How and When do I Negotiate Home Inspection Items - asked the buyer
. . . who had not yet made an offer on the Wilmette property.
Why the rush to concern yourself about problems that haven’t arisen yet? I don’t think all buyers do this - but when that question arises, I know the buyer might not have a clear understanding of the order of things: view home, make offer, sign contract, conduct inspection, discuss items of concern.
In the Chicago North Shore area, the contract to purchase a home has several important contingencies that buyers generally request: a home inspection, an attorney review of the contract, and financing.
The home inspection contingency calls for the inspection to be completed and notice sent to the sellers (or their agent or attorney) within 5 business days. The contract clearly states:
“a) The request for repairs shall cover only the major components of the Real Estate . . . . Minor repairs, routine maintenance items and painting, decorating or other items of a cosmetic nature, no matter the cost . . . do not constitute defects, are not a part of this contingency and shall not be a basis for the Buyer to cancel this Contract.”
While the contract is clear - there can be a lot of leeway. Why? There are differences in how inspection requests are made or handled depending on where you live, what type of market you have, and the seller or buyer’s flexibility.
A home that sells swiftly and has multiple offers will have few or no requests for repairs. A home that has been for sale for a while in an area experiencing a buyer’s market, can see a laundry list of routine maintenance items that the buyers want remedied. An exasperated seller may acquiesce in order to facilitate the sale.
Buyers and sellers also have the option of discussing the inspection with their agent or their attorney (using real estate attorneys to approve contracts is standard, but not required, in northern Illinois.) When I represent a buyer, I prefer to handle the inspection requests agent-to-agent but it’s not my decision. If one party prefers to go through their attorney, then I recommend that my client does the same.
So, to answer the buyer’s question as to how and when repair requests are made, the first step is to determine if they are valid requests. They might be “valid” to the buyer at hand, but it’s my responsibility to help them make a reasonable request that has a chance of being considered.
If the inspector deems that the furnace is 25 years old and will need to be replaced in the next few years . . . but works perfectly . . . it would be a hard sell to get them to replace it.
So what’s a buyer to do when they can’t recognize that the furnace is older (it might not look bad) and has just a few years left. They’ve already made, negotiated, and signed a contract to purchase at a specific price. My suggestion is to ask for a price reduction - not the full cost - but something less to cover the cost in a few years. The point is, if the buyers had known it was that old, they would have bid less for the house.
Some people refer to this derogatorily as “renegotiating the contract,” which is seen as an unfair practice when abused. When not being abused, it’s fair for the buyer to ask for remedy for repair items that could not be seen or known.
So remember, if you’re buying a home in the North Shore - Winnetka, Wilmette, Kenilworth, Glencoe, Northfield, Glenview, Northbrook, or Evanston:
1. You have 5 business days in which to conduct an inspection on the home and respond back to the seller. You may ask for additional time if a more specialized check is done, say for roofing, plumbing, foundation, etc.
2. You have an additional 5 days in which to get quotes, or submit a request for repairs or credit to the seller.
3. If the seller does not respond favorably to your request, you may cancel the contract and be refunded your deposit check.
4. If you do come to terms with the seller on repairs or credit, your attorney will make those changes and they will be signed off by all parties.
That’s the way it works in this area and may be handled very differently in other parts of Illinois or other states. Always work with a professional real estate broker who is familiar with the area you are buying or selling - they can also recommend several licensed inspectors to you.
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Margaret Goss is a full-time real estate broker since 1998 working in the North Shore communities of Winnetka, Wilmette, Kenilworth, Glencoe, Northfield, Glenview, and Evanston.
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