Homebuying is more than a simple transaction of funds for a piece of property. There are numerous steps involved which ensure that both the buyer and seller are happy with the arrangement. For example, a standard home inspection can help protect homebuyers by identifying potential damage to the property, utility systems, or appliances. If any come up, it gives the buyer leverage to request the seller either make repairs or bow out of the home sale.
Not all requests stem from potential damage, however, and in home sales, the buyer or real estate agent can ask for numerous things to finalize a deal. Of course, home sellers are under no obligation to comply, and it pays to know what requests are likely to be accepted. To help would-be homebuyers navigate this delicate gray area, we contacted our network of industry experts to find out which homebuying requests are common, most likely to be accepted, and which might kill your next home deal.
What Can Homebuyers Request From Sellers?
Technically, homebuyers can request just about anything (within reason) from a seller. Requests can range from simple repairs to renovations, upgrades, warranties, and possessions (termed “personal property” in most contracts). Home sellers aren’t obligated to comply with any request — even the remediation of potentially hazardous issues discovered during a home inspection.
Requests are, most often, a bargaining tool used to help close deals, and the economic environment surrounding the home deal will greatly impact what kind of requests will be accepted. In a “seller’s market,” it isn’t uncommon for sellers to deny most requests, as they know someone else will likely purchase the home anyway.
We recommend always working with a real estate agent and clearing all requests through them first. Real estate agents will have the specific knowledge of your local housing market needed to know which requests are acceptable and most likely to be agreed upon by a seller.
Repairs and Maintenance Post Home Inspection
Home inspections are the root cause for the majority of homebuyer requests. These requests typically reflect some form of maintenance or replacement of home systems, appliances, or structures. Other issues, like pest infestations, water damage, and major landscaping problems, may also be negotiated. Specifically, any request from a home inspection that involves the safety and well-being of the buyer is typically taken seriously by the seller and remediated.
According to Lois Magee, a real estate agent with Northside Realty:
“In the most recent market, sellers do not have to do much. Even so, sellers are good about repairing things even when they do need to, especially safety items. For example, if a home has a higher-than-expected radon level, they are likely to undertake radon remediation. For safety-related requests, I see a higher acceptance rate when working with the buyer.”
Jason Ault, a real estate expert and consultant at Element Home Buyers, agrees, stating:
“If the request is related to their health and security, then it is valid. Any repair that can save them from an allergy or infection is necessary. The security system that can put their safety at risk is also worthy of restoration. Since these concerns are legit, they’re accepted most of the time.”
Home System and Safety Repairs
Home systems are the interconnected parts of a home that work together to serve essential functions, like your HVAC, plumbing, or roof. When a home system fails, the safety and comfort of the home become compromised. Most home system failures are serious and typically require the work of trained contractors to remedy. For most home deals, a failing system will keep the majority of homebuyers away, making these requests very likely to be approved.
Removal and Extermination of Pests
Pests can be a major hazard for homeowners. Termites and rats can wreak havoc on a home, destroying its structural integrity and posing a serious health risk to homeowners. Removing pests is a very common and often accepted post-inspection request, as homes with these nasty invaders will have a harder time selling. Some loans even require a termite inspection (for certain states.)
Foundation or Other Structural Issues
Outside of major home systems, your home’s structure and foundation are the other primary areas of concern regarding existing damage. Warped floorboards, broken trusses, and drooping ceilings can all be signs of structural failings, and a damaged foundation can be a sign of much more serious future problems. Unfortunately, requesting major structural repairs can be a mixed bag, as the repairs may be so expensive that a seller will decline.
Repairs to Major Water Damage and Mold Removal
Water damage indicates two major problems. One, there’s something wrong with the plumbing or structure of the home. And two, where there’s water damage, there’s almost certainly mold. It is reasonable for homebuyers to request repairs to the water-damaged areas and for mold problems to be resolved. However, this typically only applies to incidents of major water damage, as small spots (say from a leaky pipe) are not a major issue.
Removal of Toxic Home Features Such as Lead Paint or Asbestos Ceiling Tiles
While this is only a problem for older homes, removing any toxic or otherwise harmful elements of a home is a standard request. The likelihood that the request will be accepted will depend greatly on the nature of the toxic substance and how expensive it is to remove. For example, the cost to remove an asbestos popcorn ceiling ranges from around $1,000 to over $5,000, depending on where you live and the size of the home.
Minor repair requests, especially those that pose a safety risk, like damaged electrical sockets, burnt wires, or broken windows, are likely to be accepted. These requests typically do not take much time or money to repair, and the goodwill produced from fixing these problems is often worth it for the seller.
According to Josh Dotoli, Principal of DOTOLI Group and Director of Luxury sales for Compass Florida:
“The most common requests that homebuyers make when purchasing a house are usually related to the condition of the property. Buyers often ask for repairs, upgrades, or modifications to be made prior to closing. However, what sellers can and cannot accept depends on many factors.
For example, buyers may ask for minor repairs like replacing light fixtures, repairing door frames, or patching drywall holes. These types of requests are often accepted by sellers as long as they do not require too much effort and expense. On the other hand, requests for major renovations such as kitchen or bathroom remodels are usually denied since this would likely require a considerable amount of work and money to complete.
In conclusion, it is important for buyers and sellers alike to enter into the homebuying process with realistic expectations. For buyers, this means understanding that not all requests will be accepted by the seller and being prepared to negotiate a fair agreement. For sellers, this means being aware of common buyer requests and anticipating potential issues that could arise during the negotiation process. By being prepared, both parties can come to a satisfactory agreement for everyone involved.”
The second major category of homebuying requests is “deal closing” or compensatory requests. Homeowners use these requests to get more out of the sale of a home or are offered freely from the seller as a tactic to close a deal. The nature of compensatory requests can vary wildly but usually take the form of a transfer of property or funds to make up for something missing, damaged, or unfavorable about the home.
These requests can be as simple as covering the closing costs of the sale to the exchange of vehicles, appliances, or other high-value items. Compensatory requests are more of a gamble and require additional negotiating on the real estate agent.
According to Cam Dowski, interior designer, realtor, and founder of WeBuyHousesChicago:
“Compensatory requests may take the form of a reduction in the purchase price, a credit toward closing costs, or a cash payment to cover the cost of repairs. These requests are often legitimate, but their acceptance depends on several factors, such as the severity of the issue, the cost of repairs, and the seller’s willingness to negotiate.”
Coverage of Closing Costs
Closing cost coverage is one of, if not the most common, buyer requests in home sales. Typically, closing costs are split evenly between the buyer and seller. However, sellers will sometimes offer to pay the closing costs for buyers, and in the same vein, it isn’t unheard of for buyers to request closing cost coverage. Homeowners often find that sellers for a home that has sat a while will have a better chance of negotiating closing cost coverage than hotly contended homes that are fresh to the market.
Replacements for Failing or Old Appliances
Appliances can be a great leverage option for buyers and sellers in home sales. Buyers can include high-value appliances as a strong selling point, but if an appliance is old and likely to fail, buyers can use this as an opportunity to request new ones.
Requesting appliances is common, but the success of these requests will vary wildly depending on the supply and demand of the specific appliance at the time. For example, in 2021 and 2022, there was a nationwide appliance shortage, which made negotiating for appliances during home sales nearly impossible.
Transfer of Personal Property
When negotiating a home sale, it isn’t unheard of for sellers to offer various household items, like couches, new appliances, or other goods, to sweeten the deal or close a sale. These items are referred to as “personal property” in home loans. The transfer of personal property is one of the most common requests by homebuyers, specifically kitchen refrigerators.
According to Lois Magee:
“The most common request I’ve seen is the kitchen refrigerator. While buyers will often offer refrigerators, it’s not a given in a home sale. We are in a seller’s market, so the pendulum is still on the seller’s side.”
Furthermore, negotiating personal property within a home sale can be tricky, as not all mortgage companies allow items to be included in their loans. Lois continued by saying:
“When negotiating with a buyer, I try to limit the transfer of personal property to the washer, dryer, and refrigerator, as lenders prefer personal property not be included in mortgages. It has been my experience that if too much additional personal property is written in an initial sales contract, a lender will request that it be removed. In this case, we will often have the closing attorney draw up a separate bill of sale which states what property is transferred and at what cost.”
Transfer of Warranties
Some home sellers can offer a home warranty in home sales as a closing tactic. Home warranties give homeowners peace of mind and protection for their most valuable home systems and appliances. It’s also not uncommon for homeowners to request the seller provide the funds for a home warranty. Some home additions like gutter guards, storm windows, and roof systems can have transferable warranties, which can act as strong selling incentives.
What Is Inappropriate to Request From a Home Seller?
While there are plenty of reasonable requests homebuyers can make, there are equally as many that are out of the question.
Remember that the nature of each home sale is unique and that what is and isn’t appropriate will vary. When asked about inappropriate or not-often-accepted requests, Tom McSherry, founder and real estate expert of Sections For Sale, said, “…some types of requests are less likely to be accepted. For example, requests for major restructuring or remodeling typically require significant effort and cost on the part of the seller, making them harder to agree upon. Similarly, most sellers will not accept requests for private transfers such as cars, sheds, etc., as these assets are often not part of the home sale agreement. Buyers and sellers should communicate their needs and expectations clearly during negotiations to ensure everyone is on the same page.”
Rinal Patel, the founder of Webuyphillyhome, a PA Real Estate Company, agrees with this sentiment, stating:
“Accepting and declining requests are often dependent on the specific circumstances of the home sale negotiation. Requests such as home inspections, repairs, move-in dates and closing costs are commonly accepted by home sellers which can also still vary depending on the specific condition of the home sale negotiation.
Declined requests often include lowball offers whereby buyers make offers that are significantly below the asking price. Buyers often decline these offers especially if the home is in high demand. Additionally, unreasonable demands such as extensive repairs and providing high credits for cosmetic issues are sometimes declined.”
Below are some requests considered inappropriate in home sales, along with requests less likely to be accepted.
Cosmetic or Otherwise Non-serious Repairs
Any repair considered cosmetic, such as loose siding, worn decking, damaged tile, and missing trim, are typically the last thing homebuyers should make requests on. These issues, even when expensive, are not time sensitive and can be repaired at the new homeowner’s convenience. Most sellers will turn down these requests, and any real estate agent worth their salt will dissuade a client from making them.
Property Extensions or Renovations
Any renovation or major repair, modification, or alteration of a home not directly tied to structural and system damage is an inappropriate and sure-to-be-denied request. Sellers typically comply with repair and maintenance requests because it’s in their best interest to resolve these issues — even if you don’t buy the home, the next homebuyer will likely want these problems taken care of too. Any other renovation requests, like additional windows, a kitchen overhaul, or a wraparound porch, won’t go over well.
Cosmetic Landscaping and Non-major Yard Problems
Some forms of yard damage, like gopher holes, large pits, or pest infestations, should be handled by home sellers. But anything cosmetic, like tree trimming, missing flagstones, or weed-filled flower beds, are smaller issues and will typically not be accepted. These are all problems that the new homeowner can resolve and are not a priority for home sellers.
Making requests of home sellers is an expected and common occurrence in the real estate industry. Everything from basic repairs to new appliances, pest removal, and mold remediation are reasonable, negotiable requests. But keep in mind that the current market is in flux, with housing prices only recently dropping after record-breaking highs. As a result, most home markets across the country are volatile, and home sellers may be more hesitant to accommodate homebuyer requests.
We always recommend working with an experienced real estate agent who can help you better gauge the specifics of your local housing market. Even better, a good realtor can guide their clients through the home inspection process, advising them on what repairs should be handled by the seller.