Buying a house involves a lot of money, both in terms of the actual purchase price as well as repairs the home may need. Here are five tips for getting the highest repair credit from the seller:
Tip #1: Make sure your inspection contingency in the Contract is as broad as possible
If you are the buyer, it is very important for the inspection contingency to be as liberal and broad as possible, thereby allowing you to raise as a concern most repairs requiring attention. Cosmetics like peeling paint, soiled carpets or stained walls may not be covered, but you want to make sure items like loose siding, missing roof shingles (even if there is no active leaks), and other non-structural items are covered. This issue usually gets negotiated during Attorney Review so make sure your attorney pushes this provision.
Tip #2: Use a reputable home inspector
The more reputable the inspector, the more credible will be his or her opinion about needed repairs. This is not the time to save money hiring the cheapest guy. You also want to avoid inspectors that point out every little defect and scratch since that too will impact the credibility of the inspection. You want someone who has a background in construction and has been inspecting homes for many years, and who knows how to describe and document needed repairs in a professional manner.
Tip #3: Perform supplemental inspections if needed
Many times the home inspector will identify a concern (for instance with a chimney) but may not have the expertise to give a full opinion about how best to address what he/she is seeing. In that case, you may need to retain an inspector who has expertise in chimneys to give you an objective assessment of the concerns and repairs, if indicated. It is best to get an inspector who is not in the business of making the repairs in question since his opinions will be viewed as biased and motivated by his own interest in getting the work. Your inspector should be as independent as possible.
Tip #4: Obtain credible estimates for the needed work
As a follow up to item #3, once you get the expert opinion about a needed repair, say for example regarding the chimney, you then need to get an estimate for the work from a licensed contractor who does this type of work. Again, you want to avoid same person making the diagnosis AND offering to do the actual work since that impacts credibility. Both elements of this should be done by different (unrelated) outfits. Sometimes it helps getting two or more estimates, but if you follow this process and use credible inspectors/contractors, the seller may be satisfied with what you are offering and respond favorably.
Tip #5: Be prepare to terminate the contract
In virtually all negotiations, to be most effective, parties need to be prepared to walk away from a deal if they are not getting reasonable responses from the other side. If a party knows you are just bluffing or will want the house no matter what the seller offers, you will get low balled. So, you cannot come across as desperate nor can you make any comments suggesting a willingness to accept the property as is. Admittedly this is hard to do since people get emotionally invested in the home they are buying, but this is where a good, seasoned attorney can help navigate this process thereby removing the emotions.
Presenting the proper documentation and making your demands as credible as possible (by retaining the right professionals) will maximize the chances of the seller giving you what you ask for. After all, now that the seller is aware of these defects, the seller will need to disclose these defects in the next deal, so one way or the other, the seller needs to deal with these repair issues. Better the seller deal with you in a reasonable, serious manner than start all over from scratch with a new buyer who may not be as responsible and diligent as you.
This is how you get the most from the inspection contingency clause of your Contract.