Home inspections have a reputation for being “deal killers”. It’s estimated that one out of every 20 real estate transactions hit a fatal snag along the way, and nearly a third of the ones that don’t make it to closing fall apart because of issues that turned up during the inspection, according to data from the National Association of Realtors.
Real estate has always been an appreciating asset, a property’s physical structure naturally deteriorates over time and requires significant upkeep on a regular basis. Although some problems will be apparent, like a ruptured plumbing pipe or deep cracks in the foundation, not all the wear and tear on a home’s systems are visible to the naked eye.
That’s why when the time comes to sell your house, the inspection could yield surprises even if you’ve kept to a routine home maintenance schedule. It’s a nerve-wracking position to be in as a homeowner, so experts in the field were asked for their top home inspection tips to help sellers prepare mentally and logistically for this step on the road to closing.
Tip #1: Trust your real estate agent to help you navigate home inspection preparations and negotiations.
After you’ve accepted an offer on your home, it’s usually the buyer who schedules the home inspection.
Then your real estate agent should help you:
- Understand the types of home maintenance issues that are common in your area, whether it’s signs of water leakage in a region where every home has a basement, improper electrical wiring in a neighborhood of historic homes, or pest issues in warm climates.
- Craft a game plan for any repair requests. Think about whether you have time to hire contractors, or do you have time to fix issues yourself. Perhaps you offer repair credits in the event problems do arise.
- Take the pulse of your real estate market to determine how much leverage you have as the homeowner depending on if you’re in a buyer’s market or seller’s market, and how eager prospective buyers will be to snatch up your house.
- Differentiate between minor and major home inspection findings and what constitutes grounds for negotiations (cosmetic repairs versus issues that pose a health or safety threat).
Tip #2: Allow the inspector the necessary time to do their job thoroughly.
Rushing the home inspector isn’t going to do you any favors. You should expect that the process will take a minimum of 2 to 4 hours depending on the size of your home. The inspection may last longer if your home is particularly old or has additional features to inspect such as a pool, shed, attic, or crawl space.
The buyer and the buyer’s agent may want to be at the house during the inspection, but in most cases it’s best if the seller is not present. Have your agent communicate with the buyer’s agent about scheduling. Perhaps you can arrange for the appointment to be while you’re at work or can get everyone (including the kids and pets) out of the house for a few hours. If you want to be present for the inspection, talk to your agent about the pros and cons. Be aware that being there may make the buyer uncomfortable.
Tip #3: Leave the house in fully operational condition for the inspection.
Make sure that all utilities—gas, water, and electricity—are on, and provide the remote controls for any associated equipment such as lights or ceiling fans. This is particularly important when you’re selling a vacant home or if you’ve already moved out of the property. The inspector will want to make sure that all appliances function properly and the utilities must be on for this to happen! All this will make it much easier for the inspector to do their job as quickly and thoroughly as possible.
Tip #4: Declutter to give the inspector clear access to where they need to be.
Home inspectors need to examine your house and they need to be able to have access to all areas. It is estimated that limited access to key spaces happens fairly often- as frequently as one out of every five inspections. Sometimes that means the inspector can’t access basement walls when they are blocked by stored items and stacked boxes; other times clutter prevents inspectors from accessing the home’s foundation.
Whatever the situation, the fact is that if things are stacked and packed in areas that keep inspectors from doing their jobs, that may not reflect well in their home inspection report.
Tip #5: Get familiar with the types of things home inspectors look for—and mentally prepare for a laundry list of issues.
Home inspection reports, which document the home inspector’s findings, may sometimes be long and detailed. The things that you should be prepared to remedy or negotiate on are the big ticket items that pose a safety or health issue or constitute a building code violation. Such as:
- Signs of water damage
- Issues that threaten the home’s structural integrity
- Damage to the roof
- Problems with the home’s electrical system such as faulty wiring
- Plumbing issues whether it be corroded or leaking pipes
- HVAC age and functionality
Tip #6: Weigh the pros and cons of a pre-inspection.
A pre-inspection is a home inspection arranged for by the seller before listing the house for sale. The pre-inspection allows the seller to fix issues that would come up in the buyer’s inspection at closing, putting them in a position of strength during negotiations. If you can solve a lot of the inspection negotiation up front, it just solves a whole lot of time and headaches.
However, there are also drawbacks that come along with a pre-inspection. First, they can open up a Pandora’s Box of problems and potentially cause you to spend money on things buyers would have let go. Keep in mind that if you do get a pre-inspection, you are legally required to disclose these results to your buyer’s agent.
Lack of standardization is also an issue here—one inspector may find things that another inspector might not, and the remedies offered are also not standard. There’s no way to tell if your pre-inspection will uncover the same things as an inspection performed later.
If you do decide on a pre-inspection, make sure you leave a copy out during open houses so that buyers can see you’ve done your due diligence in finding issues. Also, only do a pre-inspection if you’re willing to fix what an inspector finds, you don’t want to uncover issues only to place them in a buyer’s lap.
Tip #7: Don’t try to conceal known issues.
Seller resistance can be an issue when it comes to finding and fixing potential problems prior to a home inspection. There are many homeowners that maintain their property very well and believe everything looks perfect and then there are things that come up after the inspection they don’t want to acknowledge.
It’s better to face the facts and deal with known issues before they are uncovered by a professional home inspector. This is especially important in a balanced or buyer’s market. Instead of jumping at the first opportunity to purchase a property, it is not unusual for buyers to pay for multiple inspections at different homes because seller refuses to negotiate, and the buyers move on.
Proper maintenance on a home before it even goes on the market is one of the best ways to prevent snags that may come up at inspection time. Primary amongst routine maintenance is changing the furnace filter, cleaning gutters, and making sure that the downspouts that come from the gutters extend away from the home.
Maintenance of a home is important, and unfortunately, a home does not have a check-engine light. It has to be checked and conscientious things have to be done.