How to Prepare For a Home Inspection

Home Inspection Preparation

 How to prepare for a home inspectionHow to prepare for a home inspection is a thought that more sellers should consider. Unfortunately many do not. One of the things that are quite common in the majority of all Real Estate transactions is a home inspection that is paid for by the buyer and performed by a licensed professional home inspector. When selling Real Estate a home inspection is typically done within the first couple weeks after an offer has been submitted by the buyer and accepted by the seller. The Real Estate lingo used is called a “home inspection contingency.”

This contingency is spelled out in the agreed upon Real Estate contract. The typical language in most purchase and sale agreements gives the buyer an out to terminate the contract if serious structural or mechanical defects are found during the home inspection. In some contracts, there will be a specified dollar amount that gives the buyer the option of revoking the contract if issues are discovered in excess of this agreed upon figure.

In a Real Estate transaction, the home inspection is one of the biggest hurdles a home seller faces in order to have a successful sale. It stands to reason that you will want to make an effort to have your home in the best possible condition before the home inspection actually takes place.  I can tell you from the experience of being a Realtor for the past twenty-nine years, the home inspection is where most home sales fall apart.

So how do you prepare for a home inspection? It may seem pretty obvious, but making sure your home is in tip-top showing condition is often overlooked before an inspection.  A home inspector is not necessarily looking at your mess but an unkempt home will give the impression of uncaring owners who possible may miss regular maintenance of items that shouldn’t be neglected.

Every home seller should keep in mind that the home inspection almost always becomes a second round of negotiations, especially when it is a buyer’s Real Estate market. The buyer may ask you to fix a long list of defects that are discovered, provide them with a credit to deal with the issues, or in a worse case just back out of the agreement altogether.

Home InspectorSo what you should do to prepare for a home inspection is to eliminate any of the known defects that are clearly visible prior to the home going on the market! Home sale preparation is one of the keys to selling Real Estate today anyways so you getting your home ready for the inspection only makes sense.

One suggestion to make the home inspection go more smoothly is to make it easier for the home inspector to do his job.  A couple simple things that you can do is to make sure the inspector can access the attic and the entire basement.

Often times I have been at inspections where the attic hatch is located in a closet and is blocked by clothes or other items. In a basement, you will want to make sure the inspector can see all and move around near all the exterior walls. A clear path around all the mechanical items, including the furnace, water heater, and electrical panel will be necessities as well. These are easy and simple tips you can do to prepare for a home inspection. Below you will find some of the best home inspection remedies before listing your home for sale. I will discuss a few more home inspection preparation items a bit later.

Common Defects Found at Home Inspections

One of the best ways to prepare for a buyers home inspection is to understand what some of the most probable defects the home inspector is likely to find. There are some common defects that are found in many homes, that as a homeowner you may not have even paid much attention to. After living in a home for many years sometimes we get used to things being a certain way.

Home Inspection ChecklistSometimes it would not even cross our minds that a small defect may be a bigger issue to someone else. I am going to review some of the more obvious and commonplace defects that I have seen at home inspections over the years. With this knowledge in hand at least you will have the opportunity to make some corrections before your home goes on the market. These important home inspection preparation tips can go a long way in keeping your real estate transaction moving along smoothly.

Ceiling Stains – one of the things in homes that troubles home buyer’s more than anything else is the fear of water. Nobody wants to have a water issue in their home. Over the years I have sold thousands of homes and the vast majority of them have had some form of a ceiling stain. In many instances, the stain occurred from something innocuous like a toilet overflowing or one of the kids leaving the shower curtain open.

Buyers, however, may not assume it is something so simple. In other cases, a ceiling stain could have been caused by an ice dam. The trick of course from the buyer’s perspective is to find out if the ice damming is going to occur over and over again from a roofing or gutter defect. In some instances, it may be a rare occurrence where there was a twenty-five-year storm. In any event, you will want to make sure the ceiling stains are removed.

Home inspection electrical issuesElectrical violations – Electrical issues are most common in homes where Mr. home owner has decided to do improvements on his own and has not hired an electrician. Often times work is not done to code which creates issues. Some of the other more prevalent problems include lack of GFI outlets (Ground Fault Interrupter) if the kitchen and baths. These are outlets designed to eliminate the possibility of electrocution if water comes in contact with electricity. Double tapped electrical breakers are another example. A double tap is when a breaker in the electrical panel has more than one wire creating a hazard from too much current going through one breaker. Non-grounded outlets are another defect you commonly see along with a whole host of others.

Improper bathroom venting – years ago almost every home that had some kind of a bath fan just dumped the exhaust into the attic. Over the years it was discovered that doing this provided the perfect breeding ground for mold in attics. This makes perfect sense as you a dumping a ton of moisture into a less ventilated space. The thought of mold can easily cause a buyer not to want to proceed with purchasing a home.  Building codes have since changed and in most homes built today it is required that a bath fan vent to the exterior of a home most often through the roof. A word of advice….check your attic for mold if you have not been up there for a while. I have found that when an inspector discovers mold most of the time the owner never knew it was there.

Rotted exterior wood – Most of the time rotted wood is due to lack of maintenance i.e waiting too long to paint your home. When uncovered wood is wet for too long it tends to rot. The most common areas include exterior trim, window trim, and areas around decks. While rotted wood can occur in any home, many of the homes built in the 1980’s used “finger jointed” woodwork which was an inferior product.

Home Inspection ProblemsMinor plumbing defects – It is very rare not to find some kind of minor plumbing defect. The good news on this one is that they are usually very easy to fix. Some of the more common defects include dripping faucets, loose toilets, and slow or leaky drains. Some of the other nuisance issues that are brought to light by home inspectors are leaky valves on boilers and water heaters. Most of the time these are not big issues but routine maintenance that needs to be done by either a plumber or heating contractor.

Failed window seals – A failed window seal is something you see quite often in homes. The way you know a window seal has failed is when you see a window fogging. This means the thermal seal between two panes of glass has leakage. Most homes today are built with thermal pane windows (two panes). You see more homes that were built in the 80’s that have this condition.

Chimney defects – the most common defects in chimneys are cracks and re-pointing or mortar. More often than not these are found at the very top of the chimney and have occurred over time due to the elements. Bigger issues occur when larger cracks around found from the base of the chimney moving upward. This could indicate more of an unsafe structural issue.

Mold & Radon Remediation – Mold and radon are two of the biggest deal killers in real estate. Prior to a home inspection, you should check to make sure you have neither of these issues. Preferably you should check before your home even goes on the market. Mold is something that you can not be sure of unless it is tested by someone in the mold industry. You can, however, fairly easily identify what could possibly be mold. Most of the time in homes it will be a black substance that is on the walls or ceilings. The most common places to find mold are attics, basements, and baths.

Radon is a gas found under the ground that enters the home through cracks in your concrete or dirt floor. It is a known carcinogen and something that most buyers are very cognoscente of. While there are no federal laws in place regarding radon removal, most buyer’s will request you to remediate it if it is found to be higher than the suggest passing limit which is 4.0 pCi/L (picocuries per liter). Removing radon in the air is fairly easy to do. When it becomes a much bigger expense is having to remove radon from water.

Disclosure or Fixing Items Prior to Sale

Obviously, if you have the money to repair the common home inspection defects mentioned above, it would make sense take it upon yourself to make sure you do! If money is tight, however, I am going to make a suggestion that I do for all of my Real Estate clients.

Sellers Real Estate DisclosureYou should fill out a Real Estate disclosure form and have it available for a buyer to see prior to them making an offer. In this disclosure, you are going to want to list in detail all the defects you know about your home. In many states filling out a seller’s disclosure form is mandatory anyways. In Massachusetts, it is not but very common none the less.

It is far more difficult for a buyer to try to renegotiate after a home inspection if the defect has already been pointed out to them in black and white prior to making an offer.

For a seller that may not be sure how to identify potential home inspection issues, one suggestion would be to get an independent home sale inspection before going on the market and fixing what is identified by the home inspector. This will at least give you some piece of mind that most everything that could potentially be raised as an issue will already have been discovered and possibly remedied. Are you beginning to see why preparing for a home inspection is a common sense activity that every seller should consider?

Prepare For The Home Inspector

One of the things that you should be aware of as a home seller is that most home inspectors will arrive at your home in advance of the scheduled home inspection time. Typically the inspector will arrive anywhere from a half hour to forty-five minutes ahead of time. A home inspector will do this so they have the opportunity to walk around your home making observations about the property in advance of the buyer arriving. This will give the home inspector a leg up on looking professional once the buyer gets there and starts asking questions.

It is a common practice in  real estate  for the seller not to be around while the home inspection is taking place. There are, however, things you can do to make the home inspectors job a lot easier before you leave your home.  Here are a few quick tips to prepare for a home inspection.

  • Make sure all light bulbs are working by changing them prior to the inspection. The inspector will want to be able to view all areas of your home. In addition, he or she won’t need additional time to see if the receptacle is not working or if it is just a blown light bulb.
  • Thin out your closets of clothes so the inspector can see inside them.
  • Remove items away from basement walls so they can be inspected for cracks and water penetration areas.
  • If there is access to the attic in a closet make sure it is accessible.
  • Change the filters to your furnace and leave any service tags so the  inspector can see them.
  • If your home is vacant make sure the power is on and there is fuel so that the systems can be inspected.

Above all else do not try to conceal any defects you know are present in the home. The home inspector is going to find the issue anyway. Trying to conceal issues will throw up a major red flag. The  last thing you want is to have a buyer think you are dishonest. Al this will do is leave a bad taste in the buyer’s mouth and put you behind the eight ball when the home inspection negotiation process begins.

Hopefully, by now you have realized preparing for a home inspection is a vital part of a real estate transaction and one of the keys to keeping your sale on track!

Other Helpful Home Inspection Resources:

Use these additional helpful resources on preparing for a home inspection to increase the chances of getting past this important milestone in a real estate transaction.

About the author: The above Real Estate information on how to prepare for a home inspection was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 508-625-0191. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 29+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service Real Estate sales in the following Metrowest MA towns: Ashland, Bellingham, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Northborough, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Sutton, Wayland, Westborough, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

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    • says

      Thanks for the compliments on the article Annie and Brian. I know you both know what a big hurdle the home inspection can be in a real estate transaction. It only makes sense to do what you can to ensure that it does not cause home sale failure!

      • says

        Mr. Gassett, I have a question for you to help me educate realtors in my market. First some background to the question. I agree with your assessment in the blog post you put up on Jan 28, 2013, specifically the fifth paragraph, concerning the reality that the inspection will typically generate another round of negotiations. IN my experience, this is the norm, not the exception. I have found some home with such minimal problems that I recommend my clients not ask for any concessions, but the majority of the time I find issues that will require more than a few hundred dollars to rectify. And at that point, it becomes clear that they are GOING to try to re-negotiate; it then becomes how much is a realistic amount to ask for. Given I have 40 years in the construction industry with the last 10 specifically in project management and estimation, I do my best to help walk my clients through a quick guesstimate of how to estimate the cost of repairs, always with the disclaimer to get a minimum of three bids on the work. Given we both agree this is the real fall out of most honest inspections, where can I find hard data to substantiate what we know to be the reality? IE, does anyone track the impact of home inspections on the end result of original contracts for sale? Thanks for you time and efforts to educate the public on the realities of the business. Bill Hawkins

        • says

          Bill I do not know of any kind of service that tracks what happens to real estate transactions after the home inspection. Over the course of the twenty seven years that I have been selling homes the vast majority of inspections have resulted in at least a few repair or credit requests. It is rare that a home inspection will squash a deal for me. I like to think I can get the parties to agree. Typically there is some kind of compromise involved.

  1. says

    This is a 10 out of 10! Nice job Bill. Home Inspections are as hard as doing your own dentistry! lol Pay the small fee and PROVE to the buyers that you have a great house, free of major defects! Its a Buyers Market, so help your home stand out! Brian with

    • says

      Erik I would appreciate the fact you are willing to share the article. Home inspections are a vital part of the home selling process. Making sure you are prepared is a key factor in a home seller’s success.

  2. says

    Bill – great article. I also propose that a seller have a home inspection prior to the listing as it will inform them of the issues and correct prior to marketing… It does make them aware.

    • says

      Tina – I agree that getting a home inspection done by a seller prior to going on the market makes a lot of sense. The question of how to prepare for a home inspection is one that many sellers do not consider. If more preparation was done prior to a home inspection there would be more who were fortunate enough not to lose a sale.

  3. says

    Fantastic and comprehensive Bill, as usual. I must respectfully disagree however, with you and Tina, on a “pre-sale home inspection.” Once a seller has said inspection done, they now have “knowledge of defects” that they are legally required to disclose to all prospective buyers. Who would want that knowledge, especially in the case of things not easily remedied. I would rather let the Buyers and their home inspector do that at the time of their regular inspection.


    • says

      Steve I am actually surprised that you don’t know the laws in Massachusetts for as long as you have been selling real estate! The seller is not required to disclose defects to a buyer. It is caveat emptor – “let the buyer beware”. It is a real estate agent that is required to disclose known defects not a seller. A seller only has to honestly answer a question when asked. They do not have to volunteer anything with the exception of whether they know if lead paint exists in the home.

      In fact the seller’s disclosure forms that we have a seller fill out are for our protection not a seller. Real Estate companies have agents get these forms signed because it brings down errors and omissions insurance. A good real estate attorney would advice against their client providing this document as it is not a requirement in Massachusetts.

      In fact I just sold an attorneys home and he would not agree to fill out and sign the form for this very reason.

    • says

      I advise all agents to be careful, laws and rules may differ from state to state. In Florida the rule is you need to disclose defects that materially affect the value of the property. These MUST be disclosed if the defect is known or should have been known by the owner and/or agent. Reference Supreme Court Case “Johnson v. Davis” and “Randall v Wise”.

      Agents also should not get into the discussion of “What repair cost” may be, liability could be attached if agent is not qualified to make such assessment. Florida is not a “Caveat Emptor” state and disclosure is required. I think it is always best to be our best and give our best because the people we serve deserve our best.

      • says

        Kerry I agree with you that all defects should be disclosed either from a seller or a Realtor. In Massachusetts real estate agents have to disclose known defects. Sellers do not unless asked a question directly.

  4. says

    I beg to differ Bill, respectfully of course. If the Seller “knows” about a defect, and fails to disclose it on the Sellers Description of Property Form, it could be construed as fraud. Of course, they could decline to fill out the form, but that too would raise issues, and as a Buyers Agent I would counsel my Buyers to be very concerned about a house that the seller refused to sign one, wondering what they are hiding.

    More importantly, the Seller who had said inspection, would, I’m sure, talk with his trusted listing agent about what came up and what recommendations said agent had for what to fix or not fix. Once that happens, now the agent has “knowledge” that they are required to disclose by law, and it puts that agent in a precarious spot.

    Remember two important things. First, anyone can sue anyone, any time, for any reason,. They don’t need to be right to file and cause legal fees to mount. Secondly, suits of that nature are not covered by errors and omissions insurance, because, by definition, Chapter 93A means “unfair and deceptive trade practices,” and those are exempted from most coverages.

    In short, I prefer to not recommend that the seller spend $450 to “uncover more defects,” but rather rely on the Buyer, their agent, and their inspector to do so.

    To each his own, of course. You’re one of the best agents I know, and I respect your opinion more than that of almost anyone I know.

    Keep rockin’ Bill!!


  5. says

    Steve I certainly respect you as well but I am telling that a seller does not have to disclose unless asked. You don’t have to believe me just ask any attorney you know. The following language below comes directly from two separate attorneys.

    “The rule of caveat emptor, or buyer beware, does protect sellers (but not their Realtors) for bare non-disclosure. That is, a private seller has no legal duty to disclose anything about the property at all. Don’t ask, don’t tell. A Realtor, however, is on a different footing legally and subject to CMR regulation 3 (13) (c) (1). Remember, a private seller is not bound by 93A as they are not engaged in the business of selling real estate.”

    “If, however, a seller is asked a direct question about the property, and LIES or MISREPRESENTS the condition (that is, the seller knows the basement floods and says it has not flooded ever) then there would be liability for misrepresentation. That’s why attorneys and brokers always advise sellers to not say anything to a buyer and stay away from showings, inspections, etc.”

    Here is a quote from another attorney: While a real estate broker has an affirmative obligation to disclose “known material defects” in a property under 254 CMR 3 (13) (c) (1) and MGL c.112, s.87AAA3/4(c), a seller’s only affirmative obligation is to disclose the presence of lead paint under c.111, s.197A. That does not mean that a seller can misrepresent facts to a buyer. If a buyer relies on a seller’s misrepresentation of facts, even if the seller did not know his statement to be false, the seller may be liable to the buyer. See Zimmerman v. Kent, 31 Mass.App.Ct. 72 (1991).

    Failure to alert a buyer to conditions, however, is not misrepresentation. As the Appeals Court stated in Greenery Rehabilitation Group v. Antaramian, 36 Mass.App.Ct. 73 (1994), concealment in “the simple sense of failure to reveal, with nothing to show any peculiar duty to speak,” is not the same as misrepresentation.

    You are correct that if the seller did do a pre-home inspection and informed a real estate agent about said defects they would need to disclose them. The whole purpose of doing a pre-inspection however, would be to remedy those defects. Presumably they are not doing it so they can go ahead and tell their agent everything that is wrong with their home!

    I am sure you realize that when a home inspection is done on a property and a buyer backs out because of said inspection, a Realtor must disclose to the next buyer everything they are aware of about this property. This includes EVERYTHING that has been presented in the inspectors report.

    • says

      Juan – I would agree with you. If a seller truly wants to prepare for a buyer’s home inspection they should do one on their own prior to the home going on he market. Over the years the majority of homes I have sold the seller was not aware of a number of defects that could have been taken care of prior to the home inspection.

  6. says

    A great comprehensive list of common defects you provided here Bill. And yes, an attorney does not recommend for the seller to provide us with a property disclosure list because of our Florida exclusive right of sale listing agreement which is generally used states to “make all legally required disclosures, including all facts that materially affect the Property’s value and are not readily observable or known by the buyer. Seller certifies and represents that Seller knows of no such material facts (local government building code violations, unobservable defects, etc.) other than the following :__________”

    • says

      Thanks Petra. I am sure some of the home inspection issues brought up can vary somewhat from state to state. Knowing how to be prepared for a home inspection is an important consideration for every home seller.

  7. Christophe Carlier says

    Thank you for sharing, this information on home inspection preparation has been very helpful. Sometimes we forget about common defects found at home inspections and we should be very careful while looking around the house. Like you said we should be aware of ceiling stains, electrical violations, improper bathroom venting, etc. It would be wise to fix these problems before selling a house. Thanks again!

  8. says

    I agree, considering how important an inspection is when you’re planning to sell your home, you want to make sure that you can make things as easy for the inspector as possible. After all, it is just common courtesy to show them some respect since they will be helping sell your house to the potential buyer. If you know which inspector is coming beforehand, it might even help to call ahead and ask what you need to do to your home to be ready for their arrival.

  9. Jade Brunet says

    Thank you for sharing this information about home inspection preparation. It is good to know that ceiling stains are an issue that should be resolved before the inspection. You are right about signs of water problems not leaving a good impression.

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