When buying a home, what latent defects are acceptable..

I am buying a home and the inspection turned up some small to moderate defects in certain areas. All fixable with, of course, money. However, my question is more general.

When buying a home, what defects should the buyer accept as “You know you aren’t buying a new home and shit breaks, so fix it when you get it” type defects versus “You should be selling me a house with the implicit assumption that these things are good. Fix it before I pay.”

I’m not talking about contract “as-is” language or anything to that effect. I am talking about the custom in home buying and what are reasonable assumptions on buyer/sellers without any express language to the contrary. Thanks.

Plumbing, electrical, foundation issues, yes those should be fixed.

Cosmetic things like cracks in the sheetrock, broken light switch or outlet. Not necessarily.

If it was obvious when someone toured the house before you made an offer, and you wanted it fixed then you should have included it as a condition of your offer.

It has been a while since I reviewed a real estate sales contract, but I imagine the inspection clause says something about “material” defects.

I agree w/ Omar - the intention, and most important, is to address any major structural/non-cosmetic issues.

Usually a seller will be reasonably happy to spend a couple of hundred $ having a handyman address little ticky-tack issues, but even if they balk, minor issues that you can readily fix oughtn’t stand in the way of you spending a couple hundred $K on a house you really want. And, from a strictly legal point of view, I don’t think minor things would generally warrant voiding the contract.

It is touchy as to how significant an issue is. Say an outlet doesn’t work. Not sure a buyer is expected to try every outlet before making an offer. And the fix might be as simple as replacing that outlet for a couple bucks, or it might signal a larger electrical issue.

What the buyer will accept and what the seller will fix comes down to the specific seller and buyer. IME generally neither will allow a couple hundred $ stand in the way of a couple hundred $K deal - especially since generally one wants to sell and the other wants to buy. But either party can choose to be as unreasonable as they want about any aspect of the deal. Then you get to the issue of how aggressively either party wishes to be litigating the terms of the contract. At that point, the parties will often realize that in writing up and accepting the offer, they may not have planned for litigation in the way they could have.

Example from my own recent purchase:
bathroom with humidity problems, not acceptable. Bathroom with major leak, are you kidding me. Wall adjacent to bathroom shows signs of having had humidity issues but the bathroom has been fixed and the humidity marks are clearly from before, could’a been better but acceptable.

Structural damage is not acceptable. Major appliances like furnace and central air should be working. No electrical, plumbing, or gas problems. Roof must be watertight and not about to go. All windows and doors should open and close and be weathertight. Watch out for decks that are shaky or rotting.

Any of those things can be fixed, but you have to factor those repairs into the cost of the house.

If you find any of these problems you have to get a very good inspection to look for other problems that may be hidden.

If you are buying your first home with an FHA loan (I’m guessing VA loans are similar), they will have specific items that have to be up to their code before the sale can be approved. That’s how I bought my home and it was quite a list.

For our future home, what everyone said above: Structural, plumbing, electrical, roof, etc. Cosmetic - not so much although we don’t want to do much remodeling on the next one so minor cosmetic.

One place we bought had a big, nasty water stain over about a quarter of the dining room ceiling. The water heater upstairs had leaked. The seller (who was a building contractor) replaced the water heater and installed a pan, but didn’t bother to slap a coat of paint on the ceiling. :confused: We intended to paint anyway - we really hate all white walls - so our offer took into consideration having to paint. All were satisfied.

The first house we bought had a roof that didn’t pass the VA’s inspection. The seller balked, but he did replace the roof since he wanted to sell and I guess we were the only serious potential buyers.

Bottom line - get a good inspection and decide accordingly what the house is worth to you in what condition. Don’t worry about “insulting” the seller - it’s business.

It ultimately comes down to factors that are different for everyone. Some people like to put some money into fixing there house up before selling it, other people would just rather reduce the price and let someone else do the work.

What is acceptable to you depends on how much work you want to put into the place. I recently sold my family home - after a MAJOR fire - half the house was burned to the foundations and the other half had major smoke and water damage. And it was full of damaged crap, …furniture… clothing… spoiled food.
Of course it sold for about 10% of what the market value for an intact house would’ve been but I was just looking to unload it and not to have to deal with the clean-up. Frankly, I probably would’ve given it away but a local real estate agent convinced me she could get something for it ( she did charge a higher commission percentage that was standard for a land sale, not a home sale). And our buyer was a group of guys looking for an investment that they could put a lot of sweat equity into. They fixed it and sold it. It worked out well for everyone.

One house I bought, I had a list of several items to fix (mostly electrical). The seller countered by dropping the price by a few $k.

With the last house I bought, the inspection report had a few pages of cosmetic stuff and the only major issue was radon mitigation, and that was the only thing I asked to have fixed. The seller countered by taking the inspection report and fixed everything except the $1200 radon issue, which in my calculations was about the same cost-wise but more effort.

A point to consider: If you ask them to fix it they’ll be incentivized to do the cheapest most half-assed job possible. If instead you negotiate $X off the price, then you can get it fixed the way you want. Which might also be cheapass or might be more thorough and durable.

In general I choose door #1 when selling and door #2 when buying.
Your larger meta-question is pretty locale-specific. In some jurisdictions it makes sense to ensure absolutely every modification to the house has a permit on file with the city. In other areas if you demanded that, you’d never find any buyable house. etc. Some areas are prone to damp basements. Others to inadequate insulation or Chinese drywall or aluminum wiring or …
Your underlying concern is to avoid buying an expensive surprise. So look to the things that could be A) expensive or B) be the tip of an iceberg. Again some local knowledge from an inspector can tell you which icebergs to be on the lookout for.

A roof covered with failing shingles is an A).

A squeaky sticky front door might be a B) after you notice the front of the house is sagging into the ground. Or it might be nothing if you discover a couple hinge screws have backed out because their damn kids slam it all day long.

Ballpark, houses need one monthly payment per year of maintenance and upkeep. Plus the occasional bonus $5k surprise. If you can already identify where the first 3 years-worth of extra payments will be going, that’s IMO too much; some of that needs to be taken out of the price so the seller is eating that. You can’t expect him to pre-pay the next 20 years of your maintenance. Neither should he be expecting you to post-pay the last 5 years’ of his maintenance that he conveniently blew off.

THIS - a million times, this! Good point, LSL.

You didn’t have insurance?

I’ve seen roof leaks “fixed” with a fresh coat of paint on the stained ceiling and nothing else. When caught in the lie, the seller’s response was “What?? You expected anything else?” The scary part was I think the guy was honestly serious, not just blustering to cover his guilty conscience.

That deal did not close. Tip of the iceberg and all that.

I’m currently under contract on a new place.

We had two must-fixes: a new roof, and fixing the furnace igniter.

The root was old and actively leaking, and the seller’s insurance is going to cover the replacement less her (substantial) deductible.

The furnace igniter shouldn’t be more than a couple hundred bucks.

Things we’re overlooking:

[li]30-year-old AC and hot water heater (we’re buying our own home warranty to help eke out another year on those)[/li][li]Galvanic corrosion on the aluminum downspouts (the house has copper gutters)[/li][li]Crappy leaf guards[/li][li]Chimney needs cleaning and the cap needs sealing[/li][li]Minor electrical issues - no GFCIs in the bathrooms; some ungrounded 3-prong outlets; one double-tapped breaker[/li][li]A couple of failed window seals[/li][li]Failed garden retaining wall[/li][li]Dripping hose bibbs[/li][li]Inoperable ceiling fan on a porch[/li][li]Minor foundation cracks; some leak (the house is 70 years old)[/li][li]Asbestos tile in one basement room - it’s not damaged so we’ll throw a rug over it[/li][li]Random ceiling stains from old leaks[/li][/ul]

If your home inspector offers it as an add on, ask them if they can use an IR camera to look for moisture in the walls. It’ll help you figure out whether weird stains are old problems or new problems.

Forgot to add that for the roof, we demanded via a contract addendum that they use our preferred contractor, and the seller agreed.

Thanks for the advice. It’s pretty much on point with my philosophy. I think if a house was built in 1940, one could expect no GFCI in the kitchen, some foundation settling, etc. If a house is built in 2001, a buyer expects different things.

I don’t want to be unfair to the sellers, but I also don’t want to have to pay to fix stuff that should have been up to snuff when I bought it. I guess I’ll ask for more fixes than I expected and negotiate down.