Is a home seller on the line for fulfilling inspector recommendations? They just might be if they really want the sale to go through.

Q: My agent is insisting that I hire a licensed, bonded contractor to pump water from my crawl space. The inspector “recommends” this.

I didn’t have a license bonded contractor do the work. The buyers added an addendum to the inspection that stated they want the water removed and the crawl space dried so they can have the space inspected after. My agent is now saying I have to install a sump pump and fix whatever is causing this issue to happen.

I live in Washington state where we have had torrential rain for several weeks. Nowhere in the contract or in the inspection report are the words sump pump used. Every time, the agent says the buyers are “expecting” me to do something. I’ve never seen that communicated except by word of mouth from my agent. I read it as recommended not required am I wrong? Thank you in advance.

A: Let’s start with the obvious: No one can make you do anything you don’t want to do. But, you and the buyers entered into a contract. The buyer has the right to inspect and make requests.

You don’t have to honor those requests if you don’t want to. If, however, you decline to undertake the buyer’s requests, the buyer has the right to walk from the deal.

We’re assuming the buyer had a professional home inspector go through your home and the inspection came up with some issues relating to the crawl space. And, the buyers now say they want the water removed so they can see what the crawl space looks like. It’s perfectly understandable.

If you have standing water in your crawl space, the inspector needs the crawl space to be dry to get in and see what condition the crawl space is in, whether it has cracks (and if so, how big) or mold or a pest infestation. Water impedes the inspection, so it has to be removed. The inspector is “recommending” that you remove it and the only responsible recommendation he can give is for you to use a professional to do the work.

While many people talk about a contractor being “licensed, bonded and insured,” you should hire someone that first and foremost has insurance. If something goes wrong or someone gets hurt, you want the contractor to have insurance to cover whatever issues may arise.

The next question is whether the contractor is licensed. In some places, contractors do not need to be licensed. Frequently, in the real estate business, the people who are licensed are electricians, plumbers, home inspectors, architects, excavators, surveyors, real estate agents, attorneys, title companies and agents, notaries, radon, mold and environmental remediation companies, but not painters, carpenters, drywallers, landscapers among many.

Usually when people refer to a contractor being bonded, that reference is to a bond the contractor posts to guarantee that the work will be completed. In the context of home construction, repairs and other trades, it may only mean that the contractor posted a bond relating to their license. For your purposes, you want to make sure whoever you use that needs to be licensed is licensed and that person has insurance.

The fact that you didn’t hire a licensed contractor was entirely your choice. Now that the crawl space is dried out, the original inspector could come back and take a look at what’s going on down there. But, the fact that you get a lot of water down there regularly means you have a larger issue that the buyer will take issue with, which is why your real estate agent has asked you to think about installing a sump pump.

Having standing water in a crawl space is a big red flag for buyers, The fact that your crawl space floods every time you have a torrential rainstorm is something that could kill your deal with your buyers (and future buyers, if this deal falls thru) unless it’s taken care of now. We suspect that your agent is trying to keep the deal together.

Your agent is actually on your side. But, you see her as just digging her hand into your pocket. That’s a problem for you to resolve and we hope you can do that because any good agent will see a basement or crawl space that floods as an impediment to a sale – even if you’ve had unusually harsh rain over the past few months. With climate change, crazier weather patterns means torrential storms are even more likely going forward, so buyers will insist on this issue being resolved, so they don’t wind up living in house that filled with mold, pests or worse.

At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself: How much do you really want to sell your home? If you want to sell, then you’ll find competent contractors and resolve the issues. If not, then you’re really more of a homeowner than a home seller.

Good luck.

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