Before you sell your home one of the smartest things you can do is get it inspected. This is the only way you can be sure that there is nothing significantly wrong with the property you are selling. It also gives you a chance to fix any home inspection issues before you put the home up on the market. Knowing how to prepare for a home inspection is one of the critical elements in making sure you avoid problems with your sale. Without a doubt the buyer of your home will do their own home inspection so it only makes sense to correct any known issues before a for sale sign hits your lawn!
It may seem like at first that the home inspector is going out of their way to find problems, but you should appreciate the information he or she is giving you. Often times home owners have no idea their home has any issues. By taking care of these things now and documenting the repairs, you make your home acceptable to buyers and lenders and protect yourself from potential legal problems later on.
Home Inspection Issues That Kill Home Sales
As a real estate agent with twenty seven years experience, I have been through thousands of real estate home inspections. Having this first hand experience has allowed me to counsel my clients with good advice that can help them navigate through the home sale process. The items below are the home inspection problems that can stop a sale in it’s tracks. A large portion of buyers will not accept the purchase of a home if one of these issues is discovered. Even if the buyer is accepting of one of these problems the likelihood is very strong that the buyer will be looking for a significant financial discount. This is why taking action on these common home inspection findings can be financially prudent.
The foundation of your home is perhaps the most important piece of what makes it structurally sound. It has to be in good shape for the rest of the house – the frame, walls, roof – to retain its structural integrity. Unfortunately water damage, geological issues and even shoddy craftsmanship can lead to foundation problems. It takes professional inspection to truly gauge the severity of the problem. If it is bad, you will need to have it fixed before you put the house up for sale. If the problem is severe enough it may be a good idea to consult a structural engineer.
While a home inspector will be able to identify a structural issue they may not be able to fully determine what exactly needs to be done to correct the problem. There are varying degrees of structural deficiencies. If you have the financial ability to fix a structural problem before putting your home on the market you should absolutely do so. Without question a major structural problem can easily cause a number of buyers to walk from the sale.
Termites and Other Pests
A pest inspection is one of the more common contingencies in a real estate contract. Most buyers are going to check for bugs when buying a home. There are some types of loans in fact where it is a mandatory inspection. One of these mortgages is a Veterans loan. The VA loan requires a termite inspection be performed in all home purchases.
It can be pretty upsetting to learn that termites have been munching on your beloved home. However, it is not a problem you can afford to ignore. They will continue to do what they do and the problem will only get worse. The same can be said for any pests – from ants to mice. Bring in a professional and put an end to the problem and repair the damage before sale. While ants and mice are not a huge concern and can be rectified fairly easily, termites are not something to fool around with because of their ability to destroy the structural integrity of a home.
There are actually different types of termites that can invade your home. Here is one of the best references on termites. Without a doubt you will learn things about termites you never know by taking a look at this resource.
There is nothing that will strike fear into a home buyer faster than prior evidence of water in a home. In my experience this is one of the leading causes of a buyer backing out of a real estate transaction. Water penetration is an fairly common inspection problem. There of course varying degrees of water issues.
For example if your basement takes on water every time their is a mild storm most buyers are not going to be so forgiving. This is an issue that needs to be fixed when you are selling your home. One of the most important things you can do is identify how the problem occurs. Is the problem due to ground water? Does the water come through an unsealed crack on the wall? These are the types of questions that need to be answered. When you know exactly how the water problem occurs you can deal with it appropriately.
Maybe all it requires is a sump pump which is fairly easy to install. If the issue is something more severe you may need some kind of French drain system which can be fairly expensive to install. If you are lucky and the water is just coming through a crack, that should also be easily fixed. Sometimes it is as simple as having ggod drainage with a sound gutter system.
Proper drainage is very important for the integrity of your home. Water leads to erosion and to mold inside the house, neither of which a buyer wants. Fortunately these issues are fixable. Hopefully the inspector caught it before things got too bad. Otherwise you could be looking at substantial damage.
With moisture often comes mold, a real problem for homeowners. Mold is one of the things that are at the forefront of real estate sales at the moment. A large portion of home buyers have become educated as to the health issues that mold can cause. Anyone who has an upper respiratory issue will be really susceptible to mold.
Many cities have regulations concerning mold because there are health concerns over its presence in the home. Too much mold can cause reactions in some people that can prove very problematic. The last thing you want is a buyer finding out you have mold, and worse, that it hasn’t been addressed. Removing mold when selling a home is a very wise move. If at all possible you want to make sure your mold problem is dealt with before you put your home up for sale. Luckily there are mold remediation companies that do an excellent job of cleaning up and stopping the source of the problem – typically water penetration into the home.
Radon is a radioactive gas that comes up from decaying uranium in the soil – a gas that can and does cause lung cancer. In fact, the U.S. Surgeon General says that it is the second highest cause of lung cancer in the country – and it is found in many, many homes. This is why it is important that you test for it for both your safety and the safety of your buyers. If there are radon issues, they can be addressed by radon mitigation specialists.
While there is no federal regulation in place that says you have to fix a radon issue a buyer is going to expect that you will. Testing for radon has become very common in real estate transactions. Some important things that you need to know about radon testing include these facts:
- The test will be conducted over a minimum of 48 hours.
- The EPA recommends that a home be under 4.0 picocures per liter of air.
- If your home has radon the common solution is installing a PVC pipe into the slab of your home and venting out through the roof.
- A fan is attached to the pipe creating a vacuum that removes most of the radon before it enters the home.
- Depending on your area a good ball park for remediation of radon is $1000-$1500.
Older homes were not always wired to handle the load that modern technology puts on an electrical system. If this is the case with your home, it could actually present a fire hazard. If nothing else, it will lead to failures in the system that are inconvenient. If this comes up in your inspection, have an electrician come in and troubleshoot for you. It may be possible to find a cheaper fix than rewiring the entire home.
Your home does not need to be old in order to have electrical problems. If someone asked me what the most common home inspection items were electrical problems would be right at the top of the list. It is very rare that you don’t see some kind of electrical problem.
Some of the more common wiring issues include the following:
- Double tapped breakers.
- Lack of ground fault interrupters.
- Reverse polarity of outlets.
- Ungrounded wiring.
All of these electrical problems are usually fairly minor and therefore not that costly to fix. One problem however that is not cheap is what’s known as knob and tube wiring. Knob and tube wiring was installed in older homes built in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. This type of wiring has been discovered to be quite faulty. In fact there are a number of lenders who will not provide financing with homes that have knob and tube wiring due to the fact that it is difficult to procure home insurance. This type of wiring has been known to cause numerous fires resulting in devastating damages.
If you have any knob and tube wiring in your home it would make sense to get it removed. You will eliminate a large portion of buyers from being able to purchase your property without doing so.
Again, older homes were not always constructed with our modern lifestyles in mind. The plumbing in your house may have been poorly designed, designed to handle a lot less of a load than is common today or constructed with materials – like lead – that are no longer considered safe. If the home inspector has a problem with it, chances are you will need to fix it before you sell the home. Plumbing issues are another common home inspection problem that buyers don’t want to deal with.
Some of the more common home inspection issues with plumbing include”
- Leaky faucets.
- Loose toilets.
- Leaking valves and fittings around the heating system and hot water tank.
Well Water Problems
Having well water is not necessarily a problem, as long as the water pressure is good and the quality of the water is acceptable. If either of these is an issue you may be looking at an expensive repair – maybe even drilling a new well. Even if the well you are currently using was once perfect, that does not mean it will always remain that way. The people buying your home will want to have decent water pressure and will certainly need good quality water.
When a buyer purchases a home with well water there will often be a “well water contingency”. Buyers will check both the quality and quantity of the well. When checking on the quality of water, the EPA guidelines are almost always what is followed to determine potability. Buyers will expect that your home meets the minimum guidelines for safe drinking water. Sometimes there might be elements that are found in the water that don’t meet the EPA guidelines but are not a major health concern.
For example many homes throughout the US have high iron counts. Another common issues is hardness. While these are not significant issues, it doesn’t mean however that a buyer may not ask you to rectify it by installing a filter or softener system. If you have something that could cause health concerns like lead, mercury, or arsenic expect a buyer to ask for remediation.
When checking on the quantity of a well an inspector will typically look that the well will produce a minimum amount of water. The amount you commonly see as a minimum standard is five gallons per minute maintained over a period of four hours.If your well does not meet these standards be prepared for a buyer to ask you to fix the issue. Correcting a well for lack of water can get expensive. Typical remedies include Hydro-fraction or drilling of a new well.
Asbestos was considered an ideal building material for a very long time. It was only once we understood that the dust from asbestos could stick in your lungs and stay there – causing a very nasty form of cancer – that people had to stop building with it. If your home is older though, you could still have asbestos inside of it. There are companies that can safely remove it if necessary. Asbestos is only dangerous if disturbed – producing dust that you breathe in. You should not attempt to remove the material yourself. The asbestos was commonly used as an insulator of plumbing pipes in homes. Asbestos was also found in some types of flooring tiles as well.
Asbestos only becomes a problem when it is in poor condition. If the asbestos is properly wrapped or not damaged in anyway it should not be a big concern.
The use of lead paint was outlawed in homes in the late 1970’s. All homes built before 1978 have to have a mandatory lead paint form signed by both buyers and sellers in a real estate transaction. It is required that if a buyer has a child of the age of six years or less living in a home with lead paint it must be removed or encapsulated. Lead paint is no longer used in homes because of the health issues that is can create. Ingesting lead paint can created devastating health issues and even death.
Lead paint is one of those potential home inspection issues where full disclosure is necessary. Sellers must sign a form stating what they know or don’t know about the presence of lead in their home. Buyers are given the opportunity to check for the same when buying a home.
This can be one of the more frustrating home inspection red flags. Replacing a roof is not cheap and is not something anyone wants to do if not necessary. When the home inspector throws up a flag though, you are probably in for a pricy repair. It is definitely worth bringing in a professional roofing company to take a look at your roof in this situation. They may be able to do some repair work and avoid replacing the entire roof. Knowing if a roof needs replacement is an important consideration to find out before your home goes on the market. The roof is one of the biggest bones of contentions in a home inspection because of the subjectivity of when it will need replacement.
Oftentimes a home inspector will state that the roof is nearing the end of it’s life but has a few more years left before it needs to be replaced. In a buyers mind this can mean NOW. In your mind it is another few years. Having evidence from a professional roofer is better than hearing you need a new roof from the buyers home inspector.
As you can see there are a number of home inspection issues that can derail a real estate transaction. How to negotiate home inspection problems becomes a necessary skill that you or your real estate agent will need in order to keep your sale together. You should never underestimate the level of concern a buyer has for these types of problems.
While the may be of minor concern to you a buyer may not share your belief. Always remember that your sale is a business transaction. If one of these issues bothers one set of buyers the chances of it bothering another is pretty good as well. Remember moving forward your Realtor will need to disclose these issues to any future buyers. Understanding these common inspection findings like the back of your hand should help keep your sale on track – best of luck!
Lesser Home Inspection Findings
While the above items are major issues that can be found in homes, there are also other smaller nuisance items that are commonly found at home inspections. There are things that should be addressed as well but may not be a big enough issue that a buyer will walk from the sale.
- Rotted exterior trim and cracked clapboards.
- Shrubbery to close to the home.
- Sidewalk and driveway cracking.
- Garage floor cracking.
- Peeling paint.
- Improper deck support.
- Failing water heater.
- Chimney re-pointing.
- Broken skylight seals.
- Temporary hollow lolly columns.
Additional Home Selling Articles Worth Reading
- What to do before selling a home via Maximum Real Estate Exposure.
Keep in mind that the home inspection is the one of the biggest hurdles to clear in a real estate transaction. More sales fall apart at the home inspection than at any other point in the home selling process. It makes sense to be aware of what can cause your sale to end abruptly so you can avoid that happening!
The above Real Estate information on top home inspection issues 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 27+ 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.