Who Verifies Repairs After The Home Inspection?

Home Inspector with Structure Tech Home Inspections

When a home buyer asks a seller to make repairs to a property after a home inspection, how do the repairs get verified?  Do they get verified?  Do they need to be verified?  I recently blogged about a hack chimney repair that I found at a re-inspection, and several people commented about the importance of re-inspections.

I sent out an email to several local real estate agents that I respect and have had recent transactions with, to ask about their take on the importance of re-inspections.  Not surprisingly, their answers were all very similar.  I've compiled the most common statements below.

Try to avoid asking the seller to make repairs.  If the seller is going to make repairs, they're probably going to do the least amount of work possible, use the least amount of money possible, and the repairs will often be sub-par or just plain unacceptable.  It's often better to ask the sellers to fund repairs, or ask for the price of the home to be adjusted accordingly.  The downside to adjusting the price of the home, however, is that the buyers will need to come up with cash to make repairs.

When requesting repairs, make sure everyone understands the issue(s).  An excellent home inspection report will usually be enough to make everything clear and understandable.  If there is any confusion, ask the home inspector for clarification.

A common problem with a repair request is to ask for the wrong thing to be fixed, or to specify an improper repair.  For instance, if a furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, it would be just plain silly to ask for the crack to be repaired.  The furnace needs to be replaced.

Split boot at plumbing vent

One of the more hilarious misunderstandings happened when the buyer asked the seller to address the plumbing vent flashings, which had rubber boots that had dried out and split.  The seller told the buyer that they fixed the dried out boots by applying a lubricant.  No joke.  I can't make this stuff up.  

The photo at right, courtesy of Charles Buell, shows this defect.

When requesting repairs, request building permits.  Not only does this force the seller to 'follow the rules', but it should make the buyer feel better knowing that the work was inspected by an authority, and it puts the cost of the re-inspection on to the seller's lap.

When requesting repairs, be specific.  If the purchase agreement addendum is poorly written or isn't specific, the repairs won't be completed properly... if at all.  A vague, poorly written addendum might say

Have the leaking laundry sink repaired. 

Leaking Laundry Sink

What are the odds that someone will complete this repair with a tube of caulk? A well written addendum may specify the problem, how the repairs should be completed, who should complete the work, and how the repairs will be verified.

The concrete sink in the laundry room is cracked and leaks profusely when filled with water, creating unsanitary conditions.  Have the leaking laundry sink replaced by a Minneapolis licensed plumber, and an appropriate plumbing permit obtained and approved by the Minneapolis plumbing inspector.  The seller shall have the corrections completed, inspected, and approved no later than one week prior to the date of closing.  Documentation of the repairs, including any applicable receipts, permits, and lien waivers shall be provided to the buyer no later than one week prior to closing.

In this second example there was very little left to interpretation.  In some cases, however, the exact method of repair doesn't need to be specified.  For instance, if there are several defects inside an electric panel, it's probably good enough to specify the defects, request repairs, and request an electric permit.  Leave it up to the electrician to decide how to best repair the defects.

When all of the above happens, a re-inspection by the original inspector probably isn't necessary, but it may still be worthwhile.  Just as we find countless defects by licensed contractors on new construction inspections, improper repairs frequently happen with real estate transactions, no matter who does the work.  When there is any doubt in the buyer's mind as to the quality of the work being done, it may be worthwhile to have a re-inspection performed.

My two cents:  I don't do many re-inspections, mostly because of all the items stated above.  When I do get hired to re-inspect a property, I base my price on how much time I think the re-inspection is going to take.  If the seller is a property flipper who was given a list of twenty things to repair, I know from experience that maybe half of the repairs will be completed properly, and the other half either won't be done or will be done incorrectly.  I charge the most for these types of transactions, because they become a contentious pain in the butt.

On the other hand, if I'm going out to look at three specific repairs and the buyer or the buyer's agent has provided me with receipts from licensed contractors, I won't charge nearly as much because the repairs will probably be fine.  Those are a breeze.

The bottom line: Re-inspections never hurt.  If repairs are being done by licensed contractors, the repair requests are specific,  and appropriate permits are pulled, re-inspections probably aren't necessary.  If the repairs are being done by the seller, I strongly recommend a re-inspection.  I have yet to do a single re-inspection where it was the seller who completed the repairs, and everything was done properly.

Special thanks to the following real estate agents for taking their time to share their advice with me: David K. Wells IIIDebbie Nelson-SchefflerHoney BuckJim StarrLinda HeglandMichael Harrell, and Sharlene Hensrud.


Re-Blogged 11 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Michael L. Brownstead 08/15/2011 11:41 PM
  2. Barbara Tattersall 08/15/2011 11:55 PM
  3. Lenn Harley 08/16/2011 12:06 AM
  4. Susan Morrison 08/16/2011 01:39 AM
  5. Sherri Wellborn 08/16/2011 02:06 AM
  6. Chris Smith 08/16/2011 05:36 AM
  7. Cindy Jones 08/16/2011 11:52 AM
  8. Donald Hester 08/16/2011 04:56 PM
  9. Beverly Femia 08/21/2011 05:21 AM
  10. Dan Edward Phillips 08/29/2011 05:18 AM
  11. Dan Edward Phillips 09/26/2011 12:03 AM
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Pamela Smith
Award Realty - Sun City West, AZ
Sun City West, Corte Bella, Sun City Grand

We always have the inspection company come back to reinspect the repairs done.  I add to the Buyer Request for Repairs that the person doing the repairs is licensed.

Aug 17, 2011 04:33 AM #62
Ben Blonder
Broker/Owner, Keller Williams - Fort Collins, CO
Buyers, Sellers, Investors!

Re-inspections are vital when repairs are requested. Definitely agree that asking for funding is much safer!

Aug 17, 2011 05:09 AM #63
Bill Reddington
Re/max Southern Realty - Destin, FL
Destin Florida Real Estate

Lots of homes are being sold as-is with buyer approval of inspections. If a huge issue comes up and the seller agrees to fix it you have to make sure the repair is done buy a licensed repair person. Always work it out.

Aug 17, 2011 05:14 AM #64
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg IL Area Real Estate

In IL our standard 'rebuttal' to repairs is that they be performed by a competent contractor (outside the family) & a receipt to be presented before closing. Reinspection happens at the walk-thru a few days before closing to be sure everything is satisfactory.  I've just had one where the furnace was 32 years old, obviously original, & had a cracked heat exchanger. Don't know how long the sellers were living with a bad furnace & carbon monoxide danger.  We just asked for the furnace to be replaced rather than taking a credit because what if there are cost over runs?  Then the buyer would be stuck with those additional costs.

Aug 17, 2011 06:57 AM #65
Jan Green
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

Great post.  I prefer to ask for credits for repairs, thus allowing my buyers to make their own repairs.  Buyers these days are more skeptical than ever with the foreclosures to worry about and short sale sellers who don't maintain systems in the home.  It's just wise to do it yourself if they have the cash.  Very well written post!

Aug 17, 2011 07:18 AM #66
Margaret Mitchell
Coldwell Banker Yorke Realty - York, ME
Seacoast Maine & NH Real Estate

I do prefer to ask for a credit but in many cases, banks will require the repair to be done before closing.   And in our state, general contractors are not licensed.  But excellent advice and I follow it as closely as I can.

Aug 17, 2011 08:11 AM #67
Seana Yates
Thrive Homes and Estates - Encino, CA

Very informative.  I am a big proponent of doing it right the first time, and specifically requesting that from the seller, plus notifying them that they will be held to a higher standard is a professional and great way to do it.  Thank you for your great post!

Aug 17, 2011 08:23 AM #68
Bill Warner
BC Warner Inspections - Dayton, OH
Infrared Thermal Inspector

Great Blog!

I'm amazed at the "repairs" I go back to look at...  More than once I get a call from the client claiming the seller's "con-tractor" doesn't understand the concern as written or what the defect is.  I chuckle when I tell them "if they don't know what a diverter flashing is, then they have the wrong person perfroming the repairs..."

Aug 17, 2011 08:43 AM #69
Jenny Durling
L.A. Property Solutions - Los Angeles, CA
For Los Angeles real estate help 213-215-4758

That's a great example clause- I tend to seek credits rather than repairs but if the buyer wants repairs I will specify which company is to do them and provide the proposal/estimate that the seller is to use to make the repair

Aug 17, 2011 10:16 AM #70
Holly Weatherwax
Associate Broker, Momentum Realty - Reston, VA
A Great Real Estate Experience

I just ran into this. We had a roof repair as well as another repair that we asked for. The seller agreed to both repairs, but had been difficult on other issues, which made my buyer a little nervous.  My buyer requested a re-inspection by our home inspector and the seller consented. All the repairs were done to the home inspector's satisfaction, but...the seller was really irritated and said we were being distrustful. It made the week before settlement very difficult.  That said, it gave my buyers peace-of-mind and so it was worth the hassle.

Aug 17, 2011 10:25 AM #71
Kimo Jarrett
WikiWiki Realty - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

Good advice and very informative, thanks.

Aug 17, 2011 01:11 PM #72
Gerard Gilbers
Higher Authority Markeing - Asheboro, NC
Your Marketing Master

Great points to keep in mind so we keep our buyers out of trouble.

Aug 17, 2011 04:38 PM #73
Michael Singh,Broker
Singh Real Estate - Corral de Tierra, CA

If the seller is taking responsibility then I always ask for a license contractor and receipts.

Aug 17, 2011 05:47 PM #74
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

Good post with a lot to think about.  With so many REO's these days I have not been getting a lot of repairs completed by the seller.

Aug 18, 2011 06:23 AM #75
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Every time I do a reinspect it's a mess. The last one I did I think the seller hired people from the circus. The repair people were definitely clowns.

Aug 18, 2011 02:14 PM #76
Brent Lerwill, Brentwood Inspections

When I was a new, inexperienced inspector, I resisted, but sometimes gave in to the pressure of clients or agents and did inspections of repairs on occasion. After attending an inspection conference class given by one of the top inspection attorneys in the country, I made a rule that I will do NO re-inspections of anybody's repairs. As he pointed out, when you do this, you are then taking the liability back on your shoulders and off the repair person's. It is often very difficult to determine with a surface, visual inspection after the fact whether proper materials and methods were used. It might look OK on the surface, but still not properly done. I will not state that anyone else's repair is correct or professional. As has been stated, if they follow the instructions in the inspection report to have the defects "evaluated and professionally repaired by a qualified, licensed contractor or specialist", there should be no need for a re-inspection. If it isn't done correctly and they have receipts from the professional who did it, they will have recourse and protection. It's very true, that even when done by a licensed contractor with a permit and inspected by a code inspector, that there is still no guarantee that it is right. I have inspected brand new houses that have just been signed off by the state or local code inspector that have blatant violations and sometimes very serious defects and safety issues. It has also been stated in this discussion that often the homeowner or kid next door, or an unqualified handy man ends up doing the repairs. Because there is always a very tight time frame, these "repairs" are often rushed and "quality" is compromised, sometimes making it even worse than if nothing had been done.

These is one of the best reasons for a owner to get a pre-listing, or seller's inspection so they don't have the time constraints and pressures to get it done at the last minute in the heat of a sales offer. Even if they decide that it is an "As is" sale and do no repairs, they can disclose that up front and it is less confusing, more honest and a cleaner deal which will go easier when the offer comes in.

I don't think any inspector should inspect any repairs.  

Aug 21, 2011 04:20 AM #77
Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Delivering the Unbiased Truth.

Lucien - there is a wide variety in the quality of municipal inspectors.  Here in Minnesota, they're usually pretty good.

Lyn Sims - great idea of asking for a contractor outside the family.

Bill Warner - ha, I love that one too.  I basically say they same thing; in my inspection reports, I recommend "qualified" contractors.  If they don't understand what's wrong, they're not qualified to fix it.

Holly - funny.  By that logic, the seller should have been irritated about even having had the home inspection :)

James - I actually had a re-inspection go very smoothly not too long ago; probably for the first time ever.  That's what inspired this post.

Aug 21, 2011 02:08 PM #78
Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Delivering the Unbiased Truth.

Brent - I've heard that argument against reinspections before, and I used to have the same stance as you.  I hear you, and I understand your concern, however... the same logic applies to the entire home inspection.

When I do reinspections, I find out ahead of time exactly what it is that I'm going to reinspect, and if necessary, I let my clients know what the limitations are. 

Aug 21, 2011 02:17 PM #79
Kasey & John Boles
Jon Gosche Real Estate, LLC - BoiseMeridianRealEstate.com - Boise, ID
Boise & Meridian, ID Ada/Canyon/Gem/Boise Counties

I used to work with an agent that did free re-inspects.  Nearly all of my buyers got a re-inspection done with him.  Now I work with inspectors that charge for it and the buyers have the choice if they want to or not and many of them don't, depending on the how bit the repairs are.  If there are receipts from licensed contractors often that is enough to suffice.  -Kasey

Aug 28, 2011 05:31 PM #80
Matt Robinson
Professional Investors Guild - Pensacola, FL

All terrific advice.  If my buyers have signficant repairs done by the seller, I always recommend a re-inspection.  If they are smaller cosmetic things, it can be handled with a walk throug inspection, but bigger things should definitely be viewed by a professional inspector.

Feb 08, 2012 04:37 AM #81
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