Q: I am a first-time homebuyer. The asking price was $275,000, and I offered the whole thing. The home is in my son’s school district and one of the only nice ones that have come up in months. I didn’t want to lose out on the opportunity. However, the inspector found a few major problems, and my Realtor and I were present for the inspection.

First: The roof needs replacing.

Second: The seller’s husband (who is now deceased) finished the basement himself. Apparently it isn’t up to code and no permits were pulled. The inspector found no floating walls near the furnace. The dryer vent blows into the crawl space. There is no firewall or insulation near the hot water heater. The cold air combustion vent needs to be lengthened, and several other small problems exist.

Third: The man did all electrical additions himself. There are many copper (but coated) wires hanging, and many ground circuits are not there.

The seller agreed to fix the roof and electrical, but not the basement. As a buyer, I don’t feel this is my responsibility to bring it up to code, but I have agreed to do so at the tune of a $4,000 estimate.

What do you think?

A: There is a basic tenet in real estate that says that a deal consists of an agreement between a willing buyer and a willing seller. With that in mind, there is no real right or wrong to what you and the seller agree to. If the sellers are desperate to sell for any reason, they may agree to do all of the repairs that the home inspector suggests. If the buyers are desperate to buy, then they may agree to take the house as is. …CONTINUED

In your case, much of what is happening is dictated by your own statement that you didn’t want to lose out on the opportunity to buy this particular house in this particular neighborhood. Since this is a house that you really want, and since the seller already knows that by virtue of the fact that you have offered full price in a fairly slow real estate market, you have given up much of your ability to bargain.

All that being said, I don’t think you have made a bad decision. I am assuming that the $275,000 is a fair price for the house or your agent would have had you make a comparably lower offer. And since the seller is willing to take care of two very high-dollar items — the electrical wiring and the new roof — and you will be out of pocket only an additional $4,000 to bring the rest of the house up to code, I think you did fine.

As far as the roof and the wiring are concerned, you need to protect yourself in your agreement with the seller. On the roofing, you need two competitive bids from licensed contractors — preferably at least one that you select, not the seller — and you need to compare them carefully. It is in the seller’s best interest to get this done as cheaply as possible, so you want to make sure that you are getting a complete, professional roofing job. You should be able to specify the type and color of shingle, and you need to be sure that the roofer is taking care of any ventilation issues in the attic. You may wish to specify that your home inspector or another impartial party has the opportunity to review the estimates with you, and to examine the completed job to be sure it’s been done correctly.

The same goes with the electrical wiring, with the added stipulation that an electrical permit has to be obtained, and that the work has to pass all applicable inspections by the local building department. This is very important, as it affects your homeowner’s insurance and your ability to resell the house at a later date.

Take it slow, and be sure that your agent helps you review all the paperwork. Don’t sign anything you’re not clear on and comfortable with, and if worse comes to worst and the deal doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to walk away. I would rather see you wait a little longer to find a better deal than buy a house that will turn into a problem later on.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paulbianchina@inman.com.


What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.

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