that certain repairs were needed but then decided not to accept those conditions. They need to ask themselves: Do the costs of these repairs outweigh our desire to own this property? Would we rather cancel the sale and shop for another home?

In most cases, it is possible to reach a compromise solution. In your case, for example, some of the repair requests make sense, while others are somewhat demanding. So let's examine them.

Most buyers would not accept cracked windows, and most sellers would not balk at this demand for repair. The request to repair the damaged door should be judged by the extent of damage. Damage that affects the function of the door or that necessitates replacement would be a reasonable repair request. Cosmetic damage would not. Peeling paint and loose exterior trim are purely cosmetic issues. When someone buys a home in that condition, they typically expect to renovate the exterior when they take possession.

Whatever you do, don't let "matters of principle" cloud the big picture. Keep your eyes on the main objective, which is to sell your home and move on to the future. Try a little give-and-take in the negotiations. Offer to repair the windows and door if the sellers will accept the other conditions as is. Hopefully, their response will be a reasonable one.

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

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