home inspection negotiation

sksgradJuly 8, 2011

Hello forum:

We just had a home inspection done on the house we intend to buy and luckily there were no major issues that would keep us from going forward with the purchase. There are, however, a few things we will need to fix immediately or in the near future and we wonder what is open for negotiation.

1. The roof is 11 years old - I'm trying to find out what kind of shingles they put on it when they last did the roof (20 year, 30 year, what?). Regardless, according to the inspectors parts of the roof are in satisfactory condition and parts are in marginal condition (lots of shade in one area that has promoted moss growth). They think the roof will probably last a while longer but how long is not clear. There is evidence of old leaks in the house but it looks like they have probably taken care of that with new flashings around the chimney. There is no evidence of fresh leaks. Should we ask for any concession toward the new roof we will need in the next few years?

2. The hot water heater is 23 years old and the hot water boiler, though well serviced, is 50 years old. Both could last us for years and both could die this year. We are especially concerned about replacing the boiler as this would also be a huge expense. Concession?

3. On one side of the house, the grading is negative (sloping toward the house). There is a slab of concrete at the walk-out basement door that is also sloped toward the house. The inspectors recommended re-pouring that concrete and fixing the grading. Concession?

We don't want to anger the sellers by asking them to upgrade everything to new, but we don't want to feel that we didn't advocate for ourselves in the sale.

Any suggestions are much appreciated!


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1. Sounds like the roof is just fine for now. You cannot ask the homeowner to give you anything towards a new roof whenever it is needed. That would be like asking them to give you money towards a new roof just in case an airplane may crash into it in the future.

2. A 23 yr old water heater and a 50 yd old boiler is ancient. This would be something I would be concerned with. But again, at the present moment it IS working - so how can you expect the owner to give you money towards any future repairs?

3. Ground sloping towards house - as long as water has not damaged the structure or gotten inside, I don't see why the homeowner would be expected to correct this "problem". If I were the seller, I would tell you what you see is what you get - if you want to regrade the lot, go for it, but its not my responsibility.

I would expect you MIGHT get the owner to give you a little towards the water heater & boiler without ruffling any feathers. I would expect that in the other 2 situations you are totally on your own, and asking the owner to take care of this would really piss them off.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 2:40PM
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Here is my advice, but your mileage may vary:

1. Roof: If there are no leaks now, do not ask for anything. It currently works as intended and they have obviously kept up maintenance when there were leaks.

2. Hot water heater and boiler: Heck, those could go tomorrow at that age. I don't know what a boiler costs, but if it is big ticket, maybe that would be something to ask for $$ for. Our inspector noted a serious safety problem with a furnace on a property we were buying. We told the owners, and they replaced with a crappy low efficiency furnace. We would have liked to have negotiated $$$ and just bought a high efficiency one. A hot water heater is maybe $1000 installed. I would not ask for that unless you can somehow package it with the boiler.

3. Negative grading: This sounds like a potential big expense that might include installing better drainage and fixing issues in a wet basement (now or in the future). I would focus on this one, mostly because the cost is potentially quite high and the cost of not fixing the situation is potentially higher. Are there foundation issues as well?

Best of luck.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 2:44PM
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Whatever you do, get a credit towards the price - don't let them fix it so it's done when you move in.

As teched mentioned, you know they're going to cheap out on it, just to get it done. Wth do they care, right?

Agree on nbd on the water heater, let that one go.

Boiler: have it looked at by an actual boiler guy, not just a home inspector, especially in the middle of summer. A properly maintained boiler can last a decade longer for you, maybe more, and you probably wouldn't be gaining much as far as efficiency is concerned in a new unit. Is it steam or hot water? Make sure the tech you have take a look is versed in whichever it is (hot water are easier to find than steam, usually). I wish we would have, our inspector just checked to make sure it fired up, as we had our inspection in spring; it needed a couple of repairs - nothing ghastly, but I wish I would've had it professionally checked. Plus, they can teach you a ton about keeping the 'old girl' going and what you need to do for maintenance. Many inspectors are more knowledgeable about forced air/furnaces than radiant systems.

I don't think a home warranty will do you any good, as those items have already been noted, so I doubt they would cover them if they failed.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 3:35PM
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Roof: I don't think you can expect this. We replaced our roof for buyers but it was 16 years old on a 20 year roof and needed to be replaced. Not leaking or anything, but we knew that the appraisal would end up being a problem. There is NO WAY we would have replaced it or given money towards it in the situation you are describing. It's fine. You are buying a used house and will eventually have to replace or fix things, but that roof has lots of life left.

Boiler: ?? We just have regular water heaters. NO IDEA but if that is considered to be really old for those item then maybe.

Sloping: I would say if there are no signs of any problems it could just be an overzealous inspector. If there are truly BIG issues with the sloping than I would get this further evaluated. If the sellers say "no" they won't fix it will you walk away? Will someone else buy the house with this issue? (This is basically why we replaced our roof...we knew we would have the issue with ANY buyer). How much will this cost?

You can ask for anything....doesn't mean the sellers will do anything but you may be surprised.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 4:23PM
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If the concrete in the back is just sloping but otherwise in good shape, you can have it lifted. It would not need to be repoured.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 5:30PM
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You can ask anything, but if I were the seller, I wouldn't give you anything. You are not buying a new house. Old houses need repairs and maintainence continually. If you are not mentally and financially prepared for any and all of what you've listed needing to be replaced within the next 5 years, perhaps an old house like this isn't what you're really looking for.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 10:07PM
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The bottom line is that if you want a new house, buy a new house.

If you are buying an older house, then expect that hot water heaters, furnaces, etc. will be older as well....so the time to ask the age is BEFORE you make an offer.....and make an offer you feel is fair based upon that info. Then the seller is free to accept, reject or negotiate
If the roof is in good condition and performing as it should, how is that a problem? Moss can be removed but the conditions that cause it will also
cause it to return. So...unless the shingles in that area are degraded it's
not clear what you would want from the sellers, other than to clean the

As far as the hot water heater and boiler, if they function well, there is
nothing more that you can expect.
If the seller has not had water intrusion due to the grading, you can't ask
them to fix something that has yet to be a problem. However if you DO buy the house it would be wise of you to have it regraded as the climate

change that has been causing this crazy weather has caused basement/ house flooding that has never happened before. Better safe than sorry.

Somehow, buyers have decided that the inspections purpose is to
negotiate for upgrades...but that is NOT the purpose.

It is to determine the condition of the house and if REPAIRS are required...and your basis for negotiation should have been established in
the purchase contract...not after the inspection.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 11:58PM
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Jeez, I just wrote this big long thing and lost it. Basically I said I don't use inspections to negotiate. I calculate whatever the house needs or may need into my offer. I don't think it's right to try to get the price of the house down after you're already under contract. What are the people going to do now that you're approaching closing--protest a few more thousand? It's almost like extortion. I'm not even getting an inspection on the house I'm under contract on now. Whatever I may find wrong won't outweigh the deal I made.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 1:03AM
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"Basically I said I don't use inspections to negotiate."

This seems to have become the game with at east some buyers.

I will NOT negotiate with them.
I stand firm and let the deal dissolve.

If you want a brand new house (and do NOT think it will not have problems waiting to be found) you should have purchased one.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 10:22AM
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The roof is fine. You can ask for the moss to be cleaned.

As for the boiler/water heater, you can ask that they buy you a home warranty. If they say no you can buy one yourself. They are paid for at the closing. These have saved many a deal in my office.

I agree with what others are saying about the concrete. If there is no water damage, don't ask. Good luck with your new home!

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 1:47PM
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Good grief.

The option to terminate was added to contracts to protect buyers in case their inspection revealed conditions that would have made the buyers not want the house at the price & under the terms they offered.

The only 2 ways to cure the problem are to terminate the contract or to "use the inspection to negotiate".

I don't know anybody who really would sacrifice a sale (or a purchase) without at least trying to negotiate.

Having said all that, no one but the buyer can decide whether to ask for concessions ("buyer agrees to waive buyer's right to terminate if the seller will do the following ________________") or to accept the house as is.

My thought is that it all depends on the price & terms you've already negotiated;
if you're getting the deal of the century & there are 2 back-up offers behind you, it would be rash to put it in writing that you'll terminate if the seller won't replace the water heater.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 6:05PM
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Sylvia, that's a good point. On the other hand, should someone even be buying a house if they can't tell by looking at the roof that it's not in brand new condition? What happens when they're living in it if they can't tell when it needs to be replaced? Wouldn't a home buyer be able to tell that a boiler is on the old side? So wouldn't you think, "Hmm, that boiler looks like it's on it's last legs," and calculate that in when making the offer? That's what I do. One of the houses I bought we had to replace the boiler and the septic tank (NOT cheap in NJ) and do electrical work the first year. I still felt I got a fair deal. You really have to expect things to need to be fixed or improved when you're buying a house. The only reason I would get an inspection nowadays is if there is something I'm unsure of, OR I just assume the worst and make an offer accordingly.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 12:44AM
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Thanks for all the replies. While I agree that post home inspection is not the time to negotiate the purchase price, you also do learn a lot about the house that you didn't know pre-inspection...that is, unless you are a home inspector yourself and climbed on the roof and measured the grading etc. yourself. As Sylvia pointed out, the contracts are written in such a way as to allow for negotiation.

We are prepared to buy an old house and in fact, to us this is a new house since our current house is about 100 years older. Regardless, our roof, and all appliances are newer. You keep the body but transplant the organs from time to time...

I am definitely hearing that the roof is a non-issue. I also found out that they had 25 year shingles installed and feel comforted by the fact that it is quite likely they have a lot of life left. I am still worried about the boiler (more than $5000 to replace and 50 years is certainly beyond the life expectancy of such things). Maybe a home warranty is the way to go...how much do such things cost?

Thanks for all your input!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 9:02AM
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I don't see the problem with renegotiating based on what an inspection finds. People do it all the time -- particularly in this market.

I'm sorry that I can't help more than that, but I would suggest bringing someone else in to look at the boiler and sloping issues. Depending on the results, I don't think it would be unreasonable to ask for a credit.

I agree that some of this depends on your specific situation, and how motivated the sellers are.

Best of luck!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 9:39AM
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Not all contracts are the same. Some state contracts state what certain items need to "be performing the function for which intended" and if they are the deal must go on, or the buyer will lose thier deposit.
Other contracts have a due diligence clause where the buyer puts down a little bit of money for the right to have a certain amount of time to research the home until their heart's delight. There is no list of certain items that need to be in working order. After the buyer's due diligence period, the buyer has the choice of backing out or staying in. If they back out, they lose the due diligence fee, but recoup their earnest money deposit. During this due diligence period, the buyer can ask for repairs or renegotiate the price, but the seller has no itemized list of things that need to be working properly.
If the buyer is using a contract that follows the first example, they will lose their EMD if they pull out, because it sounds as though everything is performing the function for which intended. If they are using the second type of contract, the seller is not demanded to do anything at all... either you want the home or not, and if not, you lose the due diligence fee, but get back the EMD fee. In both cases, the buyer can ask for anything they want, but the circumstances for walking away are different.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 9:40AM
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"Maybe a home warranty is the way to go...how much do such things cost?"

Around $250.00+. I could have got one with my house but it didn't affect my decision to buy. Read the fine print to be sure the one being offered is worthwhile.

Home warranties: Good or good-for-nothing?

"The most important thing you can do with a home warranty is read it. Before the closing, take a close look at the contract. What does it cover? What does it exclude? How long will the home be covered? What is the procedure if you have a repair problem? What is the timetable for making repairs? What rights, if any, do you give up by signing on the dotted line?

Buyers should "look at the claims procedure and make sure it's something they understand," says Crump. "They should read this and understand how it works -- it's the basis of making their claim."

A link that might be useful:


    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 10:04AM
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I have heard where home warrantee companies will not honor for very old appliances or very hold homes. I don't know the details of what they mean by very old, but the warrantee info will give the details about age. I think they all have *exlusions that can be several pages long and that is where the age comes into play.

What is a boiler used for? Is it raditator heat?

Moot point...but FYI - I would not expect buyers to have knowledge about a roof's condition by looking at a roof before the contract is signed. Often homes are 2-3 stories with slopes so that you can hardly see the roof without getting onto a 32 ft ladder. Also there are many regular folks that really don't know squat about a roof from eyeballing it unless there were torn shingles and gaping holes that the eye can see. That is why they hire inspectors, as you cannot assume that every future homeowner can eyeball a roof to know its condition.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 10:29AM
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"the buyer puts down a little bit of money for the right to have a certain amount of time to research the home until their heart's delight. There is no list of certain items that need to be in working order. After the buyer's due diligence period, the buyer has the choice of backing out or staying in. If they back out, they lose the due diligence fee, but recoup their earnest money deposit. During this due diligence period, the buyer can ask for repairs or renegotiate the price"

Thanks, that's the way our contracts read, only we call it an option period, & during the option period, the buyer can back out for any reason or for no reason.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 1:55PM
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