Home Inspection Preparation When Selling Real Estate


How to Prepare For a Home Inspection


How to prepare for a home inspection is a thought that more sellers should consider. Unfortunately many do not. One of the things that is quite common in the majority of all Real Estate transactions is a home inspection that is paid for by the buyer and performed by a licensed professional home inspector. When selling Real Estate a home inspection is typically done within the first couple weeks after an offer has been submitted by the buyer and accepted by the seller. The Real Estate lingo used is called a “home inspection contingency.”


This contingency is spelled out in the agreed upon Real Estate contract. The typical language in most purchase and sale agreements gives the buyer an out to terminate the contract if serious structural or mechanical defects are found during the home inspection. In some contracts there will be a specified dollar amount that gives the buyer the option of revoking the contract if issues are discovered in excess of this agreed upon figure.


In a Real Estate transaction, the home inspection is one of the biggest hurdles a home seller faces in order to have successful sale. It stands to reason that you will want to make an effort to have your home in the best possible condition before the home inspection actually takes place.  I can tell you from experience the home inspection is where most home sales fall apart.


So how do you prepare for a home inspection? It may seem pretty obvious, but making sure your home is in tip top showing condition is often overlooked before an inspection.  A home inspector is not necessarily looking at your mess but an unkempt home will give the impression of uncaring owners who possible may miss regular maintenance of items that shouldn’t be neglected.


Every home seller should keep in mind that the home inspection almost always becomes a second round of negotiations, especially when it is a buyer’s Real Estate market. The buyer may ask you to fix a long list of defects that are discovered, provide them with a credit to deal with the issues, or in a worse case just back out of the agreement all together.


So what you should do to prepare for a home inspection is to eliminate any of the known defects that are clearly visible prior to the home going on the market? Home sale preparation is one of the keys to selling Real Estate today.


One suggestion to make the home inspection go more smoothly is to make it easier for the home inspector to do his job.  Some simple things that may not enter your mind is to make sure the inspector can access the attic and the entire basement.


Often times I have been at inspections where the attic hatch is located in a closet and is blocked by clothes or other items. In a basement you will want to make sure the inspector can see all and move around near all the exterior walls. A clear path around all the mechanical items, including the furnace, water heater and electrical panel will be necessities as well. These are easy and simple tips you can do to prepare for a home inspection. Below you will find some of the best home inspection remedies before listing your home for sale. I will discuss a few more home inspection preparation items a bit later.


Common Defects Found at Home Inspections


One of the best ways to prepare for a real estate home inspection is to understand what some of the most probable home defects the home inspector is likely to find. There are some common defects that are found in many homes, that as a home owner you may not have even paid much attention to. After living in a home for many years sometimes we get used to things being a certain way.


Sometimes it would not even cross our minds that a small defect may be a bigger issues to someone else. I am going to review some of the more obvious and commonplace defects that I have seen at home inspections over the years. With this knowledge in hand at least you will have the opportunity to make some corrections before your home goes on the market. These important home inspection preparation tips can go a long way in keeping your real estate transaction moving along smoothly.


Ceiling Stains – one of the things in homes that troubles home buyers more than anything else is the fear of water. Nobody wants to have a water issue in their home. Over the years I have sold thousands of homes and the vast majority of them have had some form of a ceiling stain. In many instances the stain occurred from something innocuous like a toilet overflowing or one of the kids leaving the shower curtain open.


Buyers however may not assume it is something so simple. In other cases a ceiling stain could have been caused by an ice dam. The trick of course from the buyer’s perspective is to find out if the ice damming is going to occur over and over again from a roofing or gutter defect. In some instances it may be a rare occurrence where there was a twenty five year storm. In any event you will want to make sure the ceiling stains are removed.


Electrical violations – Electrical issues are most common in homes where Mr. Home Owner has decided to do improvements on his own and has not hired an electrician. Often times work is not done to code which creates issues. Some of the other more prevalent problems include lack of GFI outlets (Ground Fault Interrupter) if the kitchen and baths. These are outlets designed to eliminate the possibility of electrocution if water comes in contact with electricity. Double tapped electrical breakers are another example. A double tap is when a breaker in the electrical panel has more than one wire creating a hazard from too much current going through one breaker. Ungrounded outlets are another defect you commonly see along with a whole host of others.


Improper bathroom venting – years ago almost every home that had some kind of a bath fan just dumped the exhaust into the attic. Over the years it was discovered that doing this provided the perfect breeding ground for mold in attics. This makes perfect sense as you a dumping a ton of moisture into a less ventilated space. The thought of mold can easily cause a buyer not to want to proceed with purchasing a home.  Building codes have since changed and in most homes built today it is required that a bath fan vent to the exterior of a home most often through the roof. A word of advice….check your attic for mold if you have not been up there for a while. I have found that when an inspector discovers mold most of the time the owner never knew it was there.


Rotted exterior wood – Most of the time rotted wood is due to lack of maintenance i.e. waiting too long to paint your home. When uncovered wood is wet for too long it tends to rot. The most common areas include exterior trim, window trim and areas around decks. While rotted wood can occur in any home, many of the homes built in the 1980’s used “finger jointed” wood work which was an inferior product.


Minor plumbing defects – It is very rare not to find some kind of minor plumbing defect. The good news on this one is that they are usually very easy to fix. Some of the more common defects include dripping faucets, loose toilets, and slow or leaky drains. Some of the other nuisance issues that are brought to light by home inspectors are leaky valves on boilers and water heaters. Most of the time these are not big issues but routine maintenance that needs to be done by either a plumber or heating contractor.


Failed window seals – A failed window seal is something you see quite often in homes. The way you know a window seal has failed is when you see a window fogging. This means the thermal seal between two panes of glass has leakage. Most homes today are built with thermal pane windows (two panes). You see more homes that were built in the 80’s that have this condition.


Chimney defects – the most common defects in chimney’s are cracks and re-pointing or mortar. More often than not these are found at the very top of the chimney and have occurred over time due to the elements. Bigger issues occur when larger cracks around found from the base of the chimney moving upward. This could indicate more of an unsafe structural issue.


Mold & Radon Remediation – Mold and radon are two of the biggest deal killers in real estate. Prior to a home inspection you should check to make sure you have neither of these issues. Preferably you should check before your home even goes on the market. Mold is something that you cannot be sure of unless it is tested by someone in the mold industry. You can however, fairly easily identify what could possibly be mold. Most of the time in homes it will be a black substance that is on the walls or ceilings. The most common places to find mold are attics, basements and baths.


Radon is a gas found under the ground that enters the home through cracks in your concrete or dirt floor. It is a known carcinogen and something that most buyers are very cognoscente of. While there are no federal laws in place regarding radon removal, most buyer’s will request you to re-mediate it if it is found to be higher than the suggest passing limit which is 4.0 pCi/L (picocurie per liter (pCi/L)). Removing radon in the air is fairly easy to do. When it becomes a much bigger expense is having to remove radon from water.


Disclosure or Fixing Items Prior to Sale


Obviously if you have the money to repair the common home inspection defects mentioned above, it would make sense take it upon yourself to make sure you do! If money is tight, however, I am going to make a suggestion that I do for all of my Real Estate clients.


You should fill out a Real Estate disclosure form and have it available for a buyer to see prior to them making an offer. In this disclosure you are going to want to list in detail all the defects you know about your home. In many states filling out a seller’s disclosure form is mandatory anyways. In Arizona it is not very common.  None the less, it is far more difficult for a buyer to try to renegotiate after a home inspection if the defect has already been pointed out to them in black and white prior to them making an offer.


For a seller that may not be sure how to identify potential home inspection issues one suggestion would be to get an independent home sale inspection before going on the market and fixing what is identified by the home inspector. This will at least give you some piece of mind that most everything that could potentially could be raised as an issue will already have been discovered and possibly remedied. Preparing for a home inspection is a common sense activity that every seller should consider!


Prepare For the Home Inspector


One of things that you should be aware of as a home seller is that most home inspectors will arrive at your home in advance of the scheduled home inspection time. Typically the inspector will arrive anywhere from a half hour to forty five minutes ahead of time. A home inspector will do this so they have the opportunity to walk around your home making observations about the property in advance of the buyer arriving. This will give the home inspector a leg up on looking professional once the buyer gets there and starts asking questions.


It is a common practice in real estate for the seller not to be around while the home inspection is taking place. There are however things you can do to make the home inspector’s job a lot easier before you leave your home.  Here are a few quick tips to prepare for a home inspection.


  • Make sure all light bulbs are working by changing them prior to the inspection. The inspector will want to be able to view all areas of your home. In addition he or she won’t need additional time to see if the receptacle is not working or if it is just a blown light bulb.

  • Thin out your closets of clothes so the inspector can see inside them.

  • Remove items away from basement walls so they can be inspected for cracks and water penetration areas.

  • If there is a scuttle for access to the attic in a closet make sure it is accessible.

  • Change the filters to your furnace and leave any service tags so the inspector can see them.

  • If your home is vacant make sure the power is on and there is fuel so that the systems can be inspected.


Above all else do not try to conceal any defects you know are present in the home. The home inspector is going to find the issue anyway but your trying to conceal things will throw up a major red flag. The last thing you want is to have a buyer think you are dishonest. Al this will do is leave a bad taste in the buyer’s mouth and put you behind the eight ball when the home inspection negotiation process begins.

Hopefully by now you have realized that how prepare for a home inspection is a vital part of a real estate transaction and one of the keys to keeping your sale on track!


Other Helpful Home Inspection Resources:


Use these additional helpful resources on preparing for a home inspection to increase the chances of getting past this important milestone in a real estate transaction.