Baby, It’s Cold Inside! Who pays for home repairs after a sale?

2014 blizzardLast week, we were held captive in our home for three days by record breaking low temperatures and a ridiculous snow storm. My biggest worry was about how our submersible pump would hold up in our deep well outside. Granted, it should do fine, but we’ve never dealt with weather this cold before, so I just wasn’t sure. Well, the well pump held up fine, but our furnace did not.
Before panicking, I made sure to change the batteries in the thermostat and clear the snow from around the outside vent. When that proved unsuccessful in making the furnace reboot, I started making calls.  All three furnace people asked me if the outside vent was clear of snow. I said yes. The third furnace guy finally said he could be at my house that afternoon. Thank goodness!


furnace intake pluggedThe furnace guy showed up, checked over my furnace, cleaned the burner, ran the pressure tests, and did whatever furnace people do to get those things to run. After determining everything was fine, he went outside to check my vent. It was clearly exhausting the air out freely- you could see the steam in the air. But what I didn’t know was that the back of the cone like tip was the intake valve and that was clogged with snow! UGH!

My little furnace fiasco reminded me of what happened a couple weeks ago to one of our Buyers. In September, they purchased a newer-built home. They had a home inspection as well as a FHA appraisal. Everything passed with flying colors. During a home inspection, the property is looked at very carefully. Mechanics are tested, plumbing is checked, windows are opened and closed, the electrical system is tested, the roof is evaluated, the structure is scrutinized, insulation is checked… you get the point. The same thing happens with an FHA appraisal, but on a smaller scale. So with both instances, the furnace was checked and deemed functional. Fast forward a few months, and one day the Buyers wake up in a chilly house. After calling a furnace repairman, it is determined a major component needs to be replaced.

home repairs after sale

Who pays for home repairs after a sale?

The Buyers called their real estate agent that sold them the house and demanded that the Sellers pay for this repair. Their reasoning is that the Seller should have maintained the furnace better. Well, unfortunately for the Buyers, the Sellers are not responsible for this repair. At the time of the purchase, the furnace was functioning. There was no indication from any parties involved in the transaction that a problem was looming. This is just one of many things you need to be prepared for as a home owner.  One way to protect yourself is to purchase a home warranty.  A home warranty may have covered this repair with a minimal deductible.

large old homeWhen could a seller be liable for home repairs after a sale?

Well, here’s another example that occurred earlier this year. A beautifully renovated historical home was purchased this summer. The home had two furnaces and central air. The Buyers had the home inspected, and again, it passed with flying colors. Shortly after moving in, the Buyers realized that the second level of the house was warmer than the lower level. This makes sense since most two stories are like that, but it was abnormally warmer for a house with central air. Well, turns out the central air didn’t connect to the upstairs. It was only on the furnace that controlled the downstairs living area. The Buyers were upset that this information wasn’t disclosed to them by the Seller, and that the home inspector didn’t catch it. Well, the home inspector isn’t normally going to go around to every vent in a 3000 sq ft house and make sure cold air is coming out. The determination is usually that the air conditioning works, which it did. And the Seller didn’t purposely hide the information. It is one of those quirks with your house that you get used to and isn’t written on the disclosure statement because honestly, you just don’t think about it, not because you are trying to be deceitful. Should it have been disclosed? Yes. Did the Seller do it intentionally? No. But after phone calls were made, and lawyers were contacted, it was agreed that the Seller would pay the Buyer for the cost of having air conditioning installed upstairs.

home repairs after sale repair man

What is the difference in these two situations?

Why is one Seller deemed responsible for a repair and one Seller isn’t?  It all comes down to whether or not something was known by the Seller and (unintentionally or intentionally) not disclosed. Can a Seller possibly know that the furnace will stop working in the dead of winter four months after the sale? No. Does a Seller know that the upstairs is warmer because the central air isn’t available for that floor? Yes. Both situations were resolved, and the Buyers are happy once again with their respective purchases.

As for my little furnace mishap, I learned that when you get a ridiculous amount of snow, make sure the whole vent outside is clear. It was a nice little $75 reminder that I need to learn more about how my home functions. There is a lot of stuff that makes my house run smoothly and efficiently, and most of the time, it does an awesome job of managing those functions. But every now and then, it asks for an assist. Oh well, at least my furnace got serviced.