Home Buying in 02141>Question Details

Hiki, Home Buyer in Cambridge, MA

The seller couldn't provide me the warranty for roof and other renovations

Asked by Hiki, Cambridge, MA Mon Jan 14, 2008

I am going to buy a home. The seller said she updated electrical, plumbing, heating, baths and kitchen in 2007, and replaced all windows, roof and siding in 2006. However, she refuses to provide me the contract of the renovation nor any manufacture warranties. She said the home is as-is.

When I price the home, I valued her renovation with top dollars. Now she couldn't provide official proof nor manufacture warranties. Should I still buy the home?

I can tell the interior renovation is quite new. But I couldn't tell the roof. I don't know whether the inspector can help me to determine that. The home is built in 1886.


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Hiki - I am sorry it didn't work out for you but glad you were thorough in checking it out - yes, it cost you an inspection but it seems like the money was well spent given what turned up and imagine how you would have felt if you had purchased and then learned about the less than professional workmanship. If it is any consolation, this home wasn't meant to be yours and the next one will probably be a better fit - good luck in your search. Thanks for coming back and letting us know how it turned out.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 24, 2008
Hiki - my experience is that roof and window warranties are sometimes transferable to the next owner and sometimes they terminate when the home transfers to a new owner. If you agreed to purchase the home because you thought you would be getting warranties for these items, then what you are potentially purchasing is now different if the Seller cannot provide transferable warranties. I think you need to determine what value you would give to those items and if you are still interested in the home without those warranties, give the Seller the option of price X with warranties, or price X-Y without those warranties.

Roof and window warranties will typically last for several years so if you are going to take Joe's suggestion, then you need to get the Seller to pay for multiple years - in my area the roof and the boiler probably would be covered by a home warranty (depends on the particular plan) but the windows probably are not covered.

One other point about roof and window warranties - you may have to register with the manufacturer in order to make the transferred warranty aplicable for you - sometimes you need to do that within a short period of time after purchasing the home. So if transferable warranties are provided, please review the documentation to see what you need to do in order to make them valid for you.

As several have mentioned, I also think it is reasonable to ask for copies of the permits prior to spending money on the inspection - if no permits were obtained, you will need to determine whether you want to go forward as that will become a potential issue when you go to sell the home. If permits cannot be provided, the Seller may or may not be willing to do what it takes to get the work permitted after the fact but if the Seller does agreet o get the work permitted, then I would make it a requirement prior to closing (and you may or may not have the time to wit for the work to get done).

How attractive is this home relative to the alternatives? If there is another attractive option, or if you have time, you may want to pursue something else - I like John's quote of "So it ends as it began" - that really may be wise words here - good luck in the negotiations.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 14, 2008
It's so nice to be told when you're right :-D (say it again?)
I'm sorry it's at the expense of your potential home, but I glad you found out it was a lemon before it was your heating bills that were through the roof....

Here's my shocked face to hear an attorney was the seller ----> :-\
This is not to say anything about attorneys other than if you want to goose step around the law, you have to know it first... I have no doubt that everything that was done was perfectly within the confines of the law... and I will bet that as far as attorneys go, the seller is pretty darn good at their job.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 28, 2008
Hiki - you may want to track down the window manufacturer (you can typically tell from a tag on or in the window) also - sometimes the window warranty can be transferred follwoing the same procedure - it may cost a fee but if it provides a warranty for some period of time, that may be helpful. I have only visited Boston (never lived there) but due to the change in temperature and the high humidity, the window warranty may provide some period of time where the window manufacturer will replace/reseal the windows if you get condensation in between the panes (I am assuming the windows are at least double paned). You could also check with the company that installed the boiler (if you can find out who did it) to see if they will provide a warranty to you given how new it is.

It sounds like you are on your way - I hope your inspection goes well!
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 16, 2008
Hiki - Jon and I can disagree - that is the beauty of this forum - you get to hear various sides of an issue and then you can decide how you want to proceed - if I was buying, I would want to know what has been permitted - why? Because I have seen Buyers become less interested in a property if the work did not have the permits pulled; some peole feel that if the permits were not completed, the work may not have been done in accordance to the standards required of the city/county.

That assumption may or may not be correct on a house by house basis - the work may have been done by a professional and in accordance with the codes but because of the fees charged by the town/county, no permit was obtained. I would agree with Jon that the type of market when you go to sell will have an influence on whether it is an issue or not. Sounds like you made some headway with the seller - keep us posted.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 15, 2008
You don’t NEED a copy of the permit. What I suspect they’ve done is not illegal (it would be if they were selling it as a “total gut renovation” or “new construction” but it doesn’t sound like they are). But it does seem like they might have taken some shortcuts. Unless they’ve done something that is illegal (like building the exterior porch over the property setback line) it shouldn’t pose a problem to you down the road.

More than likely this should be a fine property (especially for Cambridge, Cambridge used to have rent control and some properties got dilapidated because of it), but if there’s something that a home inspector wouldn’t be able to tell about, cause he/she can’t see it, theres a chance the owner didn’t do it. I use the example of insulation, which they might not have redone (but they didn’t have to either if they’re not selling it as a “total gut renovation”). For the insulation example, there’s nothing dangerous to you because of it, but your heating bulls might be a little higher because of it.

With all due respect, the seller probably is a little annoyed, however a reasonable person should understand your anxieties if they know you’re a first time home buyer. Has that been told to the seller?

I read on a little bit to understand that the property is no longer on the market after your offer. This is a good thing, it means you don’t have anyone else competing for the same property. Her comment that she wants to wait for the summer is a valid point, however she should have said Spring Market (not summer). Properties typically sell for more in the spring, because there are more buyers.


Every news story that comes on the news about a bad economy, and a bad housing market, is not falling upon deaf ears to the seller. As much as they put forth their tough negotiating front, they are nervous about the market. They don’t know what’s going to happen in the near future. They are fishing for buyers and it looks like you’re the only one they’ve caught, they don’t want you to get away. AND your pretty much the listing agents last hope, she has no guarantees that the seller is going to relist with her come summertime. Most likely the agent wants the property sold no matter what here, and you and your agent need to feed her reasons that the seller should sell to you right now.

If your buyers agent says things like

- My buyer is Ready willing and able, and those buyers are getting harder and harder to find with mortgage companies tightening up their underwriting.
- With the economy possibly slipping into recession do you really think that you’ll be able to sell this house for more than my offer in the short term?
- Is the seller confident enough that the offer she’ll get in the summer will be high enough to make up for the additional overhead it’s going to cost to wait until then?

The sellers agent will use the same points when talking to the seller. And while those points may make you nervous to hear too, you should be planning on owning for at least 3 years (hopefully more), I don’t suspect that you’ll have the same issues when you’re ready to sell.

Also keep in mind it’s only because this is a slow market that they’re even still listening to you, if you brought up these concerns in 2000 they would have laughed at you, and you would have never heard from them again…
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 15, 2008
Hiki - I would visit the town/county and talk to the building department - ask them what building permits have been pulled for the home - they should be able to provide copies for a fee - if you don't see a permit for each item that was done, ask if a permit should have been pulled (roof, electrical, windows, boiler etc). If a permit has not been obtained for an item that it should have been, then you need to decide how important it is to have the permit - in any case you will know BEFORE you have purchased what the facts are - potentially at some point, you will be a Seller of this home and you will need to disclose.

The warranties will vary by company so in order to answer your question, you probably need to know what company provided the roofing material - you then may be able to go on-line and see what the warranty is and what you need to do if you were to buy the home. If she can find the contractor, maybe the contractor has better records - if you move forward with this home, I would be sure to get an inspection done immediately as you may need to get one or more specialists in to more closely examine an item or two that the inspector is concerned about. A beautiful, unique home in a great location or at a great price would be worthy of all of this work - I hope that is what you are getting!
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 15, 2008
The home warranty company that my office uses are renewable annually. I've provided a link for more info.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 15, 2008
I am in the process of buying a house right now too. My realtor and, as far as I can tell, the seller's realtor are working to keep bringing us back to the table in a spirit of cooperation and good faith, working toward a positive outcome for both parties.

From your story, I'm less concerned about the fact that she can't put her hands on the warranty - that doesn't strike me as a big deal or unreasonable. I'm not sure I can find the paperwork for what I've had done to my house. What bothers me is what I perceive as her abrupt, take-it-or-leave-it, annoyed attitude (which I might be imagining and, if so, I apologize).

If my seller (or her agent) were using language that felt antagonistic or combative rather than cooperative - even as we negotiate - I, personally, would not move forward. I am not so invested in this house that I would participate in a protracted, potentially unpleasant process with someone who was rude or uncooperative.

However, if this is The House for you, obviously, you're in a much more difficult position!
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 14, 2008
Another way to approach this would be to negotiate a home warranty into the deal. It sounds as if any info that you may get on the renovations will be minimal at best. If you decide to press on with this deal ask your Buyer's agent about negotiating a Home Warranty Plan, paid by the Seller, into the deal. The coverages vary but you may be able to find one that will cover the items in the property that concern you. If the Seller refuses the home warranty you always have the option of purchasing the plan for yourself. The last one I bought for a client was around $500.

1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 14, 2008
[ Actually we had something similar in the offer. But the seller crossed it out when she signed. I will ask my agent whether there is any difference to add the contingency you suggested. ]

The seller can't 'unilaterally' cross out a paragraph without YOU agreeing, and still consider herself under contract. That wouldn't be any different than you crossing our the seller's price, and making it $100,000 less, and then signing it. I don't think they'd accept that, do you?
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 14, 2008
Alan May, Real Estate Pro in Evanston, IL
"the seller doesn't have to sell"

ICK --- then why is it on the darn market? The seller prefers to own a vacant place?

The other agent should be reminded that successfull negotiation tactics DON'T involve moving interested parties further away from the table.... I'm sure this one's been on the market for more than a few days here...
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 14, 2008

I've developed in Cambridge before (Cambridge is rough), and I've been on the other side of this, and I think there's a confusion in terminology. I don't think you mean that you want to see the contract. (you are right on the warranty though)

Their contract is none of your business. What they paid to get the work done is none of your business. What IS your business is that they did the work right, and that the work is backed up.

What you should be asking for here is copies of permits, and warranties.
If they're selling a newly renovated home "as-is" my eyebrow would be raised too...

It doesn't really mean that there's anything wrong with the house, but if they're not calling it a "gut-renovation" I would be suprised if ALL the appropriate permits were pulled...
Again, this doesn't necessarily mean they did a bad job, but they might have cut a few corners a home inspector won't know about.

Ask them what the R factor of the insulation is ;-) see how they respond

From the sounds of it, I would value it as a nice looking place, but I wouldn't value the renovation with top dollar.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 14, 2008
Thanks for John and Nadia's advice.

I feel the same thing too. During the negotiation, the listing has been saying "the seller doesn't have to sell the house" and didn't give much room to negotiate. I don't have to buy that house either. I just don't want to walk away if it is just some mis-communication between the two parties.

So if the seller really wants to break the deal, she has the stepstone as not providing the manufacture information. I will walk away without spending time and money on inspection.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 14, 2008

There's a big difference between "we can't get a hold of the contractor yet, but once we do, we'll provide that information" and "the seller is not going to provide the contracts she had with her contractors".

If all they're saying is that they haven't been able to reach the contractor, but when they do, we'll provide that information, in the meantime do your inspection, and if anything comes up we'll repair it. I think I'd be okay with that... you can write something into your contract that states "contingent upon the seller providing the following warranties and receipts".
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 14, 2008
Alan May, Real Estate Pro in Evanston, IL
Hi Hiki:

A wiser man that I once commented "So it ends as it began". I repeat that to myself every so often. If there are problems dealing with the other party at the beginning of a transaction, most likely you'll encounter them later on.

Best of Luck To You!
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 14, 2008
Wow, that's scary. Even if she did do the renovations, she's sure coming off as uncooperative. Is this The House for you?
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 14, 2008
Hi Hiki,
In Massachusetts you have a 10 day inspection period after the acceptance of an offer to purchase. If your inspection turns up something that changes your mind about buying the house you can either negotiate repairs with the seller or use the findings to cancel the sale and recoup your earest money deposit. In order to take advantage of the manufacturers warrenty on the materials used in the rehab you would have to now the manufacturer of the products. It sounds as if your are not being represented by a buyers agent and it is probably to late to get one. I would strongly suggest getting an attorney to review the deal.

1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 14, 2008
I would go back to the listing agent and ask if the seller is willing to loose the sale over not providing at least a receipt for materials. If they cheaped out on the materials used for the renovation it may look great today but in 2 years the work and materials could begin breaking down. The home inspector can't see behind paint and walls just whats on the surface .

It sounds to me that they made a number of cosmetic improvements and don't want to share how little in actual material renovatios were made.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 14, 2008
Hi Hiki:

I would believe that your state's real estate laws require the Seller to provide a "Seller Property Disclosure Statement" of some sort - even if the home is being sold "as-is" (unless the home is being sold by an executor, administrator, the courts, a bank, etc.) - on the electrical, plumbing, heating, baths and kitchen , windows, roof, siding - the current condition, when they where updated, etc. If the Seller tells you that she replaced the roof, in addition to knowing its age/condition, you also need to know if the existing roofing material was removed or not, and, of the roof ever leaked during her ownership.

An home inspector would certainly tell the roof's age and condition, but I would believe you would want answers to these questions - before you shell out the $ for the cost of a home inspection?

I would also be concerned if she pulled permits when this renovation work was done. Ask about that too. Did a licensed electrician do the electrical work. How about the plumbing? This is serious stuff!
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 14, 2008
The home inspector will be able to give you an idea of how old the roof was. I would be a little curious as to the seller can't or won't at least show you receipts/invoices for the materials used in the renovation.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 14, 2008
Easy ansewers There should be a record @ the town hal of the permits used with the renovation. If you make a offer stateing it must include all the documents you asked for
Web Reference: http://www.SOLDNEW.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 7, 2008
Thanks Jon and Jim.

I am really really lucky on having the advise from here! Without all the suggestions, I wouldn't be confident to walk away. As a first time buyer, I never know what requests are reasonable and what are too much.

Just last week, nearly all homes in that area except that house dropped their prices $15K-$35K. I would be so stupid to pay my offer price to that house. I don't know how its listing agent feels. But definitely he has no plan to bring me back -- I never got the check he claimed to send back, and he couldn't give me any tracking number either.

My BIGGEST lesson to share with other first time buyers:
(1) NEVER deal with UNcooperative agents/sellers.
(2) NEVER trust any promises unless they are in writing.
Otherwise, "So it ends as it began" (--John).
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 29, 2008
End of the story -- as predicted by the experts in this thread:

The inspection reviewed that the renovation is unprofessional and contractor took a lot of shortcuts. Some places even don't meet the building code. The inspector couldn't understand how it could pass the city permit inspection...

The seller only agreed to make a couple repairs and refused to lower the price to cover other repairs. When I decided to withdraw my offer, she and the listing agent tried to hold my deposit. They used their brokerage principal to threaten us.

Fortunately, we have nothing to be scared. Our offer stated clearly about the inspection contingency. In our repair request, we also clearly stated that we will withdraw offer if the seller doesn't repair all the requested items. Finally the listing agent had to agree to return my check.

Even in the end, they still tried to play some nasty act -- when I sent them my deposit, they asked me to send overnight and gave them the tracking number. Now they stopped to my agent's emails. I don't know whether they really sent the check so I have to make stop-payment to protect myself.

The house is a good one. But the crappy renovation turned it into a slum. The lies and fake promises from seller/listing agent turned the buying experience a waste of time, money and emotion...

Now the house is back on market again -- although the listing agent told me the seller would move in right away if I don't act quickly to buy.

I hope another buyer won't be trapped by those lies again. The seller is an registered attorney. However, I could tell she tried to make every advantage of me through the whole process.

Final thoughts:

Though it says a buyer's market, I found buyers are actually in a vulnerable position -- subject to the risk of down market, very few properties to choose, the flaws of the properties, the lies of the seller/agent, the waste of time and money (on inspection, etc).

For seller, there is nothing to lose except leaving the lockbox and the MLS listing there. My seller even got a free inspection paid by me.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 24, 2008
Thanks Jon and Jim's suggestions. Actually I don't see too much disagreement between you two when I compare to what I can get from the seller. :P

Besides all the downsides, I have proceeded to schedule a home inspection. (In between I have tried to walk away and resume the talk with another home B. However, B's agent didn't response until 24 hours later. I was very disappointed So I went back to the first home and signed the offer before I got B's response.)

Here is my recent progress:

* Roof: the seller finally figures out the material of the roof. But still doesn't know the manufacture. The listing agent told us the name of the contractor (for us to contact).

He is licensed but not with any company. I googled but couldn't find his contact. The listing agent is getting back to seller for the contact. I am still waiting.

Usually each round trip communication takes 1+ day. I don't know why it always takes so much time to get any information. The seller must be too busy or too lazy.

* Roof warranty: I checked a couple manufactures but I found the warranty will be invalid if there is change of ownership. Some allows transfer at the charge of $200.

I asked the listing agent whether the seller can take the efforts to transfer the warranty, I will pay the charges. Still I haven't heard back from the seller.

* Permits: since the seller doesn't have ideas of warranties, I don't put any hope on the permits. It would be beyond her knowledge (The listing agent said the contractor did everything for the seller).

I have checked the government documents and there are a lot permits associated with renovation. I will have the inspection this weekend. I plan to ask the inspector what permits should be obtained and what I need to get from the seller in this case.

During this process, I am really surprised that the seller has so little knowledge and recode maintenance about the home. People spend a lot of time in managing paperwork. Aren't the records for the home among the most important to keep?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 16, 2008
Hi Jim,

Thanks a lot for the detailed suggestion.

After a lot more communication today, I got better understanding of the seller's situation. She did the exterior renovation 2 years ago so she has lost contact with the contractor. The contractor did everything for her so she doesn't know the manufacture information. Maybe herself doesn't care the detailed work or lost those documents, so she is unhappy with my request in the offer.

To make the things simpler, I have dropped my request down to just the warrant or manufacture info of the roof. She agreed to find that out from the contractor. For windows and boiler, she said we could find out manufacturer's names from the actual items. Are the manufacturer's names good enough? Or do I still need the actual warranty to get protected?

For permits, the only permit mentioned in the disclosure is the one for electrical update. Any other permits that I should ask about?

If the seller couldn't give me the permit for the electrical update. Will I be OK with just the seller disclosure?

I could have walked away. But the listing agent said that the seller does want to sell. The expired list will be back on market if our deal couldn't get through. So I will wait some more time for the seller to get the contractor information.

Now I still have other options as backup. To some extent, listing agents or sellers are not very proactive, either. Is it seasonal? Maybe the slow market makes everyone tired. :(
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 15, 2008
Hi Joe,

Thanks for suggestion on home warranty.

I check some home warranty plans but I found the roof coverage is not renewable after the first year of home sale. Is the plan you bought for your client better than that? Any way to get coverage after the first year?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 14, 2008
OK, here is the response from the listing agent to my agent:

"In response to your last e-mail; should your buyer want to go forward with this transaction please advise.

At this point she either accepts the signed offer as is; schedules the home inspection and the addresses any concerns at that time or have her attorney include in the purchase and sales / should it go that far.

As I said in our phone conversation the property is not being mis-represented"

Is it time for me to walk away?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 14, 2008

Yes, she did crossed it out. My agent told me that is considered as a counter offer. So I have the choice to accept, reject or counter it again.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 14, 2008
The home was on the market for 3 months. Its list expired just one day after I decided to offer. (what a coincidence).

The home is vacant but the seller didn't relist it. The listing agent said the seller may keep it till the summer to get better price.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 14, 2008
HI Jon,

Thanks for your answer. I have no interest in details the contract. Because the seller said she couldn't reach the contractor to get the warranties nor the manufacture information. So I suggested her to show me the contract then at least I can confirm what were done and what materials were used.

About the insulation, the seller said it wasn't done by her so she has no idea about it. (She inherited the house and did the renovations on window, roof, siding, boiler, plumbing and the interior items.

The seller didn't give much negotiation room and claimed her renovation was costly. So I gave the home the best price I could offer and requested the warranties. Now the turning point has come to the warranties.

0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 14, 2008
Thanks ELV!S!

Actually we had something similar in the offer. But the seller crossed it out when she signed. I will ask my agent whether there is any difference to add the contingency you suggested.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 14, 2008
Hi Joe

I have a buyer agent. She has been helping me to communicate with the listing agent. She forwarded the listing agent's email to me.

Now seller said she couldn't provide those documents because everything was done by a contractor and she couldn't reach the contractor so far. She said she would do the repairs if anything comes up from inspection.

But I don't want to take the risk of repairing roof, window and boiler without the warranty.

Now my agent will ask for the manufacture information or the contractor's name again. If the seller still refuses, I won't accept the offer (She countered my offer by removing my request of warranty in the offer).
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 14, 2008
Hi John,

The home wasn't listed as "as-in" sale. The listing agent kept saying that he would get those documents for me from the seller during the negotiation stage. Now it comes to the final signing of the offer and the seller just refuses to provide any warranty or receipt.

Yes, the sell did sign the "Seller Property Disclosure Statement". The seller never lived in the property (I think she inherited it from her father. )

In that statement, only the heating and the electrical were stated as "updated 2007". The permit was obtained for electrical update. Plumbing and roof were just "no problem" without actual age.

I am going to have an inspection if I buy it. Now I am at the turning point whether I should proceed.

0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 14, 2008
Thanks Andrew.

I don't know why either. Here is the reply from the listing agent:

"the seller is not going to provide the contracts she had with her contractors, It is evident that the property has been renovated and not lived in since the renovations. ... regarding the other renovations again it is evident that they have been done and again with respect...the home inspection would point out any defects."

Is the seller just being lazy? Or there could be some hidden problem?

My another concern is when it comes to time for repairs. I heard that roof and windows usually come with manufacture warranties. Will the repairs cost more without manufacture warranties?

0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 14, 2008
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