You may need to think about repair amendments during the course of buying a home, typically during the option period and after your inspection. Your agent will prepare your repair amendments for you, but as a buyer, it pays to understand how to write an effective repair amendment as the language used in them can have serious effects down the road. Understanding both how to write a repair amendment with negotiations and the final outcome in mind, as well as how to write them so that what you want is really what you get, can save you a lot of time and hassle later down the road. Remember, these repair amendments become part of the contract and performance of the items contained within them is serious business. Many real estate lawsuits center around the repairs agreed to and made and whether or not they were sufficient. Know what goes into the repair amendment before you sign so you can avoid any issues that could effect your purchase.
After your inspection and your review of the inspection report, you’ll probably have a laundry list of items that you want fixed in order for you to continue with the purchase of this home. We understand anyone’s desire to have everything perfect in their new home, but the reality is that all homes have items that can or should be fixed. Even the inspection on a brand new home will turn up items that need corrected. The goal here is to come up with a list of items that the seller needs to fix…and that they will agree to.
Since no home is ever perfect, you’re going to need to take a look at the inspection report and decide what matters to you most and what can be negotiated by both parties to create the magical win-win situation. Simply sending over an inspection report and saying “fix everything” will more than likely get you a denial from the seller. So how do you determine what to ask for and what not to ask for?
You want to take a look at the big picture. What items do you feel are the so-called “deal killers” – those items that you cannot see past and will cause you to walk away from the home in an instant. Typically, we see these are big ticket items like roofs and HVAC units or health and safety issues such as faulty wiring or items that create a risk of fire, electrocution, or explosion (think leaking gas).
Every homebuyer is different though and what you might consider a no-go, the next homebuyer might not even flinch at. It all depends on your needs and your comfort level.
As well as your needs, you’ll need to consider where the seller is coming from. Did they just take a really low offer from you on the home? Are they trying to move quickly due to a relocation? Are the facing foreclosure or perhaps they just need to sell because they don’t have the money? There are so many factors to consider and your real estate agent can help you see some of the potential pitfalls to the negotiation before they even happen. Remember, the goal is to get the seller to repair items, not bury them in so much that they refuse to do anything.
Writing Repair Amendments
Our biggest tips to writing repair amendments are simple: be specific, don’t overuse words and don’t under explain what you need, and let the inspection report do the talking.
Be specific. We’ve seen cases where repair amendments said something along the lines of “have sprinkler system checked.” The seller did exactly that. They paid to have someone come out and inspect the sprinkler system…and nothing more. There were issues with the sprinkler system (in this particular case a broken pipe under a sidewalk which was causing a major loss of water) and because of the language in the inspection report, the seller merely confirmed what everyone already knew, the sprinkler system needed repair. The two strongest words you can use in a repair amendment are repair and replace.
Over/under explaining things. Be succinct in your wording. Don’t become a junior inspector or plumber or electrician. Let the experts determine what is wrong and fix it. Sometimes people try to use a lot of big words or even legalese to make the repair amendment sound official. You want to write clearly and in simple, plain language to get to the heart of what it is you want done.
Let the inspection report do the talking. Quote items in the inspection report and give reference numbers for pages or sections of the report where the item appears. Let the inspector’s words inform what needs done.
Remember, that all repairs must be done by a licensed person if the trade requires a license (plumbing and electrical are two examples) or by someone regularly employed in a trade that reflects what they are doing. In other words, if you hire a handyman to fix items on a repair amendment, they need to be a handyman as their regular job, not just Uncle Bob who says he can fix it. These two requirements can be overruled if agreed to by both parties and put into writing.
The more precise you are with repair amendments, the better your results will be. Remember to think items through as well, what are the consequences of the action you’re requesting? We see a lot of arguments over removing items like TV brackets. If someone requests “remove TV brackets” on a repair amendment, they might get exactly that. What’s left when you remove TV brackets? Big holes and mismatched paint. You may want to use something more along the lines of “remove TV brackets and repair, patch, texture, and paint to match current walls” so that you have a more detailed explanation of what you want done. Remember, there is no “they should have known what I meant” clause in contracts.
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