A Seller’s Guide to Navigating the Home InspectionOctober 29, 2019
Passing the inspection advances you to the next level: closing the deal on your house.
Written by: COURTNEY CRAIG
Getting beyond the home inspection is sort of like advancing to the next level in a video game.
When you get past this step, you get to advance to a fresh, exciting place — your new home, to be exact.
In Every Inspection, There Are Stakes for Buyers and Sellers
Once the buyer has made, and you’ve accepted, the offer, your home will get the once-over from the buyer’s home inspector. The inspection is usually a contingency of the offer, meaning the buyer can back out based on serious problems discovered. The lender also expects an inspection to make sure it’s making a good investment. Makes sense, right?
During the home inspection, an inspector will examine the property for flaws. Based on the inspector’s report the buyer will then give you a list of repair requests.
Your agent will work with you to negotiate those requests. Don’t want to be responsible for a repair? (Maybe it’s best if the buyer has the fix made by their own contractor anyway.) Your agent may be able to negotiate a price credit with the buyer instead.
By the way, inspections aren’t necessarily a big, scary deal. Your agent will help advise you about repairs you need to make before the inspection. In fact, she may have made those recommendations to you even before you put the home on the market. And if you’ve been maintaining your home all along (and you have, right?), your punch list may be minimal.
In addition, back when you put the home on the market, you were required to disclose to buyers the home’s “material defects” — anything you know about the home that can either have a significant impact on the market value of the property or impair the safety of the house for occupants. Material defects tend to be big underlying problems, like foundation cracks, roof leaks, basement flooding, or termite infestation.
What a Home Inspection Covers Depends on the Home
Every home is different, so which items are checked during your property’s inspection may vary. But home inspectors typically look at the following areas during a basic inspection:
- Plumbing systems
- Electrical systems
- Kitchen appliances
- Heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment
- Doors and windows
- Attic insulation
- Foundation and basement
- Exterior (e.g., siding, paint, outdoor light fixtures)
Depending on the sales contract, the purchase may also be contingent on a roof inspection, radon inspection, or termite inspection.
What a home inspection won’t cover is the unseen. Your inspector isn’t going to rip open walls or mountaineer on the roof. (Though that would be kind of exciting to watch.)
So What Do You Need to Fix?
A home inspection report is by no means a to-do list of things that you must address. Many home repairs, including cosmetic issues and normal wear and tear, are negotiable.
There are, however, three occasionally overlapping types of repairs that sellers are typically required to deal with after a home inspection:
- Structural defects. This is any physical damage to the load-bearing elements of a home; these issues include a crack in the foundation, roof framing damage, and decaying floor boards.
- Safety issues.Homes for sale have to meet certain safety standards. Depending on where you live, safety issues that you, the seller, may have to address could include mold problems, wildlife infestation, or exposed electrical wiring.
- Building code violations.Building code violations — such as the absence of smoke detectors, use of non-flame retardant roofing material, and use of lead paint after 1978 — must be addressed by the seller.
Again, addressing these might take the form of a credit on the pirce, which in the case of structural issues could be sizeable.
Use This Checklist to Prepare for a Home Inspection
So, are you ready for the inspection? If you take these steps (with your agent’s assistance) you will be:
Does the Inspector Have a View?
Make sure to rake up leaves and brush from the home’s foundation so the inspector can get a good view of the grounds, grading, and exterior.
- Assemble your paperwork.Transparency is key. Ideally, you’ll have summaries or invoices of renovations, maintenance, and repairs you’ve done on your home that you can provide to the home buyer. Create a file that collects this documentation and share it with the buyer.
- Make sure your home is squeaky clean.Your home should be pristine when the inspector arrives — a good first impression will set a positive tone. Take time to declutter and deep clean the whole house. A deep clean (stuff like cleaning the range hood and upholstery and sanitizing garbage cans), averages between $200 and $400, according to Angie’s List, depending on the size and condition of your home.
- Remove any obstacles that may block the inspector’s access. Take measures to ensure the inspector has complete access to all facets of the property, including electrical panels, attic space, and fireplaces. This may require temporarily moving clothing and other items that impede access.
- Leave the utilities on.For the home inspector to test items such as the stove, dishwasher, furnace, and air conditioning system, the utilities must be connected regardless of whether the house is vacant; otherwise, the inspector may need to reschedule, which can potentially push back closing.
- Fix minor problems ahead of time.Many cosmetic issues — say, a broken light fixture or a scratch on the wall — are minor and easy to fix, but they can make buyers more concerned about how well you’ve maintained other areas of the home. It’s best to take care of small problems yourself before the buyer’s inspection.