Question: We are in contract on a house and had an inspection done. Among the inspector’s findings: wood rot around windows, cast iron pipes under the house and missing shingles on the roof. Doesn’t the seller have to make the repairs?

Answer: No. There is no requirement for a seller to make any repairs, unless otherwise stated in the sales contract. For the seller – especially in 2021’s hot market – this can create a take-it or leave-it situation. Consider that perhaps the seller would prefer you terminate the contract (assuming you are within the termination-option period) so he/she can re-list the house for sale at a better price. On the other hand, if both parties want the transaction to close, resolution usually comes about in one of three ways.

  1. The seller agrees to make some or all of the repairs.
  2. The seller offers the buyer a discount to the price so that the buyer can make the repairs after the sale closes.
  3. A combination of #1 and #2: The seller makes some of the repairs and offers a proportional price reduction so that the buyer can make some of the repairs as well.

Sometimes, when a seller disagrees with an inspection report provided by the buyer, he/she hires another inspector to re-inspect the items in dispute – a second opinion, if you will. Your real estate agent is your representative during this delicate negotiation. Buying and selling a home is an emotional experience for many people, and no one wants to get in a lather over discussions of water penetration or plumbing deficiencies. A mutually acceptable solution is almost always possible.

Question: How can I find out the history of the house we want to buy?

Answer: First, before making an offer on real estate, ask your agent for the property’s sales history. If the house is listed on MLS, your agent can access the archive of the house that shows how often it’s been bought and sold, how long it was on the market each time, whether previous listings expired, price decreases, if it’s been leased and much more. The MLS archive typically goes back at least 25 years and sometimes more. This information is available only to people who are members of HAR, including real estate agents.

Anything that has happened to the house since the current sellers have owned it – e.g. flooding, fire – should be on the Seller’s Disclosure Notice that is required as part of the transaction. Read it carefully.

You can also ask the seller for a CLUE (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) report from their insurance company. The CLUE report discloses any insurance claims made by a policyholder in recent years. A CLUE report can be requested for free once a year, but only a homeowner or insurance agent can request it. It will show all claims going back five to seven years. If a claim payout funded a new roof, for example, be sure that there is indeed a new roof on the house you hope to buy.