Are you buying or selling a house? Has your real estate professional recommended a “home inspection”? Do you know why you need a home inspection? Do you know what a home inspector is going to do for you as a buyer? As a seller?
Real estate transactions almost always involve an inspection component – an in-depth investigation of a real property asset to determine how (or if) the sale will proceed based on negative issues found in/on/about the property. Inspectors are paid professionals, usually engaged by the buyer, to find out what is wrong with a real property asset.
Why does this matter? In most cases, a buyer will make her home purchase contingent on the outcome of an inspection, giving herself a way out of the purchase contract in the event that defects, safety issues, or other concerns are discovered.
In some cases, sellers hire an inspector, usually to fill in gaps in the voluntary property disclosure. This is especially relevant in real property sales out of an estate and other transactions where the seller is unable to disclose defects.
What Does a Home Inspector Inspect?
Everything, really. The inspector will not comment on décor or interior design or dirty laundry, but almost every other aspect of a home is subject to the inspector’s attention. Inspectors evaluate the integrity of the foundation, walls, and roof of the subject property. An inspector will assess the condition and operation of the plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems as well as determining whether systems meet current safety code standards. Home inspectors also test appliances, look for signs of mold, mildew, and water damage, and they note the condition of finishes (is the carpet wrinkled, floor buckled, sidewalk has heaving or cracks) that might pose safety concerns. Home inspectors look for obvious as well as latent (unseen) concerns that could pose safety issues or require expensive repairs in the future for the buyer.
How Do You Prepare Your Home for Inspection?
Prior to the home inspector’s arrival, there are a few things you can do to improve the outcome of the inspection, thereby strengthening the likelihood of a completed sale.
- Remove insects. A face full of wasps is unpleasant. If you know you have insect nests or issues, call a pest specialist prior to the home inspection. (Same goes for rodents, squirrels, raccoons, and other species that can damage your home.)
- Clean your home. Your home is probably already clean and orderly if it has recently been available for sale. Maintain that level of cleanliness until the home inspector arrives. Dirt and dust aren’t defects that merit inclusion on an inspection report, although their presence does suggest the possibility of ignored maintenance.
- Clear the perimeter surrounding home. An inspector hasn’t done their job until he has fully assessed a home’s perimeter. Trim plants, move garbage cans, and relocate any other items that may needlessly complicate examination of the home’s exterior (trim, siding, and windows). Home inspectors are not overly concerned with landscaping but they will note if trees or shrubs are dead/dying, growing too closely to the home, are causing settling or heaving issues, or are causing damage to roofs or sewer/septic lines. Be prepared for these issues to appear on the inspection report if they aren’t taken care of before the inspection.
- Replace burned out light bulbs. A burned-out light bulb may not seem like a big deal; but when a home inspector encounters one, he must consider that a wiring issue might be to blame. Additionally, he’s not able to observe the rest of the environment in which he is working.
- Fix running toilets. A running toilet isn’t an enormous problem, either, but there’s no reason not to fix the problem prior to the inspection. Aside from making a positive impression on the inspector, you are being a friend to the environment by not wasting water.
- Replace the furnace filter. If the home inspector notices a dirty filter in your furnace, they will rightly wonder whether you have neglected any other parts of your home’s HVAC system. Anyone can change an air filter in a matter of seconds, and they aren’t expensive relative to the cost of a repairing a damage to your HVAC system from excessive wear/tear caused by poor maintenance.
- Clear paths to important areas. Prior to your home’s inspection make, ensure that the inspector has clear access to every part of your home – especially maintenance centers like fuse panels and breaker boxes, HVAC systems, water shut offs (under sinks as well as the main), attics, crawl spaces, and sewer accesses.
- Clear the roof. Gutters and roof-line junctions should be clean and free of debris. If you know you have loose or damaged shingles, be proactive and get a roofer out to repair those. Why leave yourself open for future issues in the event your home doesn’t sell? Why advertise to the inspector that you haven’t addressed something as important as your roof?
- Ignite all pilot lights. Your gas appliances all have pilot lights. Make certain they are all turned on prior to the inspector’s arrival, as that will demonstrate their functionality. This applies to any indoor fireplaces you may keep deactivated during the summer as well as outdoor grills and firepits.
- Check the fuse box. Is your fuse box locked? Make sure the inspector can open the panel door. Your fuse box’s labels should be accurate and legible. Make sure there aren’t insects, birds, or other animals living in the box. An inspector friend once found an electrocuted snake inside a fuse box! That was not a good day for him.
- Check your doors. Your interior and exterior doors should close and latch securely; exterior doors should have fully functional locks. Likewise, your cabinets’ doors should sit flush with their frames and open and close correctly. Overhead garage doors should roll smoothly on their tracks and be flush to the floor when closed. Do any of your doors need new weather stripping? Are knobs secure or wobbly? Do hinges operate smoothly and quietly?
- Address sources and signs of water damage. Hire a plumber to repair any plumbing issues (inside and outside). If you know of possible water damage, engage a professional to determine if you need further remediation (mold or mildew). After the problem has been resolved, make the necessary cosmetic repairs. Floors, walls, and ceilings should not show any signs of mold, staining, sagging, or warping.
- Address any odors. Pretty self-explanatory but highly overlooked. The first thing people notice when entering a home is the way the home smells. Smelly pet stains, litter boxes, smoke, dirty trash cans, and rotten food smells give everyone notice of your housekeeping skills. On the other hand, perfume, scented candles, and room deodorizers may give the impression that you are trying to conceal something.
- Prepare for the inspector’s arrival. Prior to the inspector’s arrival at your home, unlock any gates, special access points, and electrical boxes. Making the process more convenient for the inspector never hurts! Make sure your pets are out of the home (or at least secured in a kennel) – accidentally letting a beloved pet out is everyone’s worst fear when dealing with real estate. And finally,
- Get out. Let the home inspector, the buyer’s agent, and buyers have the run of your home. It’s no fun hearing someone critique something you love, but that is the purpose of the inspection – do yourself a favor: leave. Leave in plenty of time to avoid running into the inspector, other agent, and buyers.
Home inspections are a serious undertaking – commensurate with the seriousness of buying a home. If you are buying a house, your real estate agent should recommend a home inspection of any prospective purchase.
Contact the team at Colorado Premier Realty & Auction Services can help you with your next home sale or purchase!