Inspection Essentials 101

When I first meet with a potential home seller, two of our obvious talking points revolve around the answers to these questions: What is the projected price for which my home will sell? And what projects, repairs or improvements need to be done to maximize my sale price without depleting my savings? Initially, we focus on cosmetic improvements, obvious repairs and staging. Why? Because buyers are drawn to an aesthetically pleasing property and want a home that looks good and makes them feel good.

That being said, it’s important not to forget about the second phase of “negotiation” in the process of selling a home. All too often, deals fall apart because a homeowner didn’t pay enough attention to inconspicuous repairs or they failed to prep their house for inspection.

I’m not an inspector and, as a general rule, I don’t go into crawl spaces or dig too deeply to discover less visible improvement needs.  I am very mindful of obvious signs of deferred maintenance and, if I learn that the seller hasn’t assessed the attic, crawl space, duct work, etc…for several years, I’ll recommend a pre-listing inspection.

However, getting your home ready for inspection doesn’t boil down to just repairs. Think of an inspector as someone else who must be “sold” on the house. The job of an inspector, essentially, is to put his or her stamp of approval on the sale of the home. So, just like a homeowner would paint, de-clutter and stage a home to get it ready to show to buyers, there is a list of equally important things a homeowner should do to prepare his or her home for an inspection.  If a house looks tidy and well maintained (not just on the surface, but in the attic and crawl space) then an inspector is more likely to trust the house is well kept. Here are some basic things you should take care of prior to your home inspection:

1) Make the attic accessible.  From experience, I know this is one spot where many homeowners hide the clutter I recommend they remove before showings. However, it’s important that the inspector be able to move around in the attic to inspect the ventilation, insulation, roof structure and any systems that may be located there. Make sure stored items are tidy and organized in a way that allows free movement around the space. Also, check that attic lights are working—all prepared inspectors will carry a flash light, but they will appreciate good lighting.  Finally, if there are any signs of rodents or pests, it’s best to go ahead and deal with them up front.

2) Check the crawl space.  If there is an earthen crawl space, make sure it is covered by a vapor barrier (note: every inspector is going to say it needs a vapor barrier and every buyer is going to ask for it, so just go ahead and put one down). Take the time to remove any old debris, such as paint cans, construction materials or other junk that has accumulated.  Do a quick check for moisture by simply looking or feeling the earth, ideally after a rain. If there is a sump pump, is it working properly? Do a quick check of the floor joists—are there any obvious signs of fungal growth?

3) Service the HVAC. Especially if your system is older, call an HVAC technician to service the system. Many buyers will already be a little uneasy if the HVAC system isn’t new, and that nervousness will only intensify if the system isn’t working during the inspection or if it appears to be neglected. Plus, an inspector is far more likely to be comfortable giving a system a clean bill of health if it has been cleaned, serviced and is working properly.

4) Inspect all gutters and downspouts. Ensure they are clean and flowing properly. If there are any downspouts that fail to extend five feet from the house, add those extensions (as with vapor barriers, every inspector is going to reference it, and every educated buyer is going to request it). One of the most common but correctable problems we see with sellers’ homes are clogged gutters and the subsequent lack of water diversion. If an inspector sees water in the crawl space, they will likely recommend that a “qualified waterproofing contractor” further evaluate. Automatically, what was likely an easy fix becomes a major issue that threatens the sale of your home.

One common question I get from homeowners is, “Should I get a home inspection before we list the house?” I find that homeowners fall into two different camps.

To avoid potential issues, some homeowners want to get their homes inspected and correct everything on the list prior to putting the property on the market. Now, I’m not necessarily against this strategy, but, it’s a fact that each inspector will inspect a home differently. A homeowner could repair every single item on an inspection report, only to have the buyer’s inspector find 20 to 30 additional items. I typically advise a homeowner get a pre-listing inspection if they know there are some deferred maintenance items and/or aren’t certain of the condition of the major home systems: HVAC, roof, plumbing, electrical and foundation/structure.

Other homeowners are reluctant to get an inspection because they believe they will have the burden to disclose any needed repairs. Again, if the major systems appear to be well maintained and there are no obvious signs of water or drainage problems, an inspection is probably not warranted. If a homeowner has not kept up with routine maintenance, I would rather go ahead and address those maintenance issues and be better prepared for an inspection.  

Key takeaway point: Don’t neglect to prepare your home before a home inspection. Remember, buyers will be as thrilled about granite countertops and stainless appliances as an inspector will be about a dry, tidy crawlspace with clean vapor barrier.



posted: Aug 8, 2012 | No Responses

Posted by:  Wakamo & Associates

Melissa Wakamo and her dynamic team of agents and support staff provide buyer and seller clients with exceptional service and proven results. Since the start of her real estate career in 2004, Melissa has proven to be a true advocate for her clients and has consistently performed in the top 1% of agents

“When I started my real estate career, I wanted to work in my local community and get to know my neighbors. Now, I realize how important that local expertise is to our clients. At Red Robin REALTORS®, all of our agents are specialists in working with buyers and sellers in Atlanta’s intown neighborhoods.”

Share. Let your friends weigh in on this one...