Home Inspections: What Items Need to Be Fixed?

A man repairing a bathroom sink's P-trap

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Repair requests after a home inspection often are the last major hurdle to clear on the way to settlement for home sellers. Sometimes the inspection report can leave buyers uncertain about what inspection repairs truly need to be fixed and what’s up for negotiation.

Many buyers over the last few months had been waiving home inspections to better compete in a bidding war. Twenty-one percent of home buyers waived the inspection contingency in September, according to the REALTORS® Confidence Index Survey from September, a survey of real estate professionals conducted by the National Association of REALTORS®.

But that is lessening, and home inspections are again a common request among buyers before completing a sale. Home inspections have long had the reputation of jeopardizing housing deals. And they still are: 10% of contracts in September were delayed due to a home inspection or environmental issue; 9% of contracts were terminated altogether for those reasons, according to the REALTORS® Confidence Index Survey.

Real estate professionals often find themselves helping their clients sort out what needs to be fixed from a home inspection report, what’s up for negotiation, and what buyers may want to let go of.

Sellers don’t have to fix everything that a home inspection turns up. No house is perfect, after all.

Lenders may require some fixes to fund buyers’ loans. Those usually involve any defects uncovered with any structural elements of the home, building code violations, or safety issues.

Inspectors often carefully evaluate the condition of the septic system, heating, electrical systems, roof, plumbing lines, and HVAC system. Problems with any of these housing elements will likely result in a fix from the home seller or a credit to the buyer, according to a recent article at realtor.com®.

“As a seller, you should never sign an inspection contract until you fully understand its obligations, particularly where it concerns your responsibility for fixing things,” Michele Lerner, author of Homebuying: Tough Times, First Time, Any Time: Smart Ways to Make a Sound Investment, told realtor.com®.

Cosmetic issues and normal wear and tear uncovered by a home inspector aren’t mandatory to fix. “Some inspection contracts will expressly state that the buyers cannot request any cosmetic fixes to be made and can only ask that structural defects, building code violations, or safety issues be addressed,” Lerner told realtor.com®.

Some home sellers are offering a home warranty to help ease buyers’ concerns from items that turn up on a home inspection.