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During the due diligence period, the buyer does an inspection and asks for repairs.  The seller may prefer to give money, and not want to actually do the repairs because (1) they fear that the buyer will not be happy with the repairs and will ask the seller to redo them; (2) they may not have sufficient time to schedule repairs, pack, and move; (3) they simply do not want to have to take the time and effort to have them done.

The buyer may also prefer that the seller give money in lieu of repairs because (1) the buyer can oversee the repairs and be sure that they are to the buyer’s liking; (2) the buyer may want to do other modifications related to the trade at the same time and the money can simply go towards the larger bill; (3) the buyer may find it worthwhile to postpone the repair and use the money now.

In the instance where both sides agree to money in lieu of repairs, the buyer has several choices: he/she can reduce the purchase price by the agreed-upon amount, or have that amount added to seller-paid closing costs. Previously, we could have checks written at closing to third party vendors for the repairs to be performed later, but with the tightened mortgage restrictions that is generally not possible.  Which is preferable – reducing the sales price or increasing the closing costs?  Here are the pros and cons:

  • Either way, the buyer brings less cash to closing.
  • The lender typically will limit the amount of closing costs the seller can pay on behalf of the buyer.  For most loans, it’s three percent of the purchase price.  So just be sure that if you’re increasing the closing costs paid by the seller, you’re not running afoul of this limit.
  • If you decrease the purchase price, the purchase price is reflected in the tax records and future buyers will see that you paid less for the place. The plus side is that the tax commissioner also looks at the purchase price in determining taxable value, so a lower purchase price may result in a lower      property tax burden.

Either way, be sure your lender knows of the change in the contract.  Any changes – particularly those that change the purchase price of the property – must go through underwriting and you want to be sure there is plenty of time before closing to take that step.