What Items are Negotiable and When?

As a buyer, the strategy for asking for “seller concessions” can be tricky in today’s market and the “rules” are being changed everyday.  In the past a buyer asking a seller to pay for their closing costs and a list of repairs from the inspection report has been common practice.  What about asking a seller to update the kitchen with new countertops?  Refinish the hardwood floors? Install new tile in the bathroom?  These are all considered cosmetic changes and in the past would most likely not even be considered by a seller.  

In todays market, however, sellers need to get creative in order to facilitate a successful sale of their home and may be willing to comply if the situation is “right.”  The question then remains what items are negotiable and when?

The answer: All items are negotiable and timing is critical and it all depends on the motivation of the seller.

Initially, you may be tempted to think that since there’s so much inventory, that sellers will automatically bend over to accommodate a buyer, but think again! If you are approaching a seller who’s already reduced their price far below what they think it’s worth, possibly even below what they owe on the home, you may weaken your position as a buyer by asking for too much too soon. There is an emotional component that can’t be ignored here even in this market.

As a seller, if a buyer submitted a long list of demands including a list of repairs & cosmetic updates all at once your offer would likely be rejected immediately. If however, the agent representing the buyers made an initial request to refinish the hardwood floors & install new tile in the bathroom the seller may proceed depending of course on the price of the offer & the current situation of the seller. When the inspection report came back, the buyers agent could then make the list of repairs such as the roof, faulty wiring, and the leak under the kitchen sink a point of negotiation. Typically these are repairs a seller will often consider and may have already budgeted for during the price negotiations. Sellers also would perhaps not be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the cost involved since the recommendation had come from a third party (the inspector) rather that the buyers directly.

If cosmetic updating and changes are agreed to by the seller, I strongly advise the seller to not make any changes until at least the buyer’s inspection contingency has been officially removed.  Also a seller may want to require a non-refundable earnest money deposit from the buyer before they proceed.


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