Seller annoyed over buyer's repair list
Q: The people who are buying my house just hired a home inspector, and you should see the crazy repair list they hit me with. Just for samples, they want renailing of some loose moldings, a new bathtub drain stopper, replacement of loose bathroom tiles, replacement of window sills, extending the bathroom vent from the attic to the exterior, and having the air conditioner serviced. Oh yeah, they also want the house treated for termites, and it's only been five years since I had that done. Anyway, that's what they want: nothing major, just petty things. Is this normal today when you sell a home?
A: In most cases, sellers are not required to repair every defect that is listed in a home inspection report. In your case, some of the repair requests are reasonable, while others may be somewhat nitpicky. Minor items not worth a haggle would include loose moldings and a faulty or missing drain stopper. Items of greater import would be the bathroom exhaust fan that currently vents into the attic (a code violation) and professional servicing of the air conditioner. It's better to discover major A/C problems before the sale than after.
Negotiable defects, those that may or may not be serious, would include defective window sills and loose tiles. You didn't mention what specifically is wrong with these components. In each case, however, there is the potential for moisture damage, and this could be significant.
In most states, termite infestation is not included as part of a home inspection. Such conditions are typically evaluated by licensed pest control operators. Regardless of this, five years is more than enough time for termites to have reinvaded your home.
The main thing to keep in mind is that repair lists arising from home inspections can be viewed as requests, rather than demands. Except for repairs and upgrades required by law or specified in the purchase contract, all property defects are matters to be negotiated between buyers and sellers. Hopefully, all parties are inclined to be fair and reasonable in their considerations.
Q: We are currently buying a new home that is only two weeks from completion. Today we noticed the master bathroom is about 4 inches smaller than other master bathrooms in the neighborhood. Even the door is 4 inches smaller. Now that they've completed that part of the building, it seems as if we're stuck. Is this a breach of contract on the builder's part?
A: Design variations often occur when homes are under construction, and such changes are usually disclaimed in purchase contracts. Therefore, the builder is probably free of liability for the 4-inch size difference in your master bathroom. However, the potential for more significant defects should not be overlooked before you close escrow. Therefore, be sure to hire a home inspector for the final evaluation. A qualified inspector can always find construction defects in a new home, and those conditions will have to be addressed by the builder.
• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at www.housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.
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