When selling a house, it’s all about putting your best foot forward and making your home as attractive as possible to potential buyers. Staging and other elements can make your home look its best. But when it comes to the structural components of the house, buyers aren’t going to just take your word for it. Most real estate transactions involve a home inspection where a professional combs through your house to check for any potential issues. This can be a bit nerve-wracking, especially if you have an older home. But it’s an important part of selling a house, and one you really need to understand to get the best price for your home. To make sure the entire process goes according to plan, here’s everything you need to know to prepare for a home inspection.
When most buyers make an offer, they’ll include a stipulation that requires a home inspection be completed before closing. But you may want to consider hiring someone to conduct a pre-inspection even before the buyer’s own inspector walks through your door. There are a number of reasons for this. For one, it shows buyers you’re serious about the process and are working in good faith. That’s significant because a little honesty can go a long way when trying to sell a house. But having a pre-inspection done can also be a negotiation tactic. It gives you information you can use in the negotiation to make your case and get the best possible price for your home.
In the end, perhaps the biggest reason to have a pre-inspection completed is to ensure you know everything there is to know about your house. You don’t want to be surprised by what a buyer’s inspector may uncover because this can lead to all kinds of issues in the negotiation and ultimately affect the sale price of your home. Instead, it’s best to arm yourself with as much information as possible, and a pre-inspection is the best way to get that done.
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What Do Home Inspectors Check?
So, what does a home inspector actually look for? The short answer is, pretty much everything. Home inspectors follow professional standards of practice to ensure nothing is missed and reports are consistent across the industry. Inspectors organize their reports by category and check for things like:
- Structural Components: joists, the foundation and the floor structure
- Exterior: siding, outer doors, eaves, soffits, windows and trim
- Roofing: outer materials like shingles or tile, drainage systems and flashing materials
- Plumbing: fixtures, faucets, interior water systems, drains and water heating systems
- Electrical: cables, disconnects, grounding, conductors and overcurrent protection devices
- Heating: heating equipment, vents, flues, chimneys and heat distribution systems
- Air Conditioning: permanently installed cooling equipment and distribution systems
- Interiors: stairways, walls, ceilings, railings, countertops, garage doors and appliances
- Insulation and Ventilation: insulation in unfinished spaces, the attic, foundation, and exhaust systems for the kitchen, bathroom and laundry
- Fireplaces: working fireplaces, stoves, inserts, accessories, chimneys and vents
Preparing for a Home Inspection
Now that you know what the inspector will be looking for, it’s time to tackle your own home inspection checklist. There are a lot of things you need to do to get your home ready for an inspection, including:
- Clear space around important parts of your home (control panels, appliances, etc.) so the inspector doesn’t have to trip over old Halloween decorations to do their job
- Clean appliances and remove cobwebs, dust or other grime that may have formed around panels, valves and other elements the inspector will need to check
- Check safety equipment like fire extinguishers and make sure to replace batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
- Make sure all of your utilities are on and any pilot lights or fireplace inserts are connected
- Check light switches and replace any burned out lightbulbs
- Flush toilets and make sure sinks are draining properly
- Clean your gutters and clear your roof of any debris
- Repair any water damage and replace torn screens, broken windows or loose fixtures
- Remove laundry from your washer and dryer and make sure there are no dirty dishes in your sink
- Provide any paperwork for significant maintenance issues, repairs or past insurance claims
To truly prepare for a home inspection, you may have to make some minor home improvements to ensure everything is looking its best. You might be hesitant to put more money into a home you’re trying to sell. But it will likely pay off in the long run. The inspector would find those deficiencies anyway, and if their report indicates that lots of repairs are needed, it could hurt your negotiating position. In the long run, you’re generally better off fixing things ahead of time.
On the day of the inspection, it’s important you take steps to ensure a smooth process for you, the inspector and the buyer as they will likely be tagging along to learn more about your home. If you’ve already prepared your home using the home inspection checklist above, you’ll be in good shape. But you also want to make sure pets are secured away from the action, all of your utilities are on, doors and windows are unlocked, and there is easy access to all of the important spaces in your home. Taking even a little time to clear out some junk and bring your dog to the neighbor’s house will go a long way in making your home inspection a positive experience. If everything goes well, the inspector will be done in just a few hours and you’ll be one step closer to selling your house.
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