10 Tips for Preparing for a Home Inspection
Home sellers benefit from a smooth home inspection as much as the buyer. Not having your home ready for an inspection can cause delays in closing and in rare cases, can even kill the deal. By following the tips below, your inspection should proceed smoothly for all involved.
1) Be Ready Early and Prepare to be Away at Least Three Hours
Home inspectors generally show up early to get a head start inspecting the exterior of the home. The home should be ready for inspection at least a half hour before the scheduled time. The home owner should not be present at the inspection but should be available to take calls in case there is a problem or any questions. Often, the inspection is only the second time the buyer is seeing the home, and they need time in the home without the seller present before the final walk through. It is also important that the buyer and inspector can speak freely to one another - they may not feel comfortable to do so if the seller is present.
2) Remove Pets
Plan on removing your pets from the home during the inspection. You might have the sweetest, gentlest pup in the world, but those attending the inspection do not know your pet. It can be distracting, and to some, intimidating, to have pets present. In addition, exterior doors will be opened numerous times during the inspection and we’d hate to have your pet escape.
3) Turn on All Utilities
Often, unoccupied properties have some (or all) of the utilities turned off. Inspectors need to operate the heating system, inspect the electrical system and run appliances. If utilities are not turned on, much of the inspection cannot be performed, and the inspection will need to be rescheduled. Making sure the utilities are turned on before the inspection saves everyone involved a lot of time.
4) Make Sure Mechanical System and Appliances Are Not in a ‘Shut-Down’ Condition
Home inspectors follow standards of practice, operating systems using only normal, everyday controls, such as faucet handles, switches and thermostats. They do not turn shutoff valves, flip breakers or turn on gas valves. If any of these are turned off, it has to be assumed that something is wrong with the system or appliance that they control, and for safety reasons, they will not attempt to turn them on. Before an inspection, the seller should make sure all breakers, gas valves to furnaces, boilers, and hot water heaters are turned on, pilot lights are lit, and plumbing valves are turned to the open position. Any system that is in shut-down condition could cause delays by requiring the inspector to come back later. Normally systems are in shut-down condition to save on utility costs while the home is unoccupied, but if any system is in a shut-down condition due to a known issue, the seller should notify all parties before the inspection. Leaving a note by the switch, valve, or breaker also helps.
5) Don’t Hide Problems
Home inspectors need to visually inspect all systems and components. Trying to hide defects only makes the process more difficult for the inspector, and often, the problem is readily fixable or isn’t a major concern for the homeowner. An example- when purchasing my own home, the seller limited access to the attic to hide evidence of a past fire. It turned out that the fire, which occurred decades ago, only scorched the surface of some rafters, leaving no structural damage. Full disclosure would have been the better option. If the buyer feels that the seller has intentionally hidden a problem, they may wonder what else is wrong with the house, and they may back out of the deal.
6) Ensure Access to Crawlspaces and Attic
Make sure crawlspaces and attic spaces are accessible, with clear pathways and entry ways into these spaces. Make sure hatches are not screwed or painted shut. If access is in a closet, there is usually little space for the inspector to move around to begin with (and if the hatch is in the closet ceiling, keep in mind the inspector will need to get a ladder in there as well). Remove any shelves and personal items in front of or below the hatch so the inspector doesn’t have to move your stuff. If there is no access to the attic, have access installed prior to the inspection. If not, the inspector will need to come back to complete the inspection. Even though these spaces are not occupied, they are very important to access as they could have hidden structural, electrical, or ventilation issues.
7) Empty Appliances
Remove all personal items from your appliances. Inspectors will want to test the operation of appliances by running them but do not want to accidentally ruin anything. Remove clothes from washers and dryers. Empty the dishwasher. Make sure nothing is stored in microwaves or ovens. We don’t want to accidentally melt your Tupperware that you store in the oven or cook the bread you store in the microwave.
Inspectors need as much access as possible to your home, and stored items often get in the way. Keep sinks and countertops clear in the kitchen and baths so they can run water and access the outlets. Remove anything in the way of plumbing access panels for the tub, usually found in an adjacent closet. Make sure there is access on all sides of the furnace or boiler, hot water heater, indoor well components, water meter, sump pump, and in front of electrical panels.
9) Identify Locations for Septic Tank, Buried Fuel Tanks and Well Heads
If you know the locations of the septic tank, buried fuel tanks or well heads, leave a simple sketch showing their locations. It is very common to see the inspector, the buyer and the buyer’s agent spend a half hour searching the property for a well head, only to find out that it’s buried somewhere in front of the house or simply hidden in the bushes. This is simple information that can save time during the inspection.
10) Report Anything Unusual About the House
Home inspectors have a lot of training, and they see a lot of different things, but they will still come across things during an inspection that they have not seen before. Leave a note to the inspector for anything that is truly out of the ordinary, such as a one of a kind electric heating with radiant ceilings or a voice activated thermostat. If the inspector doesn’t figure out how to operate that truly unique appliance or system, it could get mistakenly reported as defective.
I hope this information will be helpful for everyone involved in the home selling process. Have you been through an inspection where things didn’t go so smoothly? Do you have tips of your own that aren’t included in my list? Feel free to share your experience and suggestions in the comments section.