Preparing for a home inspection is something a home seller should consider early on in the home selling process.
A home inspection is quite common in most real estate transactions. It is typically requested by the buyer in a separate addendum as part of their offer to purchase your home. The buyer typically pays for the inspection which is performed by a professional licensed home inspector.
When a seller receives an offer on their home, they will often see a home inspection contingency as part of the contract. This contingency is an addendum with specific language outlining the terms of the home inspection. It will have an inspection period, timeframes for completion of the inspection, negotiation terms and a “way out” of the contract for the buyer if the home inspection shows major issues or the buyer and seller can’t agree on items that may need to be fixed. It will have very specific language outlining the terms of the inspection and what happens in various scenarios. For specific details, you should ask your agent to explain what it means to you with regards to your home and contract. I’m not an expert on contracts in all states and can only speak about Virginia or West Virginia contracts.
In a Real Estate transaction, the home inspection is one of the first and biggest hurdles a home seller will face during the process of selling their home. The inspection is typically done within the first couple of weeks after the contract has been accepted by both the buyer and seller. It makes sense that you will want your home to be in the best possible condition before the home inspection occurs.
In my experience, the home inspection is one of the most critical points in moving a sale forward early in the home sale process.
So… how do you prepare for a home inspection to ensure that all goes smoothly? An overlooked but possibly obvious step is to make sure your home is in tip top shape and showing condition before the home inspection takes place.
While an inspector is not looking at the cleanliness of your home, it does make sense to have your home “show ready” for an inspection as it will help to demonstrate that your home has been well cared for. It will also help to give the impression that you have kept up with maintenance of the home.
Every seller should keep in mind that even though the initial offer/contract held negotiation points, that the home inspection may also have negotiation points that are a consideration in the sale. Sometimes, the inspection negotiations can be a deal breaker.
While the home inspection is taking place the inspector will look for items that may need to be fixed, safety issues, structural issues, material defects, etc. These items will be reviewed by the buyer who may ask for defects to be fixed prior to closing or ask for a credit to fix them after closing. If the defects found are items that the buyer feels are too much for them to move forward, there is a possibility that they may not move forward with their offer.
So, how do you prepare for the inspection? One suggestion would be to make it easy for the inspector to get to things that need to be looked at. Make sure the path to the furnace or hot water heater is accessible. Make sure that the basement and attic or crawl space can be easily reached.
I have been at inspections before where it is very difficult to get to the utilities or the electrical panel. No one wants to move or potentially damage your things because they need to get to something that has stuff in front of it. But those things may be critical to the inspection so please make sure access is easy for the inspector to reach.
A pre-sale inspection is sometimes helpful to spot items that may come up. It is an added expense that many sellers do not want to incur though, but it could save you some heartache down the road. Many buyers get spooked if there are a lot of items to fix or major items that need work. Resolving them before the inspection and even before the house is on the market would be recommended to prevent any potential deal breakers.
If you don’t feel the pre-inspection is necessary, try to be aware of common issues that may be a concern during the inspection.
What Will a Home Inspector Check?
You should expect the home inspector to go over your home with a fine tooth comb. Inspectors will typically arrive to the home inspection early and start outside before making their way inside the house. They will check everything thoroughly.
The home inspector will look for these things on the outside of your home:
- They will look for cracks or visual damage in the foundation, driveway, or walkways
- They will check for proper grading of the soil away from the house to ensure water penetration is not easily accessible to the house
- Window sills, wood trim around doors or around the house will be checked for wood rot or damage. Actually any wood will be checked for its health
- Windows will be checked for exterior damage
- Any decks or porches will be inspected for safety, structural damage, wood rot, etc.
- Exterior wiring will be looked at for safety and outlets will be checked to see they are working
- Looking at the roof and chimney to see if there are signs of damage or problems
- Depending on your property, there are probably other things they will look at on the exterior of the home, but this gives you an idea
As they move inside the home, here are few things they will look at:
- Signs of water penetration into the home
- Will check for structural defects
- All systems such as the heater, HVAC, hot water heater, any water treatment systems will be checked
- All appliances including the refrigerator, dishwasher, disposal, stove, oven, washer and dryer, etc.. will be checked that they are working
- Outlets are tested
- Flooring defects will be looked for
- They will enter and inspect the attic for moisture, proper insulation and signs of water penetration or structural defects
- Windows will be checked to see if they are functioning, if the seals are good or if there are any defects
- Bathrooms will be checked for water issues, damage, etc.
- Electrical panel and outlets are reviewed for safey concerns.
Common Defects Found During Home Inspections
Knowing some of the most common defects found during a home inspection is one of the best ways to prepare for the home inspection.
Sometimes living in a home for many years causes us to not notice defects that may pop up during the inspection. We may get used to the way something is working and not realize its actually an issue a potential buyer may want resolved so it may not even cross our minds that it would even come up.
With this knowledge, you will have the opportunity to make corrections or resolve issues before your home goes on the market. These tips can go a long way to help ensure that the inspection and entire real estate transaction goes smoothly.
Ceiling/Wall Stains and/or Cracks – Buyers are very concerned about possible water intrusion into a home. Nobody wants to deal with that or the potential of mold from a water issue.
Over the years, I have seen many homes with stains on the ceiling or at the bottom of the walls from water issues they previously had. It always lends a question in the buyer’s mind as to what happened and wanting to know if it is still occuring.
The stain may be from something simple like an overflowing tub or a toilet leak, however, the buyer may not know that.
If you have an old issue that was fixed, it would be beneficial to you to repaint the walls. The point is not to cover up an existing issue, but if its an old documentable issue that was fixed, it makes sense to paint the walls.
Electrical Violations – As a buyer’s agent, I feel electrical issues should almost always be addressed as their could be a potential safety issue. I’ve seen it many times where a homeowner or an unlicensed contractor has made improvements which are not safe or not up to code. If you have done your own wiring in the past, it may benefit you during the pre-inspection phase to make sure everything is up to snuff and safe.
Moisture inside the windows or fogging of the windows often indicates a broken seal or some other bigger issue. This could be a concern because of potential water intrusion and it can be unsightly. If you notice any of your windows with issues, it would be a good idea to have a window contractor come out and assess/fix or replace the windows.
Rotted Exterior Wood – sometime so obvious is often an item a buyer will want repaired. Rotten wood is often found on window sills or around door ways. Fixing this will not only help the appearance, but also help prevent water intrusion.
Plumbing Defects – Most plumbing defects are minor. Things like a leaky faucet, slow drains, loose toilets, etc are typically easy fixes. Check under your sinks and to see how your drains are functioning.
Chimney Defects – the most common chimney defects include improper flashing, cracks or re-pointing. These are often found at the top of the chimney or near the roof line.
Radon Remediation – Radon is a gas found under the ground which can enter the home through the foundation. It can cause health issues for the occupants of the home. A radon inspection is done by leaving a box in the home for 48 hours which captures the radon levels of the home. The EPA guidelines that radon levels above 4.0 pCi/L should be remediated.
A radon remediation system is not very expensive in the grand scheme of things – typically in our area it is roughly $1000-1500 if there are no issues with installation. Every buyer is going to ask for this to be remediated so its something I tell my sellers to expect if radon levels are high.
If you are able to financially fix the common defects before you put your home on the market, that will go a long way to ensure you will have a good inspection report. If money is tight and you know of issues, you may want to talk to you Real Estate agent about disclosing any known defects. These things will hopefully give you some peace of mind during the inspection process.
Prepare for the Home Inspector to Arrive
On home inspection day, you should be prepared for the home to be inspected earlier than you anticipate. Often the inspectors will show up a half hour early to start the inspection outside.
You should be prepared to leave the house during the inspection and either safely secure your pets or remove them. Dogs especially should be confined in a crate if they have to stay home or preferably should not be in the house.
Quick Tips Prior to the Home Inspection
- Make sure the power and water is on in the house
- Make sure all light bulbs work or change them if they are not before the inspection
- Try not to have closets over stuffed
- Make sure the basement walls aren’t blocked so the inspector can check for cracks or water
- Make sure the attic is easily accessible.
- Change your furnace filters
- Ensure your smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors are working
- If you have a water treatment system, make sure there is salt in it if needed
- Ensure there are no leaky toilets or faucets
Do not try to conceal defects as the inspector will find them anyway. Trying to cover up problems is a red flag. You definitely don’t want the question to come up as to whether or not you are honest.
Hopefully, by now, you have an idea of what to expect and can grasp how important preparing for the home inspection is.
Resource for Home Inspections
Check out https://www.homeinspector.org/ for important information and to find a licensed inspector
About the author: The above information on How to Prepare for a Home Inspection was provided by Sonja Adams, a top producing agent in Virginia and West Virginia. Sonja can be reached at SonjaAdams@kw.com or 703-963-7407. Sonja has helped many people move in/out and within Virginia and West Virginia for over 15 years.
For specific information or questions regarding the contingency, feel free to reach out to Sonja Adams at 703-963-7407. I’d be happy to review it with you in detail.