What If the Seller Doesn't Make the Agreed Repairs?

Posted by Tamara Berryman on Tuesday, November 4th, 2014 at 1:02pm.

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You diligently saved and saved until you had enough money for more than a sizable down payment. Over the past several months, you spent every free moment disputing inaccuracies and mistakes on your credit files with the three bureaus, hiking your score up bit by bit. You've taken the time to shop for the best mortgage to get the most affordable interest rate. You’ve even begun to offload a bunch of junk you don't use any longer to make the move easier and keep your moving costs down.

It took you weeks to find the right home for your lifestyle that had most of your must have features, right in the heart of the tropical paradise that is Sarasota. After speaking it over with your agent, you decided to put-in a purchase offer. Since there were a few things in the house which needed attention that were discovered through the home inspection, you put-in a purchase offer with some seller contingencies.

Without hesitation, the seller accepted your purchase offer, along with the contingencies, and agreed to make the necessary repairs. Now you get a phone call from your buyer's agent out-of-the-blue saying the seller is reneging on the deal and does not want to pay for the cost of the repairs, which leaves you in a unpleasant situation.

Understanding the Terms of a Purchase Offer

Of course, when a seller accepts a buyer's purchase offer, even those with contingencies, the seller is bound to a legal contract. After acceptance, sellers cannot pick and choose what part of the agreement they want to honor and which ones they don't honor. Since you put the time and effort in to get ready to buy a home and spent so many weeks looking for the right property, only to hand over thousands of dollars in earnest money to convince the seller to go through with the transaction, you want the deal to go smoothly.

"...generally speaking a seller concession can be any negotiation where the seller gives something up to the buyer. For example, if there is some problem or updates that are needed in the house; often a seller will offer the buyer a concession of a lower sales price leaving the repairs or updates to the buyer to do later and pay for on their own. This would be an alternative to the seller having the repairs or updated done before closing, paying for them and selling the home at full price." --Broker Outpost

Because your purchase offer was accepted, it constitutes a binding, legally enforceable agreement. This means you do have options available to you, but it really depends on how far you're willing to take the matter. Don't make an emotional decision, but an informed one. At the very least, it's going to take some patience and stick-to-itiveness; at most, it will take money and legal action.

How to Make a Seller Comply with Their Concessions

The first thing you can do is to restate those concessions to the seller through your agent. Just reiterating your expectations along with what was agreed to might be enough to make the seller realize they are in a precarious situation if they do not follow through. Should that subtle nudge not work, you can then exercise other options:

  • Ease-off on the concessions. If you're really set on buying this particular home then consider removing some of the sellers objections by reducing or eliminating the work the seller has to do to the home.
  • Think about reducing the amount of your purchase offer. Another alternative is to simply lower your offer and allow the seller a pass on making those repairs. Use the money you save to have the repairs done yourself.
  • Ask the seller to pick up all the closing costs. If the agreement you entered into originally had you responsible for some or all of the closing costs, you could ask the seller to pick up the whole tab and again use that savings to fund the repair work.
  • Use the specific performance clause in the purchase contract. In residential real estate purchase agreement, there is a clause called specific performance. It means precisely what it sounds to be, both the seller and buyer have to go through with specific responsibilities in order for the deal to close. The threat of invoking the specific performance clause should be enough to convince the seller to hold up his or her end of the bargain.

If the threat alone isn't enough to get what you want and satisfy the terms of the contract, then you have the right to file a civil lawsuit against the seller. If you win the case, the court can order the seller to fulfill their contractual responsibilities, which of course, means making the repairs agreed-to in the accepted purchase offer. Should you not want to take it to that level, get your earnest money returned and move-on to another home.

Tamara Berryman
Google

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