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posted: 9/28/2012 4:18 AM

Negotiating repairs is a test of wills

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Q. We just accepted a purchase offer on our home. The buyers' home inspection report says the carport roof and many of the framing members under the roof need to be replaced. We agreed to pay for these repairs and obtained a contractor's bid of $1,700. The buyers then decided that they would tear down the carport once they own the property and build a new garage in its place. But now they are requesting a credit of $1,700, the amount we would have paid had they kept the carport. Since they plan to demolish the carport, it is right that we should have to pay this money?

A. Negotiating the terms of a real estate transaction is often like playing a game of chess. You never know what strategies the other player has in mind or how they will respond to your moves. If the buyers plan to replace the carport, the condition of the roof and framing should be irrelevant. But human nature being what it is, people often feel that they are not getting a good deal unless they play every angle for what it's worth.

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One way to counter this move is to agree that you will pay for repairs if they plan to keep the carport. The big question is whether they are willing to walk away from the deal if you refuse to give them $1,700. Another important question is whether you would rather lose the sale than pay the $1,700. If you think they are bluffing, play hardball and see what happens. Chess and negotiating are games of strategy and nerves.

Q. We bought our home nine years ago. The large trees in our front yard were never a problem until recently. Now we see large surface roots all over the yard and spreading onto our neighbor's property. Our home inspector never warned us about this. Was he responsible for telling us? If so, what should we do? Would our homeowners' insurance cover the costs to remove the trees? Please let us know.

A. Trees and tree roots are not within the scope of a home inspection unless they are actually affecting the building. If roots or tree trunks encroach on a building and are causing cracks in walls or the foundation, that would be a cause for concern and for disclosure by a home inspector. If the trees were not a problem until recently, there would have been no reason for a home inspector to have mentioned them nine years ago. Even if the inspector had been at fault, liability after so many years would be a slim pursuit.

You should have the trees inspected by a tree expert. The fact that roots are visible on the ground does not mean that you necessarily have a problem. Have the trees evaluated before deciding to remove them. Removal of surface roots may be all that is necessary.

It is unlikely that tree removal is covered by homeowners' insurance, but you should consult your insurance agent to verify this.

• Email questions to Barry Stone through his website, housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.

Distributed by Action Coast Publishing

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