The most common condition for buying a house, perhaps only behind "subject to financing," is "subject to home inspection." Having a
professional home inspectorgo through all the major systems in the house you’ve settled on is a great idea.
But what happens if the
house inspectionturns up unexpected issues? You have three choices: pull your conditional offer and walk away, continue with your previous deal, or try to renegotiate the terms of the sale with the seller.
Focus on the larger issues
No matter how new, every home will have issues that come up on a home inspection, even if they're minor. But if there are concerns that put your current deal in jeopardy, that’s where you should focus.
How to buy a house
Negotiate credit or a discount rather than repairs
You might want a move-in ready home, but if there are home inspection problems that need to be corrected, it’s better to take the responsibility to fix them yourself. The seller is looking to get out of the home with as little expense as possible, so how can you be sure repairs will be to an acceptable standard for you?
Rather than developing a counteroffer around the repairs, negotiate on price. That could be either as a discount on the home’s price that you’ve previously negotiated, or you can counteroffer a credit towards closing costs. If it’s successful, you’ll take care of repairs after you take possession.
Key Takeaway It's better to negotiate on overall price than individual repairs.
Have a professional work up a quote
Perhaps you’re a home DIYer or you’re intending to flip the property for profit. The repair you can do yourself for cheap could be something that saves you money on the purchase price. Have a
contractor or tradesperson provide a quoteto perform the repairs you want to base the counteroffer on. Something that may cost a DIYer $1,000 to fix could be a $5,000 or $10,000 repair by a pro. If you use their quote and settle somewhere in the middle with your counteroffer, you end up further ahead.
Keep requests reasonable
If a cabinet door has a broken hinge, don’t enter negotiations after inspection with a quote for replacing the kitchen cabinets altogether. And if you’re writing a counteroffer that looks like a nit-picky laundry list, the seller and listing agent are apt to look for another buyer rather than haggle with you, especially in a seller's market.
Since you really do want to buy the house, be reasonable about your requests in the counteroffer or risk the seller holding firm on the price. In a competitive market, it could even cost you the deal.
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Be understanding rather than aggressive
Similarly, how you write or communicate the counteroffer can set the stage for the process. Take time to understand the seller’s position, the age of the home, and how buying this home will affect you and your family. Perhaps the seller is a single parent stretched to their limit and the bank won’t accept anything lower than list price to satisfy the mortgage. Maybe the 40-year-old home has normal issues for its age and is priced accordingly. And consider the personal value of things like the proximity to schools, a shorter commute, and a quieter neighborhood when factoring how you want to proceed after your home inspection report.
When you write your counter offer, compliment the seller on their home before mentioning the concerns you have. Make a reasonable counteroffer with the understanding that they will likely try to settle somewhere in the middle.
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