Congratulations! You listed your home for sale, priced it competitively and now a buyer is interested enough to put in a formal offer. There’s just one hurdle left to cross: A successful home inspection report.
While the bulk of the negotiation on terms and price are finalized prior to proceeding with a buyer’s inspection, this doesn’t mean that no further negotiations are possible. The inspection report is the sober-second thought a buyer may need to determine if the home you are selling is a good investment or a potential money-pit.
The process might feel one-sided — in favour of the buyer. It’s at this point that all parties will become aware of potential problems and necessary “fixes” and, more importantly, the report may prompt the buyer to walk, ask the seller to fix the issues or for a reduction in price.
This sounds daunting, but the home inspection report can benefit the home seller, too. The biggest advantage is that you will gain a measure of protection against the new homeowner coming back with a lawsuit, later on, claiming that you failed to disclose any defects (even inadvertently!).
Let’s take a look at some things you can do to sail through the inspection process stress-free.
#1 – Perform a walk-through of your own home
Do as the inspector will do — perform a walk-through of your home. Remain impartial and try to view it with unbiased eyes. Keep your eyes open for water spots on ceilings or walls, be aware of any funky odours that could indicate mildew or moisture; and, listen for sounds that are “off” like rattling or creaking noises.
These are things that a home inspector will notice and investigate quickly. If you can adequately repair them before the inspector arrives, there will be fewer items to complete later.
#2 – Clear up clutter in preparation for the inspector
An inspector needs to access your home in order to complete a thorough inspection. If a space or a room is cluttered with belongings the inspector may note that with strong warnings to the potential buyer that a full inspection of the premises was not done, due to lack of access. To avoid this situation (and possible, though unintended, red flags) clear access to every nook and cranny in your basement, attic, and garage. For instance, if you have a pull-down attic ladder, clear the landing. If you’ve packed boxes waiting for moving day and have them stored in the basement then pull them away from the foundation walls. Make sure nothing is blocking the path to the home’s plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems.
#3 – Test lights and outlets
Use your cell phone and charger to ensure that all outlets in the home function properly. If you find dead outlets, either pay to fix them before the buyer’s inspection or make note of the dead outlets and offer to fix or pay for the fix upon a finalized closing. While you’re checking out every room, flick on every light switch; replace burnt out light bulbs, as needed. Plus, test your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors and replace the old batteries for fresh ones.
#4 – Make minor fixes
Do you have a lightly dripping faucet or a toilet that runs continuously? How about nail holes in the wall you never got to patching? If you’ve been avoiding making these types of small repairs, now is the time to tackle them.
Don’t consider these repairs to be money wasted tasks; the inspector is sure to find these problems and alert the buyer. This can result in you having to fix these issues, anyway, or prompt the buyer to ask for a reduction in sale price. By being proactive, you eliminate the uncertainty and expedite the final closing process.
#5 – Call a chimney sweep
In Canada, we love our fireplaces and wood stoves — and we use them frequently throughout our long winters. But are you are aware about the hazards of a dirty chimney? The inspector is aware. As part of the inspection, a qualified professional may either do a visual inspection and pass the chimney or the professional may recommend an inspection from a Wood Energy Technology Transfer (WETT) certified professional. Prior to this inspection, consider paying a professional chimney cleaning crew to inspect and clean your wood stoves, fireplaces and chimneys.
#6 – Appliance checks
Do your appliances stay with the property once it’s sold? If so, test every appliance that transfers to the new owner, including your range, fridge, dishwasher, washing machine and even your dryer. Don’t forget the spare freezer or small basement refrigerator if they also get left behind. You just want to be sure they are in proper working order. To avoid the chance of a breakdown before closing day, make sure you vacuum the fridge and/or freezer coils and empty dirt and lint traps. Finally, gather up your manuals and receipts and place them in an envelope. The new owners may someday need warranty work.
#7 – Empty house? Call to turn on utilities
If you’ve already moved away from your home and you’ve turned off or cut off the utilities, you may need to task someone with turning everything back on before the inspector arrives. The inspector will need to have electricity, gas, and water to test all your mechanical systems. Failure to take action now will cause a delay in the final sale.
It’s rare that a home inspector doesn’t find a few minor issues in the property that need to be addressed — don’t forget this person is being paid to pick apart the property. Rather than view it as a punitive experience, consider it an opportunity to get feedback that helps you get to the closing table.
Post-inspection, the inspector will prepare a detailed inspection report to present. Typically, the seller will not get access to this report unless requested and given by the buyer. Just keep in mind that this document will lend support to any additional negotiations brought up by the buyer. Also, you are not required to make alterations or to fix anything that is found to be broken or defective. You have options. For instance, you may opt to remedy the problem yourself, pay a professional to complete the repairs or offer your buyers credit, in the form of house-price reduction, to satisfy the request for repairs. Finally, you may refuse all requests to repair or to reduce the price — just keep in mind that at this point the buyer also has the option to walk away from the deal.
As you prepare for your home inspection, remember that your goal is never to “cover-up” or mislead the inspector. Covering up problems with your home may infuriate the inspector, could jeopardize your property sale and could even lead to a future lawsuit.