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Congratulations on finding a great agent, preparing your home for sale and attracting buyer interest. The next step is to get an idea of what you can expect during the inspection process by knowing how it’s done in advance!
Home inspections are ordered and paid for by the buyer. It could be considered as a conflict of interest if the seller were to pay for the home inspection. Buyers choose their own inspector; however, if you have a unique or specialty home, the seller can request or contractually require that a home inspector have either a certification for that type of home (historic for example) or a certain amount of hours inspecting homes like yours.
When Does a Home Inspection Occur?
The home inspection is scheduled immediately after a seller accepts an offer to purchase from the buyer. The contract will define the length of time a buyer has to conduct the inspection and inform the seller of the findings. Typically this window is 7-10 days (see “Understanding Your Offer to Purchase” in UnReal Estate blog).
Inspection Contingencies in the Offer to Purchase Contract
A home inspection contingency is an opt out for the buyer to terminate the purchase contract if the home inspection turns up more repair issues than the buyer is willing to bear. A seller has a specific number of days (laid out by the contract) to respond to the buyer’s requests. The seller can negotiate how much they are willing to repair based on the inspection findings or deduct the cost of repairs from the purchase price. If the seller refuses to budge on repairs or purchase price, the buyer has the right to walk away from the sale with their earnest money deposit.
How to Prepare for a Home Inspection
While not attempting to hide or cover a defect in the home, preparing the home for the inspection is always a good idea. To start, if your HVAC hasn’t been serviced in a while (or ever) it is a great idea to have that done. The HVAC specialist can tell you if you need to change your filters, clean dust or debris from the fan, replace coolant, etc. Check the appliances, run the garbage disposal, check for GFCI electrical outlets in areas near water, check for leaks in the toilet, run the heat and AC, open and close the garage door, condition of exterior and interior paint, working light bulbs everywhere, sump pump working properly. Knowing that each of these are in working order will let you rest easier the day of the inspection.
Ensure Access to All Areas
Make sure the inspector has access to any and all areas and systems, including the attic, HVAC, plumbing, electrical panels, and any exterior buildings on the property such as guest house, accessory dwelling unit, shed, or detached garage. Remove any boxes or contents that could get in the inspectors way. Keep remotes nearby items, including fireplaces, lighting fixtures, ceiling fans, and garage doors.
Decluttering is a very important aspect of preparing the home for sale. Take care not to block access to mechanical components with boxes from the decluttering. Storage areas, utility rooms, basements, and attics are good places to hide items for the showings, but can block an inspector from fully inspecting the home and may have to return at a later date.
Trim back shrubs that have grown too close to the house and remove decorative items such as statues, furniture, and fixtures in landscaping. This will make it easier for the inspector to position a ladder firmly on the ground while accessing the roof.
Set out any appliance warranties and maintenance receipts on the kitchen counter or dining table for the inspector to review. This can take care of a lot of issues.
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What Home Inspectors Inspect
Inspectors examine properties from the roof to the foundation. They look for significant deficiencies, safety, length of service life, and functionality. Even though it is your house, the inspection is ordered by and paid for by the buyer. You may or may not ever see the findings of t or the buyer may elect to share only a portion of the report.
Electrical: exposed wires, spliced or taped wiring, knob and tube wiring, GFCI in bath, kitchen, and laundry rooms, polarity, grounding, and panel
HVAC Malfunction: age of system, cracked ductwork, length of time to heat or cool an area, rusted units, rattling, clanking, thumping, or hissing noises
Plumbing Problems: rusted and/or broken pipes, type of pipes, leaking pipes, running toilets, leaking faucets
Roof damage: material (loose, missing, or buckled shingles, missing screws in metal roofs), cracked, rustedd, and missing flashing, gutters, boot seals
Insulation and Ventilation: type of insulation used, properly installed, moisture from roof leaks, proper ventilation for systems
Major appliances working condition: refrigerator, range, dishwasher, washer/dryer
Water damage: Organic growth on the property, wood rot, sound of leaks behind walls, evidence of flood damage, water stains
Foundation, crawlspaces, and wall structure: foundation settlement, cracks in basement walls, warping, moisture and organic matter in crawl spaces, gaps between walls and floors, or around windows and door frames.
Exterior features such as driveways, deck, surface grading
Interior features such as garages, garage doors function, stairways, basements, and windows (must have the ability to open in each bedroom)
When a home’s systems fail, they can cause costly and dangerous problems, including electrical fires, unstable foundations, and unsafe living environments. Major issues can threaten the sale going through.
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Should You Schedule a Pre-Listing Inspection
There are plenty of people that can argue both sides of the fence (for or against) this subject. Depending on where you live, a homeowner may be required by law to disclose any known defects in the property. The disclosure notes that homeowners can not reasonably know every possible issue with their home, but to be honest and forthright about what they do know.
Pros and Cons
It can give you time to fix deal breakers. Granted, a pre-inspection costs money – typically $250-$500 depending on the size and location of the house. It can enable you to address issues that could cause a buyer to pull out their offer after they have their own inspection. Big problems may include organic matter (mold), water damage, or foundation cracks and their repair or remediation can cost a seller a good chunk of change to sell their home, but you’ll know that you are selling a good home to the next people who will be living in it.
It can mean fewer surprises – and also means you must disclose. Knowing what needs to be fixed in your home in advance will enable you to be upfront with the buyers about any big pre-existing issues, which can give buyers peace of mind. The Seller’s Disclosure of Condition requires known defects to be disclosed to potential buyers. If new defects arise from a pre-listing inspection, they must be disclosed. Buyers must sign the disclosure form stating that they understand and accept the known defects and can not ask for their repair when their own inspection report shows the same findings. You can make it known to prospective buyers that consideration for those items have already been factored into the sales price.
It can speed up the negotiation process. When you know what needs to be fixed in the home, you can get an estimate for it’s repair and provide that estimate to the buyer which might eliminate some of the worry of having to fix it themselves. Having a pre-listing inspection can help reduce, or even eliminate the time consuming process of having back and forth negotiations after buyer inspection of property.
Home inspections are an essential, albeit nerve wracking, part of the home selling process. Having to wait several days to find out if your home is in good enough condition for the sale to move forward can leave you on edge.
At the end of the day, the decision to move forward with a pre-listing inspection largely depends on your personal preference, risk-tolerance, and your level of confidence in the home’s condition. An experienced REALTOR can help point you in the right direction for your experience.
I am always available to answer any questions you might have about the home selling process. Give LB a call today for an in-home appointment.