Q: Can I subtract from the offer I’ve made on a home if the home inspection shows there are some big problems, or do I automatically have to cancel the deal altogether? –Richard N.
A: When it comes to inspection revelations, "big" is relative, but, like beauty, it’s in the eye of the beholder. By that I mean that if you think that a condition problem is too big for you to buy the home on the agreed-upon terms, then it is.
But it sounds like you’re at least willing to consider taking the home anyway, assuming you can get a price reduction. In your situation, deciding that you don’t want to take on the condition problems surfaced in inspections without a discount doesn’t necessarily have to be a deal-killer.
Here are the factors that ultimately determine whether an inspection-based price reduction request will kill your deal:
1. The contract. Did you agree to an as-is sale? If so, be aware that "as is" doesn’t bind you to buying the place, but it is an expression that you and the sellers have agreed that you’ll not ask for a price reduction or for them to complete repairs indicated by the inspection(s). That said, it doesn’t sound like your intention was to dupe the sellers into taking your offer with the plan to hammer them later for a price reduction or repairs (which, yes, some buyers do).
If the issues surfaced by the inspection were not obvious or visible to the naked eye, but are also more major than you can afford to take on at the purchase price, it might be the case that the sellers would actually prefer you to work with them on renegotiating the terms of the deal over canceling it outright.
2. Your priorities and information. You need to sit down with your agent and gather the answers to a number of questions before you proceed:
–How badly do you want the place?
–Do you have repair bids — how much will repairing the issues cost? (Inspection reports can be confusing this way; some things they mention in passing can be costly to fix, while some things they label health and safety hazards are quick and cheap to fix.)
–Are you willing and able to do the work? (A price reduction doesn’t necessarily put the cash in hand for you to pay for home improvements after closing, nor does it mean you’ll have the time and patience to manage the work.)
This information — and your agent’s input and conversations with the listing agent — should help you formulate a plan of action on what specific price discount you should request from the sellers.
3. The sellers’ position. Ultimately, whether or not your price reduction request will kill your deal depends on what the sellers will agree to. And not it’s not always as simple as their greed or hope for the cash — they might have a mortgage to pay off and limited resources such that the price reduction you request would render the deal a short sale. Further, if the listing is a foreclosure or short sale, the sellers’ bank will also have to green-light a change in the purchase price.
In any event, one of your first items of action should be to get the relevant contractors and repair vendors into the property, show them the inspection report, and obtain actual repair bids. (It’s not overkill to obtain two or three bids.) Then, and only then, will you have the information you need to decide whether you truly want and can afford to take on the property and the repairs it needs.
Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of "The Savvy Woman’s Homebuying Handbook" and "Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions." Tara is also the Consumer Ambassador and Educator for real estate listings search site Trulia.com. Ask her a real estate question online or visit her website, www.rethinkrealestate.com.
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