How Sellers Can Prepare For A Home Inspection

Eric Stewart August 9, 2016

Home under magnifying glass

One of the most common clauses in a residential real estate contract is the home inspection contingency. If included, a home buyer has a specific amount of time (typically 7-10 days after the contract is ratified) to have a licensed professional conduct a home inspection and to either negotiate for repairs or to back out of the contract if they do not like the results of inspection. If a seller knows what to look for, they can resolve many minor items before the home inspection occurs. While some items identified during the inspection might seem like minor issues individually, collectively, they could add up to major headaches, involving both time and money. So, read on to learn how to sellers can best prepare for a home  inspection.

The purpose of a home inspection is to document the overall condition of the property at the time of inspection and to ensure that its major systems and components are working properly. Therefore, the primary thing that an inspector will need is access, including the garage, attic opening, crawl spaces, closets, basement, water heater, electrical panel and other mechanical systems. If the inspector cannot access those areas, they cannot be included in the report, which may raise questions for your buyer.

A typical home inspection can last anywhere from 2.5 – 4 hours, depending on the size of the house. During the inspection, the sellers should not be at home (as inspectors find it easier to do their work without the presence of homeowners), and pets should be removed or crated.

Below is a suggested list of items to address before a home inspection to ensure it goes as smooth as possible. The good news is that you may have already taken care of most repair issues while getting ready to put your home on the market.

Prepping the Interior

  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and replace any dead batteries
  • Check all electrical outlets to make sure they are working
  • Replace any burned out light bulbs and make sure there are light bulbs in all sockets. Any flickering light fixtures can be possible signs of a problem for an electrician to investigate
  • Fix any leaky faucets and any clogs in the sink drains
  • Check to make sure that all toilets flush properly
  • Check to ensure that all appliances are working properly. Clean out oven and stovetop so they can be tested without setting off the smoke alarm
  • Make sure that all grout and caulking in kitchen and bathrooms is in good repair
  • Fix doors that don’t close or latch properly
  • Check to make sure that windows open and close properly
  • Have remote controls available for ceiling fans, lights etc.
  • Make sure all utilities are turned on. This includes water, electricity, furnace, A/C and the water heater. You may want to also replace your air filter as they impact the efficiency of your overall HVAC system
  • If you have a gas fireplace, make sure the pilot light is on

Prepping the Exterior

  • Clean out the gutters and repair any damages
  • Check siding and trim and repair any damage as needed
  • Repair any missing caulking around doors, windows and over nail heads
  • Repair any damaged or missing roofing
  • Make sure the garage door is operating properly
  • Remove any locks on outside gates which prevent full access to the exterior
  • If you have a septic tank or well in your yard, leave a sketch with its location so the inspector can find it

A Few Other Tips

If something isn’t working properly, it’s best to not try and hide it. Buyers get suspicious when sellers deliberately try to conceal defects. They may see you as dishonest and wonder what else you are hiding.

In a previous blog about preparing for a home appraisal, we recommended putting together a home improvement list to show the value you have added to your home. For a home inspection, having up-to-date paperwork can also be useful, but in regards to maintenance and repairs. You may want to put a file together 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 you took care of the problem.

It’s also important to remember, as discussed in a past blog on selling your home “as is,” that home buyers can try to negotiate for repairs on an “as is” home if there is a home inspection contingency in the contract. Therefore, it is ideal to have the buyer waive the home inspection contingency, which some buyers may be willing to do if they plan to tear down the home or the home is in a highly desirable area. Or, allow the buyer to conduct a “general inspection” only. Under this contingency, the buyer can do an inspection (and void the contract if they are unhappy with the results), but cannot ask for repairs.

Some sellers have asked me in the past if they should do a pre-inspection prior to putting the house up for sale. I typically do not recommend doing this. Why pay hundreds of dollars (a typically home inspection can cost anywhere from $400 – $700 depending on the size of the home) to discover what needs to be fixed, and then pay to have those items fixed when the buyer is going to hire their own inspector? The buyer’s inspector may or may not find the same issues. So, you may end up paying to fix things that didn’t require fixing. Let the buyers feel like they got their money’s worth from their own inspection.

What are the Top 10 Home Inspection Issues?

To learn more about the most frequent home inspection issues, download our FREE Market Ready Guide. This invaluable resource provides strategic advice and useful tips to sell one of your largest investments, your home! And, if you want to get an idea of how much your home may be worth, contact one of the trusted professionals at the Eric Stewart Group of Long & Foster for a FREE, no-obligation home valuation. Over the last 28 years, we have helped more than 2,500 happy clients buy and sell homes!




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