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Want to sell? Get a prelisting home inspection

If you're selling a home in today's cutthroat housing market, you can use all the help you can get. One relatively simple thing you can do to stand out from other sellers is to get a prelisting home inspection.

It's standard procedure for a homebuyer to order up a home inspection. But springing for a home inspection when you are the seller can pay you back big time if you're able to close more quickly.

John R. Schmidt, a certified real estate inspector with Reliable Home Inspections of Valdosta, Ga., says that a prelisting inspection "keeps you in the driver's seat."

"You know the issues and can have them resolved rather than having to negotiate over them after a buyer's inspection lists them," says Schmidt.

What you can do with a prelisting home inspection

Here are a few things you can do with the results of a prelisting home inspection in hand:

1. Uncover problems before they upset your plans: If there is a serious problem with your home, it is better to know about it before you put the house up for sale rather than discovering the issue within a few days of the closing. Knowing the problems lurking in your home can give you the option of fixing them yourself or lowering your asking price.

2. Get the right repair the first time: If you choose to fix problems before you put your house on the market, a home inspection can help you pinpoint where the real issues lie. For instance, that touchy wiring in the kitchen might not be a loose connection--it could be a more serious issue with your home's electrical box. A good home inspection helps you get to the root of the problem instead of pursuing a band-aid fix.

3. Reassure prospective homebuyers: A prelisting home inspection can offer peace of mind for potential homebuyers, making them more likely to place an early bid.

Finding a trustworthy and qualified home inspector

To find a qualified home inspector, start your search with a reputable agency. The National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI) allows you to search for member inspectors, who promise to adhere to accepted standards of practice and ethics.

When interviewing home inspectors, ask about their background, how many inspections they have done, what kind of insurance they carry, and what kind of report they offer. Check them out with the Better Business Bureau, and always ask for references.

What's included in the home inspection

The home inspection focuses on the structural condition of your home, as well as any safety concerns observed during the walk-through. A home inspector won't perform any destructive testing of your property. He or she will look at your foundation, roof coverings and flashings, interior and exterior walls, and the roof support structure.

The home inspector will also take a trip through your basement, attic, garage and exterior grounds. The home inspector will look at your visible interior and exterior plumbing, the electrical system, the heating and cooling system, as well as the condition of your home's interior.

The time required for a home inspection depends upon the size and condition of your home. Typically, you can expect to set aside two to five hours for the entire process. The cost varies as well, but most home inspections tend to run between $200 and $500.

What to do before an inspection

Before the home inspector arrives, there are several steps you can take to help ensure an easy inspection:

  • Take care of basic cleaning and minor upkeep around your home;
  • Clear access to all areas of your home;
  • Make copies of all service records, such as the annual reports from your HVAC inspections.

The NAHI offers comprehensive guidelines to make the inspection process easier for homeowners.

George Groeber, a certified real estate inspector with Best Residential Inspections of Pennsylvania, adds, "Make sure there are no safety issues like missing ground fault circuit interrupters within six feet of water." The kitchen sink, bathroom sink and laundry area are good places to look for this.

Schmidt often finds common problems that can be attributed to poor maintenance. "Deferred maintenance issues, such as wood decay, or inoperable components" are the most common problems he finds in a home inspection. So if your windows won't open or the essential appliances aren't working, remedy those problems before your home inspection.

One of the biggest mistakes a homeowner can make is trying to cover up problems. Home inspectors know how to spot the areas where a homeowner might not be completely honest. "Trying to conceal water penetration in the basement by painting the walls and floors always brings up a red flag during an inspection," cautions Groeber.

After your home inspection

After you have your report in hand, consider the findings. If there are repairs to be made, now is the time to make them. If you choose not to do so, you can work with your real estate agent to adjust your asking price before you put your house on the market.

Either way, providing the prelisting inspection report to potential homebuyers can give all parties involved more peace of mind and hopefully a much smoother transaction.

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