Does a Seller Have to Comply With Repairs From a Home Inspection?

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A home inspector may uncover problems a seller doesn't know about, such as a fireplace that needs cleaning.
A home inspector may uncover problems a seller doesn't know about, such as a fireplace that needs cleaning. (Image: Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

An important part of any home sale is the inspection process. A professional inspection protects the buyer by highlighting unseen defects that could cost money to repair down the road. If an inspection uncovers a major issue that needs repair, it's up to the buyer and seller to decide who will pay for repairs. While a seller is not required to make repairs, it may scuttle the deal if he doesn't.

The Inspection Process

Inspections usually occur after the buyer and seller come to an agreement on price and sign a contract. Though buyers must disclose any known defects, the homeowner may not be aware of all problems that are not apparent. A professional inspector will visit the house and look for defects both inside and outside the home. These could include sagging floors, antiquated electrical or plumbing systems, water damage, clogged gutters, roof damage or termite damage. After he has completed his inspection, the inspector will issue a report laying out any problems.

Negotiating Repair

If the inspection uncovers any major problems, the buyer and seller usually will negotiate if the problem will be fixed, and if so, who will pay for it. Though the seller is not required to make any repairs, he may offer to do so to ensure the sale goes through with no complications. If the repairs will take time, the seller may agree to lower the sales price or put money in escrow to compensate the buyer so she can make repairs later. If the issues are fairly minor, the buyer may agree to pay to fix the issues herself.

Contingencies

Most sales contracts include contingencies that allow either the seller or buyer to back out of the sale if certain conditions aren't met. One of these contingencies usually deals with an inspection. If the inspection turns up major problems the seller isn't willing to fix, the buyer can cancel the contract without having to forfeit any deposit he may have put down.

Considerations

One way sellers can protect themselves from surprises is to have their home preinspected before listing it for sale. This involves hiring an inspector before putting the home on the market. Though this can cost several hundred dollars, it allows the buyer to identify problems and get them fixed before putting the home on the market. It might also give prospective buyers more confidence knowing the house has already had a thorough checkup.

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