Everything about the home you’re thinking about buying looks perfect…in the listing. When you go to the viewing, however, you see that a skilled photographer has managed to hide missing roof tiles, grimy carpets, and water-stained basement walls. What do you do when the house you’re interested in has flaws you can’t ignore?
If the circumstances are right, you may be able to use these flaws to your advantage. Here’s how to handle surprise issues in your potential new home, and when to call it quits.
Get the Right Home Inspector
Your first step should always be getting a professional home inspector to check the house for issues. Not only will this help confirm any issues you suspect you might have spotted, but it will also uncover subtler problems in the home. The average person doesn’t have the skills needed to recognize expensive problems such as issues in the foundation (major foundation repairs can cost well over $10,000), plumbing, or electrical systems. An inspector will be able to inform you of any repairs the house needs so you can move into negotiations empowered with your new knowledge.
The average home inspection costs between $278 and $390, but it’s an expense you truly cannot skip. If you don’t have a home inspected, you can wind up paying too much for a damaged home – one that will cost much more than the price of an inspection to fix.
Identify Legally Binding Safety Issues
There are some problems, such as extensive water damage or unsafe staircases, which homeowners may be legally required to fix before they sell the home. The laws for this vary by state and municipality. Research your local laws to get a sense for which repairs the buyer must make themselves, and which you can use to negotiate a lower price.
Rank Other Repairs by Importance
Take a look through the remaining problems with the home and figure out which of them are most important to you. Safety issues and problems that will cause long-term damage to the house should be at the top of your list. Aesthetic concerns and easy-to-fix problems should rank lower.
Ordering repairs this way will help clarify the negotiation process for you. The most and least important repairs can feel obvious, but it’s easy for even big details to get lost in the shuffle if you haven’t written them down. Moreover, this process may make you realize the house needs more repairs than it’s worth. The simple act of writing everything out may be all you need to decide to look elsewhere.
Negotiate With the Seller
If you do decide to move forward, your next step is negotiating with the seller. If a home needs serious or expansive repairs, that can be a big bargaining chip. Have an honest conversation with the seller, asking them to either fix the issues before you buy, or to reduce the cost of the home to cover repairs. Depending on the situation, you may also be able to negotiate the cost of inspections and cosmetic updates into a reduced price as well.
However, there is never any guarantee that the seller will agree to your suggestions. In some cases, back and forth negotiations don’t get anywhere. That’s why it’s important to remember to always…
Be Prepared to Walk Away
If you find yourself in a situation where the homeowner isn’t willing to budge on price or make necessary repairs, you may need to walk away from the deal. It can be a little heartbreaking to feel like your perfect house didn’t work out, but remember: If you can’t afford to make it suitable through repairs, then it was never the perfect house to begin with. Make the call to walk away, and trust that the right home is out there waiting for you.
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