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Do Sellers Have to Do Repairs?

Plumber looking under kitchen sink

Typically, buyers include a home inspection contingency in their purchase offer that allows them to ask the sellers for repairs and get out of the contract if the seller refuses. The seller can respond in a number of ways. 

  • They can readily agree to fix the problem, no matter how expensive. 

  • They can agree to fix any problem that’s a safety or potential legal issue, such as mold or radon remediation, but decline minor repairs such as filling in and painting over picture hanger holes in the wall. 

  • They can refuse to fix anything, but risk losing the buyer. For safety or code issues, they’ll have to declare the problem on subsequent seller’s disclosures, which could impact the home’s value to future buyers. 

  • They can offer to lower the price of the home to cover the cost of the repair for the buyer, or offer a closing credit to the buyer to pay for the repair without lowering the price of the home.  That way the buyer can complete the repair to their liking. 

  • They can ask the buyer to meet them halfway, such as paying more for the home if the seller repairs something major, or replaces the roof. 

  • They can ask the buyer to waive additional repair requests if the seller will fix the worst or most expensive problem. 

Sometimes, buyers use home inspection contingencies to allow them to get out of the contract for some reason or to get the price of the home reduced. So, the first thing you should do as a seller is sit down with your Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network professional and work out your strategy.  

Cosmetics. You don’t have to fix anything that’s cosmetic or is considered normal wear and tear. If you want to address anything cosmetic, it’s a gift to the buyer. But you’ll have to fix anything that is a safety, code or structural issue. 

Costs. Depending on the repairs requested, you’ll have to work out a way to pay for them, whether you put them on a credit card, take out a loan, or adjust the contract price as outlined above. Be sure to pay the credit card or loan off immediately following the closing,

Terms. The terms of your contract should also be considered so that you can negotiate enough time to complete any repairs you agree to make.  Some buyers and lenders may require that repairs be done by a professional. If you have to hire an electrician, plumber or mason, you’re going to be subject to their availability.

Health and Safety. Realtor.com advises that lenders will require the following repairs be completed before they will agree to release funds to the buyer:

structural defects, building code violations, safety issues, including the attic, crawl spaces, and basement, and those related to the chimney or furnace. You should also know that FHA, VA and other government-guaranteed loans have stricter requirements for the home’s condition that can’t be ignored if you want to keep the contract alive.