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Aug. 4, 2012 - Cost to fix Broken Window Seals - Home Inspection

In the grand scheme of negotiating a home inspection, the reality is that often the owner of the home will have already fixed the broken window seals before putting the home on market, if they are amenable to fixing them at all.

In a hot market it is not uncommon for people to buy homes with broken window seals, as inspectors generally consider the condition to be a cosmetic problem. In a balanced to buyer's market...not the case. Primarily because the cost to fix them can be pretty high. 

Some failed seals are easier to spot than others. Here's a picture of an easier to spot one shown on the left as before fix and on the right as after the fix.

The moisture between the panes is more prevalent at some times of year vs another as it is the temperature differential between the inside and outside temp of the glass that often causes the buildup of moisture caused by condensation. In other words, sometimes you don't see the actual moisture and the window gives the appearance of being dirty.

A good clue is if the windows only appear "dirty"

on the South or West side of the home,

as the heat generated by the sun on those two sides of the home

is often what will cause the seal to fail.

The fix is most often to replace the glass vs replacing the window and/or frame. The prices below are recent and from a reputable installer for a glass only fix. Gives you a good rule of thumb for estimating cost based on size of the window, as during Home Inspection negotiations, you don't always have time to bring in an specialist for each and every fix. Knowing how to acurately ballpark the costs comes in handy.

Glass 3 feet by 3 feet - $270 plus tax

Glass 3 feet by 4 feet - $460 plus tax

The larger the window the more it costs to fix, and that has something to do with a size that one worker can handle alone vs a large window that requires two workers. The labor cost increases to double when two workers are needed because of the larger glass size.

Another thing I have seen that will add to cost is the window frame, even though you are not replacing the window frame. A newer vinyl frame usually has a "stop' that will easily pop out for removal and replacement of the glass. An older frame may have a peice of quarter round, which is a little more difficult and may break and also add to the cost as it likely will need some painting after the glass is replaced.

The most costly I have seen are in Seattle or any home built before 1930, as the wood frames holding the window glass in are not simple 1/4 round pieces but a full molded frame. They are also likely to have wood rot and once you take the frame off enough to get the glass in and out, it won't always be possible to put it back without a lot of additional cost for frame restoration.

NOTE: the costs above are only for one piece of class of that size and most windows that open and close will have two, but often only one of them has a broken seal.

If you need a quick rule of thumb cost for negotiating in a pinch. and the windows are newer as in home is 15 years old or less, I'd go with $350 for a 3' window and $600 for a larger window. if there are several that are broken, the total cost will balance out. Don't forget to add the tax! 

OOPS! Almost Forgot! V.I.P. The main reason we are talking money to fix vs actuall fixing these is the process often takes too long for the average 30 day escrow. Assume you are finished negotiation for the fix on day 12 or so. The glass has to be measured, ordered to size, received and then a date scheduled for install.

Almost never, unless the seller had already ordered the glass prior to putting the home on the market, is there enough time to fix these "before closing".

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Mar. 16, 2011 - Should You Deduct Home Deficiencies From The Offer Price?

How much you offer on a home you are about to purchase, is somewhat influenced by whether or not you deduct it's deficiencies from it's value at the time of the offer. 

IF you can negotiate the item at inspection...then you likely don't deduct at time of offer.

IF you CAN NOT negotiate for that deficiency at inspection, if you do not account for it at time of offer, you may lose any potential to accommodate the deficiency prior to closing.

Basically, before you make an offer, you are doing a quick mental Reserve Study of the home's major components. Earlier today I did a Reserve Study for AFTER purchase of the home.

Below is an example of one done BEFORE you make an offer. This is usually done fairly quickly at the same time you are reviewing the home prior to writing the offer. It is one reason why you should view the home again after you decide you want to buy it, and before writing the offer, if and when there is time to do that. Most often I am mentally calculating this while my buyer clients are off looking at other things.

The Home Inspection should be primarily for NON-COSMETIC items that you could NOT evaluate prior to making the offer. Some things you can and should know are not going to be called by the inspector, before the inspection happens.

Here's a simple guide of how to set expectations.

Example of how to apply the above when making an offer.

1) RARELY will the Inspection Require a NEW ROOF! If the home is 18 years old, this can create problems as most people expect a roof to last at least 5 years from purchase. Consequently if the roof is 15 or more years old, unless it is a specialty roof that lasts 35 or more years, it is usually best to deduct a portion of the cost of a new roof from the offer price.

2) If the home was built in the early 90s, be sure to check for "class action suit" siding prior to making an offer! This is very important as a seller never puts on all new siding, or is willing to pay for all new siding, and a lender will most likely NOT ALLOW a credit of that size. Class Action Suit siding does not need to be defective in order to need replacement. It just does! Very important item. How you handle it is different from house to house, but most often you need to deduct $20,000 from the offer price if that type of siding is present, or maybe even not buy the house at all. 

You should not need the inspector to "find" this type of siding. It is fairly easy for you and or your agent to spot this, with few exceptions.

3) Look at the dates on the hot water tank and furnace. These are fairly obvious and easy to spot as to needing to be replaced now or in the near future. Problems occur when they are past their life expectancy, but in working order. So best to determine your stance on these in advance of making the offer. Maybe by building in a credit to replace them, if you know they are working, and also know that you will not have the money to replace them within a year or two of closing. A home warranty might hold you for awhile, but if the heater is 25 years old and the hot water tank is 14 years old, these can be touchy subjects at time of inspection.

BOTTOM LINE is no one should expect a $20,000 "credit" from a Home Inspection at time of negotiation, because your lender will not allow that. 

NORMAL MAXIMUM CREDIT AT INSPECTION is "up to" $5,000 BUT if you already "maxed out" your credits toward closing costs in the original offer to purchase, you CAN NOT get ANYTHING at all!

I am usually juggling all of this for the client, as it is fairly complex and you can easily back yourself into a corner if you don't foresee what is going to happen. The average home buyer is not able to foresee, and that is why so many transactions fail on inspection. Hopefully this post will give you a better feel as to what to expect, so that you are not expecting the impossible.

 Reserve Study for a Single Family Home (Comprehensive)

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Jun. 29, 2009 - Extreme Home Inspection

When Home Inspections fail, it is usually because the participants didn't pursue the problem at hand to a satisfactory conclusion. No amount of money will resolve an unknown problem, as you can't determine if the amount is sufficient to cover that problem.

A recent example involves the buyer's home inspector determining that there was a higher than normal water reading inside the floor (underneath the hardwood floor) and in the wall (outside wall) of a cantilevered 1/2 bath (powder room). Now we know we have a problem, but we don't really know what that problem is.

The buyer submitted a request to have a contractor come in and make a hole in the exterior siding above the front door. Even if the seller is willing to allow this, it is not a good idea for a buyer to take on the cost and liability of making big holes in the seller's house that he may not buy once he sees what is inside that hole.

In most inspection negotiations, the contract would fail once the seller answered "no, you can't make a big hole in my house". Not many people would say yes to that. In the instant case I was the agent for the seller. I paid for a 2nd inspection, of that one issue, to see if there was any way to determine the cause, and thus the fix, without tearing the house apart. My partner Kim and I met the seller and my inspector (not the buyer's inspector) at the property. Because the higher level of moisture was not around the toilet, indicating the problem was the wax seal of the toilet (most obvious likely cause) we identified 3 or 4 possibilities. It could be the washer in the room above the 1/2 bath, as the plumbing pipes were stacked. It could be a roof vent leak, because the moisture could be coming down the wall and into the 1/2 bath floor, instead of from the floor and into the wall. It could be a leak in the window or siding in the outside wall of the half bath. Lots of "could be" and after about 30 minutes with the 2nd inspector, no clear definition of the problem.

My most excellent seller client grabbed a hammer and started making a hole in the siding covering the overhang under the toilet.  (see photo below) We were dumbfounded at his response. He will forever be one of my favorite clients as he chose "let's get to the bottom of this" vs. "how can we make this problem go away".

An inspector can't make a big hole in the house to see the problem. Having the best inspector in the world isn't always going to help you know everything you need to know about the house. The buyer, the seller, the agents and the inspector (and sometimes 2 or more inspectors) are sometimes needed to get to the real and right answer.

The seller then proceeded to make a hole in the wall in the powder room next to the toilet and near the window.  The seller and the inspector studied all of the wet areas under the toilet and in the wall, and still the likely cause of the problem could have been any of the above possibles except the window leaking. The area was dry closest to the window.  The inspector climbed up on the roof and the seller pulled out the insulation and studied the water marks on the insulation for pattern of water flow.  The roof vent was ruled out as the pattern of water on the insulation did not reach the top, and so could not have come from above. That ruled out the washer as well.

A wax seal is often an obvious answer, but this property was only 4 years old, so we were not satisfied with that conclusion for a number of reasons. The seller pulled out all of the fixtures and part of the wood floor. In the meantime the buyer via their inspector asked for a new wax seal as the remedy.

At that point the seller could have agreed, except we all knew the problem wasn't simply the wax seal. Here's the wonderful part of this inspection. The seller could have signed off on the wax seal and the contract would have proceeded to close. Instead, we (the seller's side of the fence) determined that a new wax seal would hold for a short time, as the original one did for a few years, but the REAL problem was the builder had cut the pipe to the toilet too short. If a builder doesn't allow for a hardwood floor thickness vs. a laminate floor, the pipe will be cut at the wrong height. That was the final determination of the problem, but not the end of the fix.

To understand why that is, you have to understand what "cantilever" means. There are very specific rules for cantilevered aspects of a home.  Usually the cantilever is a deck, and any time you see a short deck off a second floor, you automatically expect it to be a cantilever. When the bottom of any cantilevered area gets wet and is subject to rot, that rot can travel under the floor and inside the home floor joists. A cantilever, be it a deck or a part of the home, extends the floor joists on a 2/3 to 1/3 ratio as the support of the extended portion. All too often an inspection fix for "new wax seal" for the toilet does not address the areas damaged by water while the wax seal was failing. Subfloor, joists, behind baseboards, drywall...all potential mold issues causing further continued rot and mold contamination.

These issues are like a cancer. You have to address the area completely, or new issues will surface long after the buyer has a potential claim against the seller, especially if the seller MERELY does what the buyer asks for.

Instead of simply adding "new wax seal", the pipe was extended to its proper height by a plumber before the new wax seal was put on. Here's the hard part. We still didn't know if it was the toilet or the siding that failed. There is no way to know without testing it and there is no way to put the wax seal on without putting the toilet back and there is no way to put the toilet back without adjusting the flange to the hardwood floor level, so the hardwood floor has to go back.  The buyer is asking for their inspector to come back and look at the fix with everything open (don't put anything back into place). But there is no way to fix the problem and test it to see if it IS the problem (water stops leaking and starts drying out) without putting things back into place so you can flush the toilet repeatedly and see if any water is still leaking.

Sometimes an inspection phase will fail because the buyer is asking for the wrong thing, or something that is not possible or practical or even sensible. In the meantime the seller HAS to fix it correctly for several reasons. One, if the buyer does not close, the seller has to be assured the problem is fixed for the next buyer. Two, if the problem is fixed incorrectly, the buyer could have a problem a few years later and not know it, as the water travels in places that are not easily seen when the problem is easily fixed at the onset of water leaking.

There is no problem this big and complex without frustration from everyone, including both inspectors, both agents, the buyer and the seller. My job became managing everyone's emotional positions at each turn, while moving forward with the long process of finding and fixing this problem.  You have to keep things "open" so they dry out before you close them. NOW, how the heck do we get the buyer's appraiser through so the loan process and escrow can proceed, with big holes all over the place including above your head when standing at the front door.

Truth is, while all of this was a royal pain in the butt for a long time...I loved it.  I loved that we moved forward in a positive way that would really fix the problem, and not just "keep everyone happy". In fact, in most cases the process of fixing it right made no one happy, because it prolonged the inspection timeframe, it prolonged the loan timeframe, it required an extension of the close date as we had to delay the appraiser coming out until the fix was complete...but it was done well and done right. At one point we had to decide between fixing it right and maybe losing the buyer in the process, and just making the buyer and the buyer's agent happy. We chose fixing it right, and I am so proud of my seller client for making that choice. It then became my job to keep the communication level going, so that we both fixed it right and did not lose the buyer and escrow.  Mountains of extra work to do it well.

The seller thanked me at the end for my perseverance, as there were many times when the buyer wanted to just walk. There were many times when the seller wanted to tell the buyer to just walk. But my job is to be the glue that holds everything together, and get the job done well without losing the participants on all sides.

I'll take a minute to thank the nuns who pretty much raised me for 12 years. In my brain they branded this saying which never shakes loose: "Anything worth doing, is worth doing WELL." 

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May. 8, 2006 - Small, after-sale, fixes


While it has not been my experience, escrow companies have indicated that more and more sales are "falling apart" due to home inspection disputes.


One of the reasons I do not see this in my sales, is that I do not negotiate small fixes.  Putting the contract in jeopardy over something the buyer would not walk from the house over, is not the best way to proceed.  At the time of the home inspection I make four columns on a piece of paper and note which items we will ask the seller to address and which items we "could" ask the seller to address, but instead I will hire a handyman to fix, after closing as the buyer's closing gift.


Sometimes, even when you win you also lose when approaching the seller to repair trivial items.  Often the seller has never met the buyer in person, and so suggesting that the buyer is willing to cancel the sale over something trivial that would cost less than $100 to repair, sends a bad message.  Often the seller will form an opinion of the buyer and think the buyer is not serious about the home purchase when he is asked to turn a screw or readjust a dryer vent hose.


While the buyer may not have meant to suggest he would cancel over such trivial matters, often that is how the seller percieves the request.  Some people say "it doesn't hurt to ask", but it does.  Maybe not at inspection time, but what if you need an extra week at the end because your loan isn't processed yet?  If the seller is already ticked off over the home inspection negotiations, he is less likely to give you that week extension you need at the last minute to consumate the sale. So asking for trivial items at home inspection time can do more harm than good and cause you to win the battle but lose the war!


As the buyer's agent I need to pay close attention to anything that can create disharmony between the buyer and the seller.  At the inspection I keep a running list of items, and if the cost to repair does not exceed $500-$1,000, we go from STI to Pending and I hire a handyman OR I offer the buyer a credit from my commission to cover the cost of the minor repairs.  It depends on the buyer which way I choose to go with the remedy.  If the fix is cosmetic in nature and the buyer is difficult to please, I prefer to give them money than to have someone fix it.  If the fix is a safety issue or a problem that can create more problems if not fixed right away, like a hot water tank ready to blow or a pipe joint ready to pop, I ask the seller to fix it or to let me fix it before closing.  If it is a couple of lose roof shingles that need to be nailed in place or a dryer vent hose pulling away from the wall, I send the handyman.


If I am representing the seller, I generally do the fixes before closing.  If I am representing the buyer, then often I have to wait until after closing, unless I can get the seller's permission to enter the home with the handyman prior to closing.  Only the "owner" can provide entry and permission to change out pipes, etc.  So sometimes I have to wait until my buyer client "owns" the property to complete the fix.


Don't let nit picky repair items start an emotional exchange between the buyer and the seller.  Just because something needs to be addressed according to the inspector, doesn't mean it contractually needs to be addressed by the seller prior to closing.


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Feb. 16, 2006 - Home Inspection Negotiation and Timeframes

Over the years, I have often been asked to explain how the timeframes of a home inspection work, and how a buyer should act and react within that timeframe. I have also been asked how one MAKES the seller DO that which appears "reasonable" to the buyer


There are many, many different types of Inspection Contingencies, I will be making some general assumptions based on the type of contingency most commonly used around the country.  This is the one where the buyer has the right to cancel the agreement if they are not "satisfied". There are other types used.


Many people are under the erroneous impression that the seller is somehow obligated to "fix" stuff, or renegotiate the price, after the home inspection.  That is not the case.  If the seller doesn't do what you want him to do, usually you can walk away and not buy the house and get your Earnest Money back,  IF you respond within the appropriate timeframes.  You cannot MAKE the seller do what you want the seller to do.  That is the "art" of negotiation; not a "right" of the homebuyer to MAKE happen, contrary to some claims by home inspectors and agents. 


You also can not wait until the day before closing, under the guise of  "waiting" for the seller to act "appropriately", and then cancel on the last day.  If you cancel outside of the legal timeframe allowed for cancelling, you will likely lose your Earnest Money and possibly end up being sued by the seller as well, unless the contract protects you against the seller suing you for damages.




Buyer has a contract to purchase a home.  Execution date of contract is 1/1 and they have until 1/11 (ten days) to "deliver the inspection report to the seller", per the home inspection addendum of this buyer's contract. YMMV


WARNING:  If you deliver the contract on day 4...you do not have another 6 days under the first timeframe.  Phase two begins when Phase one ends...so you just cut your timeframe by delivering it early. 


I would venture to say that this is the most often, misinterpreted area of the inspection contingency.  Almost every Inspection Contingency says;


1.  Buyer has x days to deliver report (let's say 10)

2.  Seller has x days to respond to buyer's request (let's say 3)

3.  Buyer has x days to respond to seller's response (let's say 3)


If you deliver the report and your requests of the seller on day 4 of Phase 1.,  then the seller has 3 days from that day to respond.  The original 10 day period is moot, finit, caput, over!


Now, let's say in Phase 1. on day 4, the buyer askes the seller to address 10 items.  The seller delivers their response to the buyer within the 3 days allowed.  The seller says "I will fix item 3 and item 8 before closing".


Ball is now in buyer's court.  No, the seller does not HAVE to fix all 10 items you asked him to address.  Yes, the seller DID address all 10 in his response.  He said yes to two of them, and he said no to the other 8 by omitting them from his response.  No mention IS an answer...the answer is "no, I will not fix those". 


Now what do you do??  You want the house, but you want the seller to address more than two of the items.  You only have 3 days to act on this under Phase 3. regardless of how many days have transpired since the agreement was signed. Sometimes buyers want to add the days as 10+3+3 and think they have 16 days to be done with this.  Not the case!  Each timeframe stands alone and expires the minute someone acts within it...and you move to the next phase.


Now, you are in Phase 3 and you are not happy.  What do you do?


You have to be very, very specific about what exactly it is you want the seller to DO, and you have to be willing to walk if they do not give you that.  You can't just hand a laundry list of "stuff" over to the seller and leave it up to him to be a mind reader to figure out exactly what you really want.  Do you want $1,500 off the price?  Do you want him to fix #6 or you won't buy the house.  You tried the laundry list in Phase 1. and didnt' like the answer.  Now be very, very specific before your timeframe runs out in Phase 3. 


The buyer is the one for whom time is "of the essence", not the seller.  Most inspection contingencies require the buyer to proceed, regardless of what the seller does or doesn't do, unless the buyer cancels, in writing, within the timeframes allowed.  The seller can just go to Bermuda for two weeks and hope you let these timeframes pass...then you lose your Earnest Money at the very least, even if you walk.


Sadly, the seller usually doesn't have to do a thing.  But if you are both reasonable and very specific in your request as in "I will buy the house "as is" if the price is reduced from $514,000 to $512,000, then you will most likely be successful...even if it takes all three rounds to get there. 


The only way to be absolutely sure that you will "win" is to be "willing to walk" if you don't get what you want.  You can't bluff on that.  If you really, really want the house...don't cancel that contract to win a battle and lose the war, unless you really liked that game of "chicken" when you were a kid.  I was not a big fan of that game, myself. 


Remember, you are buying your future home, you are not playing a game of win/lose or win/win  Don't forget the real objective.  Buying a place you would like to call "home".




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ARDELL DellaLoggia of Sound Realty on Seattle Real Estate process and market including Kirkland, Bellevue, Redmond, Green Lake and most areas around the top of Lake Washington North of Downtown Seattle. Phone: 206-910-1000 - Mailto:ARDELLd@gmail.com

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