Active Rain September 24, 2010

When Should Sellers Make Agreed-upon Repairs?

In their efforts to accommodate buyers and make deals work, more Westchester home sellers are agreeing to either credit money to buyers for repairs or make the repairs outright. In general, I’d rather issue a credit; buyers can do the work as they see fit and sellers have one less headache. 

Often, however, the repairs are things the buyer would prefer be done prior to moving in: asbestos abatement, mold remediation, pest treatment, or something less urgent or elective, like the replacement of a light fixture or carpet. Regardless of what the repair is, unless it is urgent in nature, the only obligation a seller ought to have in making the repairs is to do them before closing. Whether a carpet goes in or wood paneling goes out, the buyer only benefits from it when they take possession of the domicile at closing. 

It is therefore not productive for a Westchester home buyer to demand that repairs be made immediately, before contracts are signed, or before anything other than the closing. Moreover, it is conventional wisdom for the seller to not complete any work or spend a dime until the buyer has provided a mortgage commitment. Once the commitment is provided, the seller can undertake repairs with peace of mind that the financing is not an issue and they they aren’t spending money for a buyer who will not perform. The last thing a seller should do is spend money at the behest of a buyer, only to have that buyer not end up buying. The next buyer might not want the work done, and the problem of the lost deal is magnified. 

We recently had a buyer insist, prior to contract, that the seller treat an old paper wasp nest (it should be noted that in Westchester and the surrounding areas, we do contracts far later in the process than the rest of the world). They were told it would be done after the mortgage commitment was provided. Buyers who do not agree to the conventional wisdom and normal protocol in a matter like this cannot also claim to be reasonable.