How to Prepare for a Home Inspection
An important step you may need to complete to sell your home is passing a home inspection. A home inspector will be looking for issues with the home that may factor into your negotiations with potential buyers, and poor inspection results can lower the amount you’re able to get for the home, postpone the sale, or even prevent you from selling the home altogether. Accordingly, carefully prepare for your home inspection and address any potential issues before the inspection occurs.
Addressing Common Issues Before a Home Inspection
Look for any signs of water damage.Signs of water damage is a concern to a home inspector — not to mention your potential buyer. One that is of great concern is ceiling stains. This is because ceiling stains usually indicate that water has gotten somewhere it shouldn’t have. Even if the stain came from something insignificant, home inspectors will be concerned about a more serious issue.
- Keep a home inspector from suspecting faulty plumbing or a poor exterior seal by repairing water-damaged portions of the ceiling, ensuring that there is not a recurring cause of water damage.
Address any potential electrical issues.Often, electrical issues arise when someone who occupied the house did their own electrical maintenance, or because of changes in the electrical code after work was done. Essentially, anything that has not been done according to code will lead to poor inspection results. Make sure all outlets and your panel boxes are up to code. Consider hiring an electrical contractor to look at anything you’re uncertain about.
- Make sure that all outlets in bathrooms and near the kitchen sink— or anywhere near a water source — are Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlets. These are designed to prevent accidents from happening if appliances being used are exposed to water.
- Make sure breakers in the electrical panel only have one wire on each lug. Double-tapped breakers are safety hazards.
- Check to make sure that all outlets in the home are grounded.
Ensure bathrooms are properly ventilated.Especially if the home you’re hoping to sell is older and there are any bathrooms without windows, there’s a good chance its ventilation will not meet current construction standards.Specifically, if you have an interior bathroom, insure that any bathroom exhaust fans vent to the exterior of the home.
Replace exterior wood that has begun to rot.Even if the rotting is minimal and seemingly inconsequential, replace it. Rotting indicates a lack of maintenance, especially regular exterior painting. Check exterior trim, window casings, and areas around decks.
- While checking exterior wood, touch up any spots where the paint has begun to deteriorate.
Make sure the home’s plumbing is up to par.You should also know that many homes have at least one or two minor plumbing issues that should be addressed before an inspection. In particular, replace or adjust leaky faucets, loose toilets, and slow drains.
- Be aware that a home inspector will also inspect the valves of boilers and water heaters. If these are found to be faulty, they can likely be easily replaced by a plumber.
Close any potentially unsealed parts of the home’s exterior.Windows and chimneys often have poor seals or cracks. One common sign of a poor window seal is fogging of the glass. Chimneys, on the other hand, are especially exposed to the weather, and commonly develop cracks or loose mortar over time. If one is not present, install a metal cap to help protect the chimney.
- If cracks exist near the top of the chimney, they can easily be repaired by a mason — the sooner the better; however, if a large crack is present near the base of the chimney, consult a professional about whether the chimney poses a potential structural risk.
- Check the roof venting to ensure that it is metal and not plastic. Plastic venting has a short life span and it can cause a lot of damage when it cracks.
- Inspect the flashing around the chimney to ensure that it had been correctly installed. If not, the paint may be peeling.
Check for mold.Even if you think there’s no chance you have mold in the home, double check. Mold in the attic, which can grow when moisture is trapped, is one of the most common things discovered by a home inspector, and homeowners are often unaware that it is there.
- Have a professional test for mold throughout the home.
- Cloudy black patches on walls, ceilings, and shower curtains are signs that there is mold present; a professional can help you determine the extent of the problem.
Remediate any radon presence in the home.Using a test kit purchased at a home improvement store or online, test for the presence of radon in your home. Along with mold, radon is another significant issue that homeowners are often unaware of preceding an inspection. Radon is a naturally occurring gas beneath the surface of the Earth that sometimes enters homes through cracks in the home’s foundation.
- Radon is a commonly known carcinogen, and home inspectors may test for it if testing is required by law where you live or if you have paid extra for it.
- Radon in the air can be remediated relatively easily, and should be addressed as quickly as possible. Radon in your home’s water supply is a much more significant issue.
- The benchmark frequently used to determine the level that requires remediation in water is any presence of Radon above 4.0 pCi/L (picocuries per liter).
- You can also install a radon detector.
Check on your basement and crawl spaces.Ensure basement walls are free of any substantial cracks, and reseal any minor cracks that are present. Make sure below-ground crawl spaces have vapor barriers or have them installed. Further, if your basement or crawl space has windows below ground level, make sure each has a clean, intact window well and cover.
- Though easy to overlook, there are a few things that should never be stored in basements or crawl spaces — including paints, solvents, and other flammable liquids. Remove them if they are present in these areas.
Fill out a disclosure form regarding any unaddressed issues.Address any issues with your home to the greatest extent possible. If you do not have the funds or time to fix substantial issues, fill out a seller disclosure form in detail, listing all of the defects you are aware of.
- Disclosure forms are required in many states, and are recommended even when not required.
- Your negotiations may be detrimentally affected by defects in the home that are identified by a home inspection ordered by a potential buyer. Be upfront about any known defects.
Get a seller’s inspection.Consider ordering a home inspection of your own before you put your house on the market. While prospective buyers will usually be the ones hiring a home inspector for an unbiased assessment of the home, it may be worth hiring one of your own to make sure you are aware of any issues that need to be addressed.
Making an Inspection Easy on the Home Inspector
Leave home, but leave a note outlining the location of certain things.Plan to not be present for a potential buyer’s inspection, but leave a note outlining where the inspector can find the things they need to look at. In particular, oddly located water heaters or furnace systems may be hard to find, and the inspector will appreciate your pointing them out. Identify hidden entries to beneath homes with pier and beam foundations.
- Provide proof that the septic system is in working order. The inspector will not conduct an inspection of your septic tank. It is up to you to provide proof of a recent professional inspection that states the condition of the septic tank.
- Don’t leave a loose pet at home, as you do not want the inspector to be startled or otherwise have to deal with an animal.
Make paperwork readily available.Keep and provide a file of any documentation regarding maintenance and repairs of the home. These should include, at the very least, evidence of finance inspections, receipts for any repairs, and any insurance claims you’ve made on the home.
- Be able to prove, with paperwork, that you’ve addressed any issues that have previously arisen in regards to the home.
- Depending on the area you live in, any remodeling would have required permits that also need to be included.
Be ready for an early arrival.Many home inspectors will arrive at a home quite early. Some prefer to do a quick run-through before a Realtor or potential buyer arrives if they are also attending the inspection.
Keep boxes and other possessions out of the way.Remove any clutter from areas that may need to be inspected. The cabinets beneath any sinks will need to be clear, and access to built-in fixtures such as water heaters must be entirely accessible. It’s also best to get basements or attics as clear as possible, as underground walls and attics will need to be thoroughly inspected.
- Even in storage rooms — in particular attic storage areas — you will need to pull boxes into the center of the space so that structural components such as trusses and exterior wall conditions can be readily assessed.
Have utilities turned on and operable.A home inspector will not personally ignite a pilot light, flip electrical breakers, or turn a home’s water on. Make sure everything is turned on and in working order before the inspector arrives so this does not impede the inspection.
- If the home has been empty for some time, run faucets and other water sources to make sure water is flowing and does not contain unsightly sediment from sitting in pipes for a while.
Double check that an inspector will be able to enter the home.It seems obvious, but this is an important step, as there are several things that may obstruct an inspector. Make sure any gates are unlocked, and keys are left in lock boxes. Let the inspector know beforehand about preferred methods of entry to the home.
- Check to see that any sheds or garages are also accessible.
Get rid of snow and ice.If it’s winter, make sure snow or ice will not obstruct entrance to the home nor cover anything that will need to be inspected. In addition to making sure the driveway is safely accessible, remove snow from any windows and clear any built up snow from the foundation of the building. Finally, remove any icicles that have formed on the home or other structures on the property.
Check the lights.Though you don’t necessarily want to simply leave all the lights on in your home, making sure lights are easily found and have working bulbs is important. Lights with broken or absent bulbs will force the inspector to determine whether the fixture itself is inoperable, a time-consuming and potentially frustrating task.
- Consider leaving lights on in small spaces — such as crawl spaces, attics, and furnace rooms — that are hard to see into or don’t have light sources with easily accessible switches.
Do not attempt to hide any issues with the home.Avoid shoddy fixes or minimal adjustments — they may be noticed by a home inspector and will indicate that you have not put meaningful care into the home. Additionally, you should notify potential buyers of recent things you’ve done to the home, including repairs, replacements, or plans to do so in preparation for a sale.
Doing Minor Home Maintenance Prior to an Inspection
Clean all appliances.To some degree, this is common sense — but it’s worth double checking. Make sure washing machines and dryers are clean and empty. Further, clean the home’s oven and stove top. Both of these things will need to be tested, and the presentation of any dirtiness in the home reflects poorly on an inspector's assumptions on the home’s upkeep.
- There are plenty of low-cost, quick tidy-up tasks that can be done to improve an inspector’s perspective of a home. Cleaning everything is a great place to start.
Test all of the smoke detectors in the home.This is surprisingly easy to forget, and though easily remedied, worth being addressed prior to an inspection. Replace batteries and get new or additional detectors wherever necessary. In newer homes, there needs to be a working smoke detector in almost every room, aside from bathrooms and closets, but including hallways.
- Keep in mind that older homes (those built before the year 2000) do not have to have a smoke detector in every room, just one on each floor.
- All properties also have to have a working carbon monoxide detector on every floor. It is best to put the carbon monoxide detector close to the floor and near the bedrooms.
Touch up exterior caulk jobs.Look over everywhere there is caulk on the exterior of the building. This will be caulk around almost anything, not just the windows. Check around doors, connections to exterior appliances, trim, and portions of the home that extend out of a previous level and have a seam along the roof.
- Similarly, touch up the mortar on the foundation or anywhere on a brick home.
Attend to the home's air system.In particular, replace the air filters if the home has an HVAC system. Further, clean the air returns, vents, and other accessible parts of the system. Have any service tags or notes clearly visible.
Keep the exterior of the home free of debris.Keep mulch or other yard material at least six inches from the start of a home’s siding. Trim any plants that are touching any part of the building so that nothing is touching the home’s foundation, roof, siding, or chimney. Finally, clear the roof itself and the gutters of any collected debris.
- If you keep stacks of firewood, make sure no firewood is stacked against the exterior of the home.
- Do not place garbage cans next to the house because they can attract pests and cause cracks in the siding.
- Make sure any downspouts or drains are pointed and slope away from the home. Also, check the areas where outside drains connect to the interior of the house. They may be hidden and leak without being noticed.
Video: 7 Tips to Prepare for your Home Inspection
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