Unreasonable Buyer Requests After an Inspection? Here's What to Do

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By Katy Byrom Updated June 11, 2024
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Edited by Galina Velgach

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If you’re selling your home, you’ve likely wondered what sorts of repairs you’ll be on the hook for after a home inspection.

As a seller, the home inspection can be one of the most stressful parts of a home sale. While you've probably done your best to address any issues you're aware of, "no one truly knows what lies beneath the surface of a home until you get the whole-home inspection done," says realtor Eric Bramlett of Bramlett Real Estate.

Roughly 83% of recent home buyers asked for concessions during the negotiation period surrounding the inspection — with a price reduction and money for repairs being the two most common requests.

But what repairs are you actually required to pay for after a home inspection, and what fixes should reasonably fall to the buyer after they've moved in?

What fixes are mandatory after a home inspection?

Legally speaking, there are no mandatory home fixes after a home inspection. Assuming the purchase agreement you signed was fairly standard, there was likely a contingency that stated the buyer can cancel the purchase contract (and get their earnest money back) if major issues are discovered upon inspection. So, in the worst case scenario, the buyer can just walk.

However, while you may not be on the hook for repairs as far as the law goes, it may still be in your best interest to take care of them — or at least be willing to negotiate a repair credit or price reduction to cover the costs.

When it comes to problems like structural defects and safety issues, lenders may require that the issues be resolved before they grant the buyer a mortgage. So even if a buyer is willing to purchase your home as is, they simply may not be able to do so — in which case your buyer pool may be limited to investors.

In most cases, sellers end up fixing or offering credits for major issues that compromise the structural integrity, safety, or livability of the home. Buyers tend to be responsible for smaller and less urgent issues.

What are reasonable requests following a home inspection?

While many buyers view the inspection report as a list of line items to negotiate with, the inspection period is really to see if the house is in good enough shape to live in.

However, if an inspector finds any of the following things, you can reasonably expect the buyer request that they be fixed before finalizing the sale:

  • Lead paint. Keep in mind: the federal government requires sellers to disclose this
  • Major defects with the electrical panel
  • Any major drainage problems
  • Issue with the HVAC system or other heating or cooling systems
  • Major structural issues, like a leaking roof, foundation problems, or substandard construction that presents a safety issue
  • Plumbing problems, including issues with the water heater
  • Radon levels above local EPA-suggested levels
  • Significant presence of mold
  • Traces of termites or other wood-destroying insects
  • Well water problems, such as a lack of pressure or water volume
  • Wild animals like bats, squirrels, or raccoons living in the attic

"The most frequent inspection objections involve the roof, plumbing, HVAC, electrical systems, and structural/foundation concerns," says Adrian Pedraza, property investor and owner of The California Home Buyer. "Sellers should have these major systems evaluated by professionals prior to listing so they aren't surprised by inspection findings."

What are unreasonable requests following a home inspection?

In general, cosmetic issues and minor problems that come from everyday wear and tear are not the seller’s responsibility. In fact, some purchase agreements will specifically state that the seller isn’t on the line for fixes like these.

Repair requests that typically fall into this "unreasonable" category include:

  • Loose fixtures such as faucets or doorknobs
  • Purely aesthetic fixes, such as wall colors or outdated light fixtures
  • Landscaping or improvements to curb appeal
  • Minor cracks in the walls, basement, driveway, or outdoor walkways
  • Outdoor buildings, such as sheds or garages
  • Renovations, such as updating a kitchen or bathroom
  • Typical wear and tear from everyday use

"It's worth pushing back if there are non-critical issues like repainting a room, or if there are issues the buyer noticed during a showing but didn't object to at the time," says investor Martin Orefice, CEO, Rent To Own Labs.

However, sometimes what's "reasonable" depends on the kind of market you're in. "In a seller's market with low inventory, sellers have more leverage to push back on inspection objections. In a buyer's market, sellers may need to make more compromises," advises Pedraza.

What repairs are negotiable after a home inspection?

Things get murky when it comes to defects that aren’t grave enough to affect the safety of the would-be homeowner, but serious enough that they can’t be overlooked. Issues of this nature could include:

  • Old appliances
  • Minor issues, such as running toilets
  • An aging, but still functioning roof or HVAC system

Luckily, most repairs can be negotiated to keep the deal progressing and save you from spending an inordinate amount of money on fixes.

"For example, a seller I worked with recently received an inspection objection requesting $8,000 in roof repairs on a home priced at $625,000," says Pedraza. "By providing documentation that the roof had 5 years left per the inspector's report, we negotiated the request down to a $3,000 credit. This allowed the sale to proceed smoothly.

"In most cases, "whatever repairs show up on an inspection report are totally negotiable," says Los Angeles-based realtor Sammy Lyon. "The seller isn't obligated to pay for repairs...but then again, neither is the buyer! So the most prudent choice is to find a meeting of the minds that will help the sale go through."

When it comes to repair requests, deciding what’s reasonable and not can be difficult.

That’s where working with an experienced real estate agent comes in.

In a survey of more than 1,000 recent home sellers, those who worked with an agent sold their homes for an average of $34,000 more and also paid less in repairs and concessions than those who were unrepresented.

A good agent will use their years of negotiating experience to work out a deal that will keep the buyer from walking while keep your finances protected as well.

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How to negotiate with the buyer following a home inspection

When selling a home, the negotiation process can get emotional, especially right after an inspection. Realtors recommend the following strategies for keeping negotiations from getting out of hand.

Be proactive

Keep detailed maintenance records

Many realtors advise keeping detailed maintenance records and taking care of minor repairs before putting your home on the market as ways of preventing inspection negotiations from getting out of hand.

"If you've replaced that 15-year-old water heater already, documentation can help you negotiate," says Ryan Fitzgerald, an experienced realtor and owner of Raleigh Realty. Just be sure to keep your receipts as proof of the work.

Take care of known issues upfront

"It's also wise to make minor repairs proactively so buyers have less ammo," says Fitzgerald.

"Buyers who are now paying a much higher interest rate than they would have paid in recent years are often still willing to pay a premium if they can just move in and not have to deal with further expenses or projects," agrees realtor Tamara Asken.

"It's important to work with a good realtor to estimate the sales price with and without the work, and get bids on the costs of making repairs, says Asken. "If the sale price that the house would fetch is far in excess of the current value plus the cost of the repairs, then it's worth doing the work."

Consider offering credits and warranties in lieu of making repairs

For known issues, offering a repair credit upfront may be the best course of action, says Asken.

"A client of mine bought a property where the seller knew his foundation needed a serious repair," the realtor recalls. "He had gotten a bid for $40,000 and wrote into the contract that he was going to leave $40,000 from the proceeds of the sale in an escrow account to be paid to the foundation repair company at close, thereby taking the problem out of the negotiation completely."

"Taking the surprise out of the experience can often improve the process for everyone," says Asken.

Being proactive doesn't always have to be expensive either. "Simply offering a home warranty can ease buyers' concerns about aging appliances," advises Seth Williams, realtor and owner of Reference Real Estate. The average cost of a home warranty is right around $1,000, though basic coverage starts at just a few hundred dollars.[1]

Take stock of the current market

In a sellers' market, you may be able to push back on repair requests. "But when the market is favorable to buyers, it may be necessary to make concessions to maintain a competitive advantage," says Williams.

When going into negotiations, consider the amount of time the house has been on the market. If the house was snatched up right away, it may have enough appeal to attract another offer quickly.

If the house has been on the market longer, however, the issues brought up in the inspection could make it hard to secure another offer— especially since the problems will now have to be disclosed to the next buyer.

Consider whether the repairs will be a concern for the next buyer

As a seller, make calculated repairs based on your ability to sell the house to someone else for the same price. A bad roof or cracks in the foundation will be red flags to any buyer, whereas the peeling paint may be less of an issue to someone eager to buy in your neighborhood.

"A buyer threatening to walk means something different in different situations," explains Orefice. "If you have other offers lined up, or are expecting some soon — or even if you're just in no huge hurry to sell — by all means, let them walk."

"If the buyer has pointed out issues that will deter anyone from buying your home, though, or even if they're minor issues but you're in a hurry to sell, it's usually smart to negotiate," Orefice says.

Having your house go back on the market after going under contract spells trouble. Buyers are going to want to know what the issue was — so it may be best just to reason with the current buyer or be prepared to fix the issues and highlight the work that was done in the listing description. 

Keep a level head

"Some people take the objections personally, like the buyer is trying to nickel and dime them or back out of the contract." But that's usually not the case at all," says Bramlett. "My advice is to listen to what the buyer is concerned about before getting fired up to defend your property."

"Of course, you also don't want to agree to fix or pay credits for every little thing," continues Bramlett. "The repair lists can start to add up quickly if you're not careful. So once you've heard out the buyer, it's important to methodically evaluate each item. Look at contractors' estimates, and consider the severity and cost."

Remember that the buyer also has a vested interest in following through with the contract, cautions Pedraza, "so don't panic if a buyer initially threatens to terminate the contract over an inspection issue either. Calmly assess if their demands are reasonable, and if they're not, stand firm in your counteroffer."

"Many buyers return to continue negotiations once emotions cool down," Pedraza says. 

Know when to walk away

All in all, you’ll want to be reasonable about what repairs you’re willing to make as having a deal fall through does not bode well for your home’s future selling potential.

"But If you run into issues with buyers who are being unreasonable, don't be afraid to walk away if needed either," says Fitzgerald. "There's always another house and another buyer out there!"

FAQs about buyer requests after a home inspection

When can a buyer back out after a home inspection?

If and when a buyer can back out of a contract depends on the terms outlined in the purchase agreement. If an inspection contingency was included, it usually specifies a set number of days in which the buyer can order an inspection, review it, and walk away without penalty based on the findings.

Can a seller back out after a home inspection?

Typically, a seller can't back out of a home sale following an inspection, but that doesn't mean you're obligated to fulfill the buyer's every request either. If a buyer is being unreasonable with what they're asking — and you can simply take a firm stance and let them walk away.

Are sellers required to pay for repairs?

No. Sellers aren't required to pay for repairs that show up during a buyer's home inspection. Rather, the inspection period is to protect buyers from making an uninformed decision about the property they are purchasing. Along those lines, most states do require that sellers disclose any known issues with the home white also allowing buyers to conduct their due diligence with an independent home inspection.

What if a seller refuses to negotiate?

When a seller refuses to negotiate following a home inspection, you typically have three options: You can purchase the home as is, walk away from the sale (and recover your earnest money deposit, if it's within your inspection period), or try a different negotiating tactic, such as requesting help with closing costs or a home warranty in lieu of asking the seller to make repairs.

Related reading

Article Sources

[1] Angi – "How Much Does a Home Warranty Cost? [2024 Data]". Updated January 15, 2024.

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