Home Inspection Guide for Sellers

House for sale

Now that the big picture decisions of affordability, room layout and neighbourhood are behind them, buyers are going to examine your house in much finer detail. They are trying to picture how it will feel to live there. Everybody gets used to their own messes but other peoples’ are much less appealing. A little extra effort at this final stage can help keep a nervous buyer moving forward.

The goal should be to get as many of the little items taken care of as you can to keep them from bulking up the inspection report. This can help to relieve the anxiety of the buyer, who might be intimidated by the reality of the closing and still has to waive their conditions. Why not reassure them that the house is in top shape in as many ways as possible?

Quick Fixes

Replace any burned out light bulbs. A burned out bulb suggests that you haven’t been keeping up on the little things around the house. A cautious inspector will now spend twice as much time to make sure they see everything.

Install missing and replace damaged receptacle covers (with the power off for safety of course). Inspectors will write up every missing receptacle cover they see as a safety hazard. It is commonly treated as a major safety and immediate item. Why have those items in the report when its such an easy fix?

Make sure your furnace filter is clean and replace if necessary. Furnace protection plans are often transferable to the new owner. Have the documentation out on the kitchen table. It’s a great way to reassure the buyer that their furnace maintenance is up to date.

Inspectors don’t like to see leaves and debris accumulating in window wells. It only takes a few minutes to scoop them out and eliminate another item from the report.

Make sure the pilot light is on in your gas fireplaces. Some inspectors refuse to turn on any gas appliances for fear that they are not operating properly. This ends up in a phone call from the agent or as an item for followup inspection. Its just easier to avoid the possibility and have them on and ready. By the way if your unit uses a remote control to operate, have it out in plain sight.

The inspector is most likely going to detect the signs of significant work such as foundation repairs. Inspectors will report evidence of past water intrusion for sure. Rather than having the prospective buyer worrying about expensive repairs, and possibly losing the deal, a much better impression is made if you freely display the paper work for the repairs that addressed the problem.

A Bit of Elbow Grease Required

Funky smells get noticed and nobody appreciates them. If the kid’s sports equipment or accumulations of laundry are developing a fragrance all of their own, take the time to do the wash and put the equipment in the trunk of your car. If that seems like a gross idea, it just proves the point. Flush toilets, clean litter-boxes and diaper pails. Scrub any mildew around tubs and showers. Emptying and deodorizing garbage pails is a good idea. Take fifteen minutes to air the house out, but don’t over do the chemical air fresheners and deodorizers.

The fewer signs that there are pets in the house the better. It’s a good time to take the pets with you for a walk. Make sure someone has done a thorough poop cleanup in the yard. You may think the buyer loves animals too, but if they show up with Mom, Dad or their Mother in Law, their opinion may be unnecessarily soured. Nobody will appreciate stepping on one of your pet’s landmines.

The inspector is going to climb up to have a look in the attic hatch. Most of these hatches are in closets and sometimes those closets are stuffed with belongings. First, you probably would prefer us not to be handling your stuff to clear out the closet enough to spread a stepladder. And second, although we try to be neat and tidy, its almost inevitable that some insulation will fall down through the hatch. Far better to move a few things now than to have suits to clean later.

Most inspectors won’t run the appliances, but the home buyer might. Empty the washing machine, clothes dyer and dishwasher. If you have a built-in vacuum cleaner, this might be a good time to empty it as well.

Turning off the electrical power is the safest way to inspect the distribution panel. If you have special equipment that requires continuous power try to make accommodation for a brief shutdown. I once had a house with a couple racks of computers in the basement serving several online businesses. In that case it was pretty obvious, but if I had thrown the switch before noticing the computers it might have been awkward. At the very least, make sure the inspector hears about stuff like this before hand. Confirm after the inspection that power has been restored to GFCIs, thermostats and timers you depend upon.

Please make sure there are no dishes or laundry items left soaking in the sinks. Sinks that drain slowly will be reported. It might not be fun, but you can clear them with a plunger or by emptying the traps. Those curved sections under the vanity have a plug or nut that can be loosened to flush them out. Have a tub underneath and a rag handy.

If winter snow has accumulated, clear off walkways, porches, balconies, decks and if possible the driveway. Whatever the inspector can’t see will become a report item. This doesn’t mean that anything is wrong, just that the inspector can’t reassure the buyer of their condition. Don’t shovel snow off the roof. You will more likely damage the roof and it’s a risky activity.

A Few Bucks But Probably Worth It

Squeaky floorboards get noticed. There are special screws that will fix squeals under carpet, hardwood and linoleum floors. They are specially designed so that they tighten the floor to subfloor or joist with minimal visibility. The screw heads snap off to leave a small hole below the surface which should be invisible in carpet floors and easily filled in hardwood. An excellent explanatory video is available from the manufacturer, O’Berry Enterprises, Inc.

Door hinges sometimes need a little lubrication on the hinge pin to stop a squeak. Some people use oil or powdered graphite, but both can be messy and can drip or work its way out where it can be seen. Grease is a better choice. Be careful to use just a little. See your local Lowes or Home Depot for plumber’s grease or alternate product. Here is a handyman site that has a good how to page on this topic.

Ripped window screens can be taken to your local hardware store for repair. The inspector will want to operate your windows. You can find replacements for cranks missing from casement windows at Lowes or Home Depot. Thermopane panels in windows sometimes have failed seals that show up as moisture or stains in between the sheets of glass. This can be a pricey item to fix in any quantity. I’ve seen houses that had more than half a dozen of these located throughout the house and it can become a renegotiation issue. There are three approaches to be considered, replacing the entire window, just replacing the glass or attempting to repair the seal. You may decide fixing a prime picture window location to be a good investment. Then you can provide the paperwork to the buyer when discussing the others. Here’s more window seal repair information.

All inspectors comment on areas where surface water runoff will drain toward the house rather than the preferred direction away from the house. Eavestrough downspouts often deliver water too close to the foundation. By extending downspouts, six feet where possible to a downhill grade, the water runs away form the house and has little chance of soaking down along the basement wall. Toronto Eavestroughing has produced an excellent video explaining how to reroute a downspout. In this case the eavestrough had been flowing underground but the same principles apply to extending a surface feeding downspout. For more explanation see their website.

Carbon monoxide and smoke detectors that are discoloured or nearing ten years of age will be reported. Most detectors are now hard-wired to the electrical supply, so make sure you turn off the right circuit breaker before replacing them. Replacing with the same model or brand can reduce this to a quick plug in to the existing connector. If you are the least bit uncomfortable working with electricity seek help, but its pretty simple and here’s a very thorough video guide from iScaper.com.

If you are a bit handy or have access to a handyman these issues can be readily addressed. They aren’t showstoppers but they help to remove items from the inspectors report.

Final Thoughts

Just in case the selling agent doesn’t have your cell phone number with them, it’s a good idea to leave it out on the table. Sometimes a quick answer can help clarify things quickly. For those few hours you are out of the house, disable the security alarm. Everybody might have a good laugh later but the inspection could get derailed. You can always let a neighbour know that an inspection is happening.

If you can take your animals with you it would be best. The non-pet people will appreciate it and there will be people opening outside doors and gates that any escape artists might take advantage of. The inspector needs access to all parts of the house. Dogs with an attitude can stop things cold. If you have work conflicts, you might consider asking someone to watch ‘Spike’ for the day.

Look here for a printable home inspection checklist.

Finally, make sure you are not at home during the inspection. Be out for at least four hours. As welcoming as you intend to be, it can still be awkward for the buyer. Not having the freedom to inspect at their leisure feels uncomfortable. This is a crucial part of the buying process when you want them to feel as much ‘at home’ as possible. One last piece of advice, don’t show up at the end of the inspection and ask how it went. As much as you want to know the answer, the inspector reports to the buyer and the buyer needs time to absorb the contents of the report. Rest assured, you will find out as soon as the buyer is ready to tell you.


Author: Rob Cornish is a Home Inspector in Ottawa, Canada. © 2013 HomeXam Inc.
If you took the time to read this post, please take the time to Google+ it. Thanks.

Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On YoutubeVisit Us On Linkedin