Home Inspection for Sellers: What You Need to Know
You’ve prepared your house for sale, hired a listing agent and the marketing plan has succeeded so well that you have an offer on your home. All good news so far, but you still have a couple of challenges to face, including a home inspection. Selling your home can make you feel like you’re living in a fishbowl, with potential buyers and real estate agents evaluating, judging and otherwise picking apart the place you’ve called home for years. Just before the actual sale comes the most intense scrutiny of all: the home inspection.
A pre-sale home inspection is pretty much a given in home sales today, and on occasion it can actually make or break the transaction. A home inspection ensures that the buyer knows exactly what they’re buying, and if the seller hasn’t done the preparation that enables full disclosure and prevents surprises, it can be a nerve-wracking experience.
If you’re new to the home sale process study this article to prepare for and survive the presale inspection. You’ll earn valuable peace of mind and possibly a profitable sale price as well.
How a home inspection works
Nearly all of today’s home purchase contracts include a home inspection contingency clause, which is a provision allowing the buyer to hire a professional home inspector to thoroughly evaluate of the house and determine if there are any issues with its structure or systems. Once a purchase contract has been signed, the buyer can book a professional inspector of their choosing, whom they may or may not accompany during the two- to three-hour inspection. Once the home inspection is complete, the inspector creates a report for the home buyer detailing all that was found. This report will note problems requiring immediate attention and conditions that could lead to more serious issues over time.
Consider a Pre-Inspection
Depending on the age and condition of your home, you may want to schedule an inspection before you put your home on the market. If your home is relatively new and you’re not aware of any problems, you can probably skip this step; but if you have any concerns about your property, it could be worthwhile to spend $400 or so to hire your own inspector. Once the inspection is done, you’ll have the peace of mind that comes with knowing about potential problems and having the opportunity to address them on your own time, rather than under pressure from a buyer who wants work completed before the settlement date.
You can and should disclose to buyers any problems your home inspector finds and what you’ve done about them – whether you’ve made a repair, replaced an appliance or planned to offer a credit for the buyers so they can fix it their way.
Prepare for the Inspection
Regardless of whether you’ve had an inspection, your buyers are likely to hire their own home inspector. You can be helpful to that inspector in several ways, which is likely to make the inspector feel a little more favorable towards you and your home. That’s not to say that the inspector would overlook a serious problem, but perhaps he would lighten up a bit on some minor issues. Try these methods of buttering up an inspector:
- Remove clutter: You’ve probably started packing a bit, but it will help the inspector more if you empty the spaces beneath your bathroom and kitchen sinks and move any belongings that block access to your water heater or other appliances.
- Get your paperwork together: You should create a file with documentation of all maintenance and repairs you’ve done on your home, including annual or semi-annual furnace inspections, receipts for roof or chimney repairs and other inspections. If you’ve had an insurance claim on your house, keep those papers together, too, so you can prove that you took care of the problem.
- Provide complete access to your home: Make sure you unlock gates and doors to a shed or garage that don’t have lockbox access. Move anything that’s blocking entrances to the attic, basement or storage spaces.
- Leave home: Inspectors find it easier to do their work without the presence of the homeowners and, even more important, without your pets and children around.
- Clean your house: It won’t make a bit of difference if you have a leak, but a clean home gives the impression that you take care of your property and so the inspector shouldn’t expect to find as many problems.
- Leave the lights on: Make sure your light bulbs work, especially in storage spaces or areas you don’t often use.
What a Home Inspection Should Cover
Structure: A home’s skeleton impacts how the property stands up to weather, gravity, and the earth. Structural components, including the foundation and the framing, should be inspected.
Exterior: The inspector should look at sidewalks, driveways, steps, windows, and doors. A home’s siding, trim, and surface drainage also are part of an exterior inspection.
- Doors and windows
- Siding (brick, stone, stucco, vinyl, wood, etc.)
- Attached porches, decks, and balconies
Roofing: A well-maintained roof protects you from rain, snow, and other forces of nature. Take note of the roof’s age, conditions of flashing, roof draining systems (pooling water), buckled shingles, loose gutters and downspouts, skylight, and chimneys.
Plumbing: Thoroughly examine the water supply and drainage systems, water heating equipment, and fuel storage systems. Drainage pumps and sump pumps also fall under this category. Poor water pressure, banging pipes, rust spots, or corrosion can indicate problems.
Electrical: Safe electrical wiring is essential. Look for the condition of service entrance wires, service panels, breakers and fuses, and disconnects. Also take note of the number of outlets in each room.
Heating: The home’s heating system, vent system, flues, and chimneys should be inspected. Look for age of water heater, whether the size is adequate for the house, speed of recovery, and energy rating.
Air Conditioning: Your inspector should describe your home cooling system, its energy source, and inspect the central and through-wall cooling equipment. Consider the age and energy rating of the system.
Interiors: An inspection of the inside of the home can reveal plumbing leaks, insect damage, rot, construction defects, and other issues. An inspector should take a close look at:
- Walls, ceilings and floors
- Steps, stairways, and railings
- Countertops and cabinets
- Garage doors and garage door systems
Ventilation/insulation: To prevent energy loss, check for adequate insulation and ventilation in the attic and in unfinished areas such as crawlspaces. Also look for proper, secured insulation in walls. Insulation should be appropriate for the climate. Excess moisture in the home can lead to mold and water damage.
Fireplaces: They’re charming, but they could be dangerous if not properly installed. Inspectors should examine the system, including the vent and flue, and describe solid fuel burning appliances.