With no end in sight to this hot seller's market we have been experiencing in Los Angeles, it is important for buyers to understand how tricky it can be to toe the line between what is acceptable to ask of a seller and what might just cause them to cancel an escrow. Buyers are bidding on homes in an ultra-competitive market where multiple offers are the norm, so choosing what repairs to ask for requires some strategy. After all, requesting too many fixes could potentially tank the sale if there are less high-maintenance buyers waiting in the wings. Here are some common repair requests a buyer should never make:

  1. Cosmetic Issues. They are the #1 things other buyers in this market are likely willing to overlook. You can probably afford to add a fresh coat of paint to the den, have the wood floors refinished or fix the broken tile in the kitchen that is bothering you. Don't sour a deal by asking for cosmetic changes.

  2. Renovations you are already planning. If a kitchen redo is at the top of your list for when you move in, do not expect the seller to replace a warped pantry door or damaged baseboards. However, if there are things that you both agree are clearly in bad shape, you can discuss any credits they may want to give you for damaged items. 

  3. Items the home inspector didn't flag. If things like a jammed window or creaky basement door are bothering you but the inspector has not flagged them for safety or code violations, it is best not to include these in any repair requests. 

  4. Minor electrical issues. A nonworking light switch or faulty electrical socket that pops up in an inspection may seem like a fix you should request, but if it’s truly a minor issue and not a sign of larger problems with the home's electrical systems, skip it.

  5. Missing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. If the area where you are purchasing the home requires sellers to provide working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, by all means mention that. But if they don’t, make a note to replace them yourself after closing. This is an easy, inexpensive update and in most cases, not worth risking the sale.  

  6. Upgrades. Although it’s OK to ask the seller to ensure that the existing electrical system in an older home is working correctly for the date it was built, it is not acceptable to request that the electrical system be upgraded to current codes. The same applies to other systems as well: You should not be asking sellers to upgrade galvanized pipes to copper or PEX, install new furnaces if the old ones are still working safely (even if they are somewhat old), seismically retrofit foundations, replace single pane windows with dual pane products, install insulation, etc.

  7. Asking for an abatement. Older homes in particular may have materials in them deemed hazardous, especially asbestos and lead-based paint. While there will likely be an inspection to determine if these materials are present, most buyer's agents agree that it is not reasonable to ask the seller to pay for their removal.

The above are just a few of the many things clients have discussed with us in the past. And it is true that many things that would have been fine with asking the seller to help with in past markets are no longer worth risking alienating them. If you have questions about what is acceptable to ask for in a request for repairs, please feel free to contact us and we housesellers will help in any way we can. Also, there are many things that you absolutely should have the seller pay for and we will be listing some of those common requests in the coming weeks.