Homebuyer’s Guide: What Should the Seller Fix?

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What repairs should sellers make before you buy? And what repairs should you just make yourself?

When buying a home, most people know that they should either get the seller to make needed repairs or negotiate a better price. Many first-time buyers may wonder what should be fixed by the seller, what should be negotiated, and what should be overlooked.

In this guide, we examine the types of repairs that should be made prior to buying a home and the kinds of fixes buyers should expect to make after moving in.

The Seller Should Fix These Things

Once the home inspection is complete, there will likely be a long list of items in need of attention. Some minor damage to a home is normal, but how do you decide whether to insist the seller make repairs or not?

The key is the extent and cost of needed repairs. If the damage is extensive, the property may not be suitable for someone planning to move in right away. Depending on the damage, it may even be best to look for another home. Following are the items the seller should fix if they expect you to buy:

  • Electrical - Major electrical issues should be fixed prior to closing on a new home. Old wiring, for example, can be a fire hazard. If the seller refuses to replace the wiring, renegotiate the price to account for the cost of new wiring before moving in. Be wary of electrical issues in homes built before 1970.
  • Plumbing - As with electrical lines, copper plumbing wears out after around 50 years and will need to be replaced, potentially costing thousands of dollars. Other major plumbing issues to look out for include problems with the sewage system, toil and drain-related problems, and a damaged water heater.
  • HVAC - If the home needs a new HVAC system, the average cost can range from $2,000 to $3,000, possibly more. This may be an issue that sellers don't care to tackle themselves, so you may be able to negotiate the price of the home to account for the cost of a new HVAC unit and/or duct repairs.
  • Roofing - If the home needs a new roof, get the seller to fix it. They should have homeowners insurance that will cover most of the cost; your insurance will not cover pre-existing damage. In some cases, mortgage providers may even refuse an application due to major roof issues.
  • Structure/Foundation - Foundation damage is caused by environmental stress. Repairs can be very costly, but must be done to preserve the integrity of the entire home. The same goes for major structural damage that may cause the home to be unsafe.
  • Environmental and Safety - If the inspection notes elevated Radon levels, lead paint, mold, or asbestos, these could pose health risks for your family. These should be fixed by the seller. You may need to request an environmental test in addition to the preliminary home inspection, as most general inspectors do not test for environmental hazards such as these.
  • Termites - Termite damage can be the kiss of death for home buying negotiations. Depending on the amount of damage and extent of the termite infestation, the home may not be insured and you will have difficulty getting a loan. Even "minor" termite damage can cost thousands of dollars to repair; home buyers should not be expected to absorb this cost themselves.

Now that you know what repairs should be the seller's responsibility, what items can be overlooked or perhaps used to negotiate a better price?

Minor Repairs You Should Tackle Yourself

Minor repairs can be overlooked or used in negotiations. However, hitting a seller with every tiny problem will often kill the deal, so pick your battles carefully and be prepared to take on at least a majority of these repairs yourself.

  • Light sockets and switches - These are simple to fix and relatively inexpensive. Hiring a handyman for this task won't break the bank, either, if you don't have the tools or know-how to replace light sockets and switches yourself.
  • Cosmetic repairs - Older homes may look "long in the tooth," but cosmetic repairs are almost always the responsibility of the new owners. Besides, look at it this way: making cosmetic repairs yourself allows you to customize and change many of the aesthetic aspects of the home to your liking. These repairs can also be fun ways to bring the family together and make the house feel more like home.
  • Window and door weatherstripping - Minor seals and broken windows can often be repaired by the homeowner. These are relatively inexpensive fixes, but they can have a noticeably positive impact on your wallet: replacing window and door weatherstripping in an old or especially drafty house can reduce heating and cooling bills by more than 20 percent.
  • Minor water damage - It is difficult to know whether water damage is extensive or not, but a good inspector can advise you accordingly. Minor water damage, such as bathroom mildew or small areas of mold around a leaky water fixture, is usually to be expected.
  • Loose fixtures, hand rails, door knobs, etc. - These are easily repaired by the homeowner with a few simple tools and proper hardware. Your local hardware store can provide all you need to fix these problems, and you can find numerous DIY home repair tips online to guide you.
  • Minor landscaping - Most new homebuyers are going to want their own landscaping anyway, so bothering the seller with this may put a strain on negotiations. Like cosmetic home repairs, look at the landscaping as an opportunity for you to transform the house into the home of your dreams.

Negotiation vs Repairs Depend on the Market

Deciding on whether to let damage pass or whether to use repairs for further negotiations depends largely on the market. When the housing market is in a slump (buyer's market), sellers are more willing to negotiate repairs. When there is a seller's market (sales are up and rising), there is less power to negotiate.

If you have questions related to the local market, your Cadence Bank personal loan officer can offer guidance. Contact us or find a loan officer online.


This guide is provided as a free service to you and is for general informational purposes only. Cadence Bank makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or timeliness of the content in the guide. The guide is not intended to provide legal, accounting or tax advice and should not be relied upon for such purposes.

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