Preparing for a home inspection, either as a seller or a buyer, may feel overwhelming. After all, a home inspection is intended to verify that the home you’re selling or buying doesn’t have any health, safety, or mechanical issues.
However, the information you gain from a home inspection can empower you as you prepare to move. This may be why, according to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), more than 90% of home sales involve a home inspection.
Your real estate contract will outline the exact timing for your home inspection, but you can expect the process to be completed within two weeks of signing. A home inspector will not open up walls and they aren’t interested in your furnishings, but they will test and assess things like your stove, toilets, furnace, and faucets, among other things.
“We look for things that are significantly deficient, unsafe, near the end of the service life, or not functioning properly,” says Tim Buell, the president of ASHI, in the article The Home Inspector is Coming! Quick, How Can You Prepare?.
You can make sure this process goes smoothly with a little pre-planning and preparation no matter which side of the deal you’re on.
Home Inspection Tips for Sellers
An important piece of getting your home sold is making sure there are no dangerous or expensive repairs waiting for the new homeowners. It’s worth a little extra time to make sure your home is in proper working order as you prepare for your home inspection.
- Make Important Areas Accessible: The home inspector will need access to all areas of your home including the attic, crawlspace, garage, shed, and any other closets or mechanical areas. Make their job easier by moving any furniture or appliances that might prohibit them from easily entering these spaces. If the inspector is unable to access these areas, they may need to return for a second inspection.
“I need to be able to enter every room, open every cabinet and closet, and inspect every detached structure. All areas of all structures should be unlocked and accessible,” Matt Steinhausen, an independent home inspector says. “Many times I’m unable to get to various mechanical components because when people declutter their homes for showing, they pile all their contents in the storage areas, such as utility rooms.”
- Check Your Major Systems: It’s worth giving your major mechanical systems a check before the inspection. Take a look at the condition and functionality of your HVAC system, plumbing, electrical outlets, and switches inside of your home, your doors and windows, foundation, and siding outside of your home.
- Make Fixes, Big and Small: If you find any issues with your mechanical systems, take care of them prior to the home inspection. If you don’t have the time or funds to fix the problems, you may have to negotiate the repairs with the buyers.
You should also repair small issues like burnt-out lightbulbs, clogged gutters, and cracked or stained ceilings. And while the inspector isn’t going to penalize you for having a messy home, it’s a good idea to tidy up before the big day in order to make the best first impression.
- Get Your Paperwork in Order: If you’ve made repairs around the house before or after the inspection, keep that paperwork close at hand. If the inspection report or the buyers raise questions about recent repairs, you’ll be ready. This can help speed up the closing process and help you avoid paying unnecessarily for things that have already been fixed.
- Stay Out of the Way: When it’s time for your home inspection, your best bet is to make yourself, your family, and your pets scarce. Not only is it hard to hear your home being critiqued, but your presence may also make the buyers uncomfortable asking questions. If you have essential information to share with the home inspector, leave a note behind.
Home Inspection Tips for Buyers
It is always best to arrange for a home inspection before the sale of the home is finalized. This is known as a contingency because the final sale is contingent on the results of the home inspection. Adding an inspection contingency to your real estate contract is essential to avoid ending up with a property that requires extensive and expensive repairs.
- Look for Trouble Spots Early On: Whenever you tour a home you may potentially buy, it’s a good idea to make a note of any trouble spots that may require further investigation down the line. Keep an eye out for cracked foundations, roofing or gutters that are in disrepair, water spots on the ceilings or walls, condensation on the windows, or noisy plumbing.
- Ask Your REALTOR® for an Inspector Referral: Finding a reputable, licensed home inspector is just as important as the inspection itself. Most home inspectors are members of either ASHI or the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI). These organizations provide certification and training to home inspectors. In addition to making sure your home inspector is licensed in your state, you should check for reviews and references. Your REALTOR® should be able to recommend a trusted home inspector in your area.
- Review a Sample Home Inspection Form: Looking over a sample home inspection form can give you a good idea of what the home inspection will cover. These forms are very detailed and they can help you identify any red flags as you tour homes.
- Ask Questions During the Home Inspection: As you walk through the home with the inspector, don’t hesitate to ask questions. Specifically, draw the inspector’s attention to any issues that popped out at you during your initial tour of the property. Then, ask follow-up questions for clarification as the inspector proceeds through the home. A home inspection can involve technical jargon, so don’t hesitate to ask for a simplified explanation if you’re not clear on something.
- Read the Report with Your REALTOR®: If possible, read through the inspector’s report with the inspector and your REALTOR®. Your REALTOR® should have plenty of experience interpreting home inspection reports and they can help you identify areas that need clarification. Then, they can use that information to help you finalize your real estate contract or, if major issues are uncovered, pull out of the deal
Buying or selling a home is a huge and important undertaking. A home inspection can give you the peace of mind you deserve as you take on what, for many, maybe the single largest purchase of their lifetime.