How to Negotiate Repairs After a Home Inspection

Most would-be buyers and sellers believe the real estate “deal” is done at the signing of the contract.

In many cases, the deal-making and negotiations only start at the contract signing. Even in more competitive real estate markets, negotiations still happen once in escrow.

Issues typically arise after the home inspection, and those issues tend to result in another round of negotiations for credits or fixes.

Here are three buyer tips for negotiating repairs after a home inspection.

1. Ask for a credit for the work to be done

The sellers are on their way out. If the property is moving toward closing, they’re likely packing and dreaming of their life post-sale. The last thing they want to do is repair work on their old home. They may not approach the work with the same conscientiousness that you, as the new owner, would. They may not even treat the work as a high priority.

If you take a cash-back credit at close of escrow, you can use that money to complete the project yourself. Chances are you may do a better job than the seller, too.

Finally, if you get the credit, there will be less back-and-forth to confirm that the seller correctly made the repairs.

2. Think ‘big picture’

If you know you want to renovate a bathroom within a few years, then you likely won’t care that a little bit of its floor is damaged, that there’s a leaky faucet, or that the tiles need caulking. These things will get fixed during your future renovation.

However, the repairs are still up for negotiation. Asking the seller for a credit to fix these issues will help offset some of your closing costs.

3. Keep your plans to yourself

A good listing agent will walk the property inspection with you, your agent and the inspector. Revealing your comfort level with the home or your intentions, in the presence of the listing agent, could come back to haunt you in further discussions or negotiations.

If they sense you are uneasy with the inspection, they’ll be more willing to relay that to the seller. Conversely, if you spend two hours measuring the spaces and picking paint colors, you lose negotiation power.

If you mention you’re planning a gut renovation of the kitchen, the sellers will certainly hear about it. And they’re going to be less likely to offer you a credit back to repair some of the kitchen cabinets.

Eyes wide open

A word of caution: You should never complete the original contract assuming that you can and will negotiate the price down more after the inspection. It will come back to bite you, particularly in a competitive market.

If the property inspection comes back flawless, there’s nothing to negotiate. If you attempt to negotiate anyway – to recoup what you lost in the initial contract negotiations – you risk alienating the sellers and possibly giving them an incentive to move on to the next buyer.

You need to go into escrow with your eyes wide open. A real estate transaction is never a done deal until the money changes hands and the deed is transferred. Stay on your toes. Otherwise, you may risk losing out on further viable negotiation opportunities, which could lead to buyer’s remorse.

Shopping for a home? Check out our Home Buyers Guide for tips and resources.

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Originally published December 18, 2013.

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