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posted: 6/7/2013 5:39 AM

Seller annoyed over buyer's repair list

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Q. The people who are buying our house hired a home inspector and then hit us with a long list of repair demands. They want replacement of the worn baseboards, the bathtub drain stopper, loose bathroom tiles and damaged windowsills. They want the bathroom vent extended from the attic to the exterior, and further evaluation of the air conditioner. Oh yeah, they also want the house treated for termites, even though the building was tented five years ago. Nothing major, I guess, just petty things. Is this normal for buyers to make so many demands after a home inspection?

A. Some buyers assume that a home inspection report is a repair list for sellers. This is a misconception that can complicate a real estate transaction.

In your case, some of the buyers' requests are reasonable, while others have a nitpicky flavor. For example, a worn baseboard is a cosmetic defect, and a faulty drain stopper is a minor maintenance problem. Neither should become an issue between buyers and sellers.

The bathroom exhaust vent, on the other hand, should operate as specified by code. If it terminates in the attic, the buyers' request to vent it to the exterior is reasonable. This does not mean you are required to make the repair, but the request is by no means a nitpicky one.

The request for further evaluation of the air conditioner is reasonable if the home inspector identifies a specific defect or item of concern. Otherwise, it would be the buyers' choice to hire an HVAC contractor, at their own expense, to conduct a more detailed inspection of the system.

Negotiable defects, which may or may not be serious, include damaged windowsills and loose tiles. It all depends upon the nature of the damage. For example, rotted windowsills would definitely warrant repair, and tiles that are loose because of substandard installation or moisture damage could be expensive to repair.

In most states, home inspectors do not include termites or other wood-destroying organisms in their inspections. Those issues are typically evaluated by licensed pest control operators. It is surprising, therefore, that this issue was raised by the home inspector. As for the five years since the home was tented, that is more than enough time for termites to return.

The main point to remember is that repair lists arising from home inspections can be viewed as requests, rather than demands. Unless repairs are specified in the purchase contract or mandated by state law, property defects are matters to be negotiated between buyers and sellers.

Q.I have serviced my furnace every year for the past 20 years. It works fine, but the buyer's home inspector says it should be replaced. It seems unfair that I should replace a heater that is in good condition. What do you advise?

A. It would be reasonable for a home inspector to say that a furnace is old and warrants further evaluation by a heating contractor. But to declare that it should be replaced is only justified if the fixture has significant defects that make it unsafe or unrepairable. Some home inspectors, especially inexperienced ones, tend to overreach in their recommendations. This inspector should indicate what specific defects led to the condemning of your furnace.

• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.

Action Coast Publishing

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