Congratulations! Your home has been on the market and now a buyer has submitted an offer which you have negotiated and accepted! Now you’re in that period known as the option or inspection period when the buyer can have a home inspector come evaluate your home and report on anything that’s not working properly or needs repair. This is a stressful time for most sellers–what will the inspector find, what will the buyer do with that information, will I have to do expensive repairs, how will we decide what to do? All these questions run through a seller’s mind until the inspection is complete and they have received a request for repairs (or not) from the buyer.
Inspection time is when your diligence as a homeowner (or lack of it!) will reward you (or come back to bite you!). Most inspectors will always find something to report, but if you’ve maintained your home while you’ve been living in it, there shouldn’t be anything major that you were unaware of. Still, there are some things you can do to make the process smooth and help put the buyer’s mind at ease.
If you really want to avoid surprises, many sellers are doing what we call a pre-sale inspection. Before the house goes on the market, some sellers are choosing to hire a home inspector to inspect their home so that they know what issues need to be addressed and can take care of them in advance. If you’re considering this option, be aware that if you have an inspection report, you may be required to disclose that report to a buyer. That is the case in Texas, but if you’re not in the Lone Star State, check with your realtor to see what the rules are in your state. And if you do opt to have repairs done, be sure you hire licensed repair people to do the work and keep all receipts to prove that the work was done.
When it’s time for a buyer to have an inspection done, you, as the seller, can make things easier for the inspector with a few simple preparations. First, plan to be out of the house for the inspection. Take pets with you, if possible, or at least have them confined and out of the way if you can’t.
The house should be clean, neat, and show-ready. If you’re still living there, please have things neat and tidy. Empty the dishwasher, put away laundry, pick up clutter, wash dishes and put them away. Make sure attic access is available and clearly marked or identified. If you have a septic or well, please leave instructions to find it if it’s not clearly visible. If you have a pier and beam foundation, make sure access under the house is available and identified. The inspector will test appliances that remain with the house–he’ll run the dishwasher, turn on the heater and then the air conditioner to test the temperatures, turn on and test oven temperature. So be sure all built-in appliances are prepared. (I heard of a homeowner who had stashed a bunch of plastic containers in the oven to get them out of sight, forgot about them and left them in there. When the inspector turned on the oven to test it, he didn’t check the inside, and only discovered the containers when a funny smell started to permeate the house! Big mess!)
Smoke alarms will be tested also, so be sure yours have fresh batteries. If you have automatic sprinklers, and the controls are not easily found, leave a note where to find them–they’ll be tested too! So will pool equipment if you have it.
For safety and liability reasons, inspectors will not move furniture to get to a panel or attic or something else, so make sure those things are accessible.
If you’re not currently living in the house, be sure all utilities are turned on so an inspector can test what he needs to test.
Taking these few steps in advance will help ensure a smooth inspection and keep a buyer at ease. It will also help make any repair negotiations easier since everyone has had a good experience up to that point.