An integral part of the home-sale process is preparing your home for inspection. Getting your home inspected before it has been listed for sale, known as a pre-listing home inspection (usually paid for by the seller), can help expedite your sale as any problems can be addressed prior to closing.
There are several ways homeowners can help their inspections go more smoothly.
For starters, says John Fryer, owner of Fryer Consulting, a home inspection company in Oakland, Calif., disclose your home's issues. "Whatever is wrong with your house will be found out anyway," he says. "If you disclose [problems] in advance and provide potential buyers with an inspector's report, it can go a long way to diffuse anxiety and help the transaction go through."
9 home inspection tips
No. 1: Remove your clutter. "It's frustrating not to have good access to electric panels, so move your boxes or your clothes or other belongings out of the way so the inspector can get to it," says Fryer. "We also need access to your heating and cooling system, any place with mechanical equipment, so move anything that blocks that access."
Also, Fryer suggests cleaning out the space beneath your bathroom and kitchen sinks because an inspector will need to check there for leaks and moisture damage.
No. 2: Empty your appliances. Make sure there's nothing in the washing machine, dryer, dishwasher or stove, says David Leopold, owner of Pillar to Post Home Inspection in Fairfield, Conn. No inspector wants to touch your family's underwear and socks and you don't want to have your smoke alarm go off when the inspector tests your stove, he says.
No. 3: Provide attic access. "If you want to be your home inspector's new best friend, set up a ladder to the attic," says Brian Koepf, founder of Gatekeeper Inspections in Leesburg, Va. "In one place the attic access was through the garage, but a car was parked directly below the hatch so we had to contact the seller to come home and move it."
No. 4: Go away and take your kids and pets with you. "It's best for the sellers not to be present because the buyers and the inspector will be more comfortable and can speak with more candor," says Fryer. "It's best not to have dogs around, especially if they're aggressive."
Leopold suggests leaving an hour before the inspection appointment since many inspectors arrive early to get ready for the homebuyers.
No. 5: Unlock your doors. After letting the inspector inside, Fryer recommends unlocking any gates and doors to a garage, shed or crawl space. An inspector needs to have access to everything on the property.
No. 6: Disclose your home's flaws. Fryer says sellers should disclose any issues they're aware of in their home, such as a leak or an air conditioner that only works intermittently.
"Don't imagine that people will react strongly to a flaw in your home," says Leopold. "It's better to disclose everything upfront so you avoid surprising the buyers. They react more negatively if you've kept something secret."
Leopold suggests leaving a note if something isn't working but you intend to have it fixed. Better yet, have everything fixed before the inspection, he says.
No. 7: Provide documentation of repairs and maintenance. If you've had something repaired or regularly maintained, put the receipts in a binder or a folder so the inspector can see it, says Koepf. Insurance claim reports are also helpful if you had storm damage that's been repaired.
"If you've had an engineer inspect a crack in your foundation and there's nothing wrong with your structure, display that report so the home inspector doesn't have to be concerned about the crack," he says.
No. 8: Check your light bulbs. "If a light bulb is out I have to report that and I don't know if it indicates a wiring problem or just a burned out bulb," says Fryer.
No. 9: Don't make more work for the inspector. "A seller recently left an entire set of weights in front of the attic access, so before I could get into the attic I had to move 200 pounds of weights," says Leopold. "As a seller, you want the inspector to be in a good mood."
A neat and accessible home can result in a more favorable impression for the inspector which could help your home sell a lot faster.
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Michele Lerner, author of "HOMEBUYING: Tough Times, First Time, Any Time", has been writing about personal finance and real estate for more than two decades for a variety of publications and websites including The Washington Post, The Motley Fool, Investopedia, Insurance.com, HSH.com, SavingsAccount.com, National Real Estate Investor magazine, The Washington Times, Urban Land magazine, NAREIT's REIT magazine and numerous Realtor associations.