How a Home Inspection Works
Like going to the doctor or bringing your car to a mechanic, home inspections can be nerve-racking and traumatic. When it’s your house in the hot seat, even a fairly clean inspection report might sting a bit.
News flash: no home is perfect. But you can take steps to ready yourself (and your home) for the home inspection to minimize unwanted surprises.
Remember, a home inspection is not a pass or fail test. It does, however, open the door for renegotiation. You’re not obligated to fix anything, but the buyer can also walk away if they’re not satisfied.
With these fragile dynamics, the last thing you want to do is go into the home inspection blind and risk killing a contract worth saving.
What is a Home Inspection?
In the process of closing a home sale, the buyer typically hires a home inspector to come to the house and perform a visual observation. In accordance with the state’s standards, the home inspector identifies health, safety, or major mechanical issues.
Inspectors look for things that are significantly deficient, unsafe, near the end of the service life, or not functioning properly.”
When Does a Home Inspection Happen During a Home Sale?
In a home sale, there are two types of home inspections: a buyer’s inspection and a seller’s inspection (or a pre-listing inspection). A buyer’s inspection occurs after the buyer has made an offer on the home, and before closing the sale. After a home inspection, the buyer may be able to renegotiate their offer or request repairs if certain issues come up.
A seller’s home inspection happens before the home is listed. Some sellers choose to get their home inspected as they’re beginning to prepare their house for sale, so they can fix any potential issues beforehand and save time in the closing process.
What Happens During a Home Inspection?
A typical home inspection takes a 2-3 hours for an average sized house. The report is ready within 24 hours of the inspection. The home inspector will go through the interior and exterior of the house to record any broken, defected, or hazardous issues with the house and the area surrounding the house. The key thing that we look for are safety issues.
Who Should Be Present During the Home Inspection?
Anyone is allowed to stick around for the home inspection. However, whoever arranges and schedules the home inspection should always be present while the home inspector is there.
What Do Home Inspectors Look For?
Home inspectors have a long, thorough list of things to check in the home. An inspector’s job is to find defects, we have to concentrate on the health and safety concerns first followed by major defects.
There are seven major things that home inspectors look for:
- Water Damage
- Structural Issues
- Old/Damaged Roof
- Damaged Electrical System
- Plumbing Problems
- Insect and Pest Infestation
- Issues with the HVAC System
What Home Inspectors Do Not Look For
Home inspectors are not concerned with anything cosmetic in a home, unless it poses a potential safety issue. For example: If there is a large crack or water stain on a wall, they’ll report it. But they won’t report peeling wallpaper.
Additionally, if a buyer requests a seller update simple home elements or cosmetic flaws, that should raise a red flag. “If a handyman can handle the repair, I wouldn’t encourage a buyer to ask for it,” says Peters. “When you are arguing over an interior door that doesn’t latch or reverse polarity on an outlet on a $500,000 home, then something is wrong.”
How to Prepare for Your Home Inspection
A home inspector goes through a very thorough checklist. They look at literally everything. Prepare for the inspection to avoid unnecessary blemishes on the report.
Here are some quick things to double check before your home inspection:
- Keep receipts of any maintenance or routine services you’ve ever had on your home or its components. Have them organized and ready to show to inspectors and buyers. For example: chimney sweeped, furnace serviced, filters changed in HVAC, water heater serviced, etc.
- Clear out clutter in spaces like basement, attic, garage, and crawl spaces. Inspectors will need to get in there to check for moisture or damage. If we can’t access it, we will mark it as “uninspectable” which could prolong the process and create a re-inspection need.
- Make sure the inspector has access to the electrical panel, furnace, and water heater.
- Lock up pets while the inspector walks through.
- Make sure light bulbs are working and not burnt out. If light bulbs aren’t working, it could be a sign of electrical issues.
- Run water in every sink and bath to check for clogs. Clear any minor clogs with Drano or Liquid Plumber before the inspection, as this could signify a plumbing issue in the report.
- Replace filters in HVAC system. Dirty air filters compromise the air quality in the home and will raise a red flag for the inspector.
- Slope dirt away from the foundation on the exterior. This will avoid basement water issues, which is a top thing inspectors look for.
- Repair any cracked windows or broken screens.
- Proactively address any bugs with spray or professional extermination, especially carpenter ants or termites. Any sign of an infestation will alert an inspector.
- Cap unused gas lines, chimneys, and flues to prevent debris and clogs. If caps are missing, toxic fumes could be released into the house.
- Trim trees that are touching or close to the roof. Low-hanging branches can raise the possibility of roof damage and give rodents access to chimneys and other openings.
Should You Get a Pre-Listing Inspection?
Traditionally, buyers arrange the home inspection process. However, some homeowners choose to have an inspector come in before they list the house for sale. You don’t always need to set up a pre-listing inspection but there are a few cases where it makes sense. Here’s a quick walkthrough for when (and when not) to schedule a pre-listing inspection for your house.
A pre-listing inspection could make the whole sales process faster and easier for everyone involved. More and more sellers have opted for a pre-listing inspection in the past five years than they used to because they can catch things early on that might create roadblocks and delays later.
It’s better to know ahead of time before you put [your house] on the market if your home has a defect.
If you choose to do a pre-inspection, we suggest putting the report out on the table when buyers come through. Check off things that you’ve fixed and provide receipts of service on the areas of concern. It just gives peace of mind and confidence to the buyer that this person cares about their home, they care about the process, and they want to make sure that their house is in good shape and it speeds up the process for the buyer to buy the home.
Pre-listing inspections can take away the stressful element of surprise for the homeowner. It also helps prevent offer renegotiations, extensive buyer repair requests, and the possibility of buyers walking away while already in contract.
That’s How Home Inspections Work
Home inspections are meant to keep homeowners safe. If you get a pre-listing inspection, you can prepare yourself for repair requests from buyers. Once a buyer makes an offer and you accept it, they’ll bring in a home inspector which could lead to negotiations. Either way, home inspections are a vital and critical part of the home buying and selling process.