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Does The Seller Need To Fix This?

By In Negotiations after the Inspection On January 20, 2009

This is a common question I’m asked when I find defects at houses that I inspect, and the answer is always no.  While I may come up with a big list of required repairs for a seller during a Truth-In-Housing evaluation, home inspections are an unregulated industry in Minnesota.  Issues that come up during a home inspection may be negotiable, but there are no hard and fast rules about repairs that sellers need to complete as a result of a home inspection.  When I find defects during a home inspection, there are four common ways for the buyer to deal with them: pay less for the house, cancel the purchase, have the seller perform repairs, or do nothing.  Today I’m going to give my two cents on these different options.

Lower the price of the house.  With this option, the buyer can hire their own contractors to do the work, and they can oversee the whole project after they own the house.  This is a common approach, but it’s not always a practical approach because it doesn’t leave the new home buyers with any cash to pay for repairs.  A common problem with home sales today is that there are fewer and fewer houses with any equity left; lowering the price of a house is often impossible for sellers, because they’re already selling for house for far less than they thought they could get.  When it’s a short sale or a bank owned property, negotiating the price of a house down can take a long time, and many buyers just don’t have the patience for this.

Cancel the purchase. This happens when the buyer decidesMajor foundation problems there are too many problems with the house, when buyers and sellers can’t come to an agreement, or when there is just no equity in the home to lower the price.   With the high number of bank-owned properties and short sales, this seems to be happening more and more.  Today’s home buyers are savvier than buyers were five years ago; instead of snatching up properties and expecting to make a profit no matter what, today’s home buyers are far quicker to walk away from a property with major problems.

Ask the sellers to make repairs. I’m not a fan of this option. If a seller has performed work at their home and it was done wrong, why would they get it right the second time? When a buyer asks a seller to repair things, they are basically making the seller the general contractor for their new home. The seller has no motivation to do high quality work, and I know from experience that the work will be performed incorrectly, or the work will be sub-par and the materials will be the cheapest possible.  Probably both.

It’s a very frustrating situation for buyers when I go out to verify repairs the day before closing and none of the repairs are right.  What happens now?   If the seller is going to be responsible for repairs, language should be included in the purchase agreement that requires licensed contractors to do the work, permits pulled and inspected by the authority having jurisdiction (the city), and proof of both given to the buyer well in advance of the closing date. Just about anything related to plumbing, electrical, or HVAC requires a permit, and most work performed by carpenters also requires a permit.  This should be done for projects of any size; if a project is too small to require a permit, why bother asking the seller to do it at all?

Do nothing. This is often the best option for buyers. When buying a used home, buyers shouldn’t expect everything to be perfect; it never is. Walls get damaged, showers leak, appliances age.  This doesn’t mean buyers shouldn’t address defects after they’ve bought the house, but it’s unrealistic to expect sellers of used houses to fix every little defect. Asking sellers to address a long list of minor repairs will make the seller feel defensive about their home and make the buyers look petty.  This typically comes from a misunderstanding of what a home inspection is for; home inspections are supposed to help the buyer make an informed decision about their potential purchase, not give the seller a long list of petty repairs.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections – Email – Minnesota Home Inspector


About the Author


Reuben is a second generation home inspector with a passion for his work. He grew up remodeling homes and learning about carpentry since he was old enough to hold a hammer. Reuben has worked for Structure Tech since it was purchased by Neil in 1997, and is now co-owner and President of the company.


  • garage door repair Roseville 4 YEARS AGO

    great post, i like the way you post

  • Sr22 in california 4 YEARS AGO

    I think the onus lies on the buyers to take care of the problems. Sellers don't have anything to do with issues concerning their ex-home.

  • Briana 4 YEARS AGO

    This is great info, but unfortunately I'm two years into my home with extensive roof/water damage that is not covered by our insurance company because it was done improperly by the prior owners. It seems they have done much damage that they poorly covered up which wasn't addressed in my home inspection. Just wondering if there is any info on what to do after purchasing the home, our inspector was paid through the realtors company and we have discovered so much damage had we gotten a proper inspection our mortgage company wouldn't have approved the sale due to damages because they total in over $5000. Any info or suggestions, I'm also wondering where the recourse in all of this ends up?

    • Reuben Saltzman 4 YEARS AGO

      Hi Briana, I'm no expert on what type of legal recourse you may have. That might be a good question for your real estate agent, or possibly an attorney.


    this is the nice post becouse you give the right information

  • garage door repair houston 6 YEARS AGO

    Just want to say that all your four points are perfect on purchasing house point of view. It isn't always true that the house,which is gonna to sell, is perfect. There might be the defects,but if the defects are unrepairable or big than there must be seller's responsibility to have the house repaired. However long list of little defects is not necessarily hand on to the seller. The best way is inspect house perfectly,while you are on purchasing. Glad to read your post! Thanks.

  • tim kad 7 YEARS AGO

    im in the inspection process. im selling my 50 year old home, that i extensively rehabbed on my own. talking about nit picky inspectors! im wondering, is it normal for an inspector to advise i change my breakers frfom 15amp to 20 amp? also to adjust the garage door sensitivity. im told that it doesnt go back up as easily as it should when it hits something. i know its just a minor adjustment, however its another task in a long list of pddily little crap. i knew my c/a didnt work and told buyer in advance that id have a cert hvac guy come out. now,though im being told by my agent that ill have to hire a couple different tradesman that can write lien waivers and warranty their work. we r talking basic everyday maintenance man issuses here. please advise, comment. thanks

    • Reuben Saltzman 7 YEARS AGO

      Hi Tim, Let me respond to your questions individually.

      is it normal for an inspector to advise i change my breakers frfom 15amp to 20 amp?
      I'm not sure why an buyer would ask you to do that. That doesn't sound normal to me. For instance, it's 'code' to have at least two 20 amp circuits for the kitchen countertop outlets... but a home inspection is not a code inspection, and even if it was, this wasn't 'code' 50 years ago.
      also to adjust the garage door sensitivity. im told that it doesnt go back up as easily as it should when it hits something.
      I'm not sure why someone would mention that it doesn't go up as easily as it should - either it goes up or it doesn't. The industry standard test for a garage door opener is to place a flat 2x4 below the door. If the door auto-reverses when it hits a block of wood, it passes. If it doesn't, it fails. Black and white. I'm sorry you have such a big list of repairs to do. I hope I don't get a list like that when I go to sell my house.

  • Tina Gleisner 8 YEARS AGO

    Reuben, Loved your post so I took the idea & ran with it. Gave you credit and a link to your website, so check it out at http://hometipsandtools.com/articles/after-the-home-inspection-who-does-what/

  • Lorraine Smith 8 YEARS AGO

    Reuben You and I have gone down this path more than once. I agree with your statements...with one big addition! Most of these issues (including the one where your inspection before closing shows the work isn't done properly)...SHOULD have the realtor involved (listing agent and/or buyer's agent) to make sure there are no surprises. It means an agent needs to be more involved with the sale. Thanks...love the info.

    • admin 8 YEARS AGO

      Lorraine - but of course! I just thought this was assumed :-)

  • Terry Blessing 8 YEARS AGO

    Hey Reuben, Comment regarding most carpentry needs a permit. Permit needed only for structural, additions, windows in a sleeping room (bedroom) or egress, roofing, change of room size. You can do a complete kitchen or bathroom remodel (with the layout unchanged) without a building permit (you still may need plumbing or electrical). Love your blog!! Terry Blessing Classic Remodelers, Inc.