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What to Repair and What to Negotiate: Advice for Home Sellers

Negotiating the sale of your home can be tricky, so it’s important to know which repairs must be made and which ones you can negotiate. Some are clearly the seller’s responsibility, while others are negotiable — it’s part of the give-and-take in the home-selling process. Here are a few thoughts to consider if you’re unsure what you should fix and what can be passed to the buyer.

Big home that is white

Home Inspection

Pay careful attention to the home inspection, specifically the summary page, which outlines what needs to be fixed. Verify that each line item does need repairing. You may choose to have a counter inspection done if you want to dispute a buyer’s inspection (a home inspection averages $278 - $391 nationally). Depending on the repairs, a buyer may simply ask for a cash credit that can be used toward closing costs or the sale price.

What Can You Pass On?

If you’re a first-time seller, you may feel like every imperfection needs attention. For the most part, decorative/aesthetic details, like wallpaper, paint colors, fixtures, or cabinet styles, are issues for the new owners. A buyer might try to haggle over something like missing caulking, a smoke detector, or a wobbly toilet seat, but these usually aren’t deal-breakers and typically become the new owner’s responsibility. Even normal wear and tear, such as a small carpet stain or a worn window seal, probably isn’t enough to worry about. If you need extra guidance, lean on your real esate agent to help you determine which repairs and updates need the most attention.

‘Must’ Fixes

Examine your roof carefully, ask yourself some very serious questions: Do you see curled-up, damaged, or missing shingles? Is there discoloration or evidence of a leak (i.e., water spots on the ceiling and/or walls)? If so, it isn’t necessarily a reason to panic — you might just need basic repair work, but a contractor does need to take a look. If you’re working with an experienced realtor, they can tell you which repairs you’re responsible for handling. Anything of a structural or mechanical nature is usually the seller’s responsibility. Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes — would you buy a house as-is if it had a damaged roof or a leaky water heater? These are important matters for buyers because they could impact their financing. People seeking FHA financing are often required to replace or repair a roof that’s seen better days. While some buyers may be willing to buy your home as-is, these types of sales are generally made to investors willing to make repairs.

Self-evident problems with your home’s exterior, such as stucco cracks or rotted wood, will need to be fixed (exterior problems are major red flags). Also, don’t overlook your lawn and landscaping. Nothing attracts passersby quite like a beautiful, well-cared-for front yard. Conversely, few things make people keep on driving like a rotting tree, overgrown hedges, or grass that’s full of weeds and brown spots. It’s well worth it to spend money on professional landscaping when you’re trying to win over a buyer. Just make sure whatever you spend is within your budget because a landscaping project can cost up to $100,000.

Bad Flooring

If you’ve lived in a house for years, you probably don’t pay much attention to what you’re walking on every day. Of course, buyers won’t fail to notice yellowed or warped laminate, cracked tile, or scratched-up hardwood flooring. Bite the bullet and upgrade your flooring, especially if you have carpeting and pets, as accidents will happen. Upgraded flooring can add significantly to the value of your home.

Once you know what has to be fixed or replaced and what doesn’t, you’ll be in a much better position to negotiate. If you’re a motivated seller who’s got to move, you might give in on lesser issues, especially if you don’t have to pay for a new furnace or put in new windows. Knowing exactly where you stand is an important first step in negotiating a good sale price.

Written by: Alice Robertson with


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