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2017-09-11 06:04:00
What Are 'Reasonable' Repair Requests?

If you remember nothing else, remember that it is reasonable to ask for roof and termite clearances and that the home's primary systems work. It is not reasonable to ask for upgrades, abatement or cosmetic changes.

In the Austin area, real estate sales have been on an upward curve with sellers firmly planted in the driver's seat. A significant percentage of homes have been sold 'as is' with little or no regard for repairs. 

Despite this, many buyers have never been in this type of market and we are still seeing 'requests' that are totally unrealistic. Here are some suggestions as to what is considered reasonable (or not):

IT IS REASONABLE TO ASK FOR ROOF AND TERMITE CLEARANCES.

Buyer have historically asked for roof and termite clearances, no matter what type of market we are experiencing. To facilitate this, most roof and termite inspection reports come with cost estimates. 

Termite reports come with section one (any actual damage from infestations of wood-destroying insects or organisms such as fungus) and section two (items that, if left unmitigated, could lead to section one damage). 

A termite report clearance is issued by the termite inspection company when all section one items have been remedied. This not only includes abatement of wood-destroying inspections but also any structural work required to make the property whole.

Typically, sellers remedy section one items and buyers address section two issues after they own the property. 

To obtain a roof clearance, the roof inspection company or roofing contractor needs to complete the recommended work. Good roof repair companies usually offer a warranty along with their repairs (six to 24 months depending on the condition of the roof and the company completing the repairs). 

Occasionally, a roof will be in such poor condition that it's impossible to provide meaningful repairs. In this case, a new roof will be recommended. If a new roof is called out, buyers will want to obtain quotes and factor this into their negotiations. 

IT IS REASONABLE TO ASK THAT THE HOME'S PRIMARY SYSTEMS BE WORKING CORRECTLY.

The property inspection report deals with the condition of the property's systems (electrical, plumbing, HVAC, foundation, etc). It is broken into categories for each system in the home and provides an overview of each system's condition along with any issues identified. 

Property inspection reports do not come with projected costs to remedy issues. 

It is reasonable to request that the home's primary systems be functioning correctly (electrical, plumbing, heating). You need to be able to turn on lights and use the outlets without getting shocked. Requesting that toilets flush properly, that sinks, tubs and showers operate correctly, and that all the plumbing be watertight is also par for the course. The heat should heat safely, the air conditioning units should cool, foundations should be performing as expected and all windows and doors should open, close and lock, etc. 

Sellers concerned about potentially excessive repair costs can contractually negotiate maximum amounts and have a buyer cover costs over the specified limit. But remember that most repairs must be completed before closing and if a mortgage is involved, the appraiser will also have to inspect all repairs prior to issuing his/her final report. 

IT IS NOT REASONABLE TO ASK FOR UPGRADES.

Homes are built to the building codes in place at the time of construction. When buying an older home, you are purchasing it with the applicable building codes of the day it was built or the day any permitted upgrades were constructed and signed off by the local building department.

As an example, older homes may have an electrical system that is no longer in compliance with current electrical codes. You may find homes with aluminum wiring and outlets that do not accept three prongs. More commonly, you will find homes that do yet have the newer IBC codes that mandate ground fault interrupters and arc fault interrupters. While it is good to have these in every home, if they are not present in an older home at the time of sale, they are considered an upgrade. The lack of those upgrades was likely taken into account by the homeowner and listing agent when pricing the home. It is not acceptable to request that the electrical system be upgraded to current codes.

The same applies to other systems as well: you should not be asking sellers to upgrade galvanized pipes to copper or PVC, install new furnaces and AC units if the old ones are still working safely (even if they are very old), replace single pane windows with dual pane products, install insulation and more. 

IT IS NOT REASONABLE TO ASK FOR ABATEMENT.

Older homes may have materials in them deemed hazardous, especially asbestos and lead-based paints. Sellers and agents are required by federal law to disclose any known hazards of this type and you can order an inspection to ascertain levels and locations of the material.

A significant number of older homes also contain asbestos in some form (acoustic ceiling texture, floor tiles, exterior siding, roofing, some types of ducting and more). 

As a buyer, it is imperative that you are made aware of the presence or possibility of the presence of these conditions but you should not expect the sellers to remediate the problems. 

IT IS NOT REASONABLE TO ASK FOR COSMETIC CHANGES. 

You can expect sellers responses to be less than congenial when asked to make cosmetic changes to a home. 

Buyers will ask that houses be repainted, carpets replaced and wood floors refinished. On the more extreme end, I've seen buyers ask that pools be removed, air conditioning units be installed (where none existed), landscaping be installed and more. Do not expect a seller to agree to any of those requests. They may accommodate some cosmetic changes in the form of paint, carpet, etc but more likely will negotiate some sort of allowance at closing. The more realistic you keep the negotiations, the better the chances of win-win solutions. 

When buyers and sellers start going head-to-head, no one comes out a winner. Keep it realistic. If you ask too much, you run the risk of alienating the seller and ending up with nothing at all. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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