Whether you’re scheduling a pre-listing inspection or your potential buyers have ordered an inspection before finalizing their purchase, the thought of inviting a professional home inspector into your property to uncover its every flaw can be an understandable cause of nerves.
How do you prepare for something like that? Is there anything you can do to make the process go more smoothly — and increase the odds of positive results?
As it turns out, you can prepare for a home inspection by doing small things around your home to make it easier for the inspector to do their job (and minimize the minor issues they find).
By the end of this article, you should have a better understanding of what a home inspector does, and you’ll know just what to do to prepare for your home inspection and what to expect on the day of your appointment.
Let’s get started!
What does a home inspector do?
While they sound similar, professional home inspectors are not the same as home appraisers. The difference between the two is that appraisers make an estimate of the property’s financial worth, while inspectors examine the property’s structure, systems, and components looking for anything that may need to be repaired or replaced.
Most home buyers — in fact, about eight in ten — hire a home inspector after their offer is accepted and before closing on the deal. That’s because it’s essential to have a solid understanding of the condition of the property, including things that new buyers may not know how to evaluate on sight, like:
- The structure of the home, such as windows and walls, foundation, roof, basement, and attic
- Appliances, such as the HVAC system, refrigerator, washer, dryer, and garage door
- Plumbing and sewage
- Electrical work
A home inspector will typically take from two to four hours to complete their visual inspection, but for larger properties, the inspection can take longer. Once the home inspector is finished with the inspection, they’ll detail their findings in an inspection report.
The final inspection report will help the home buyer decide what (if anything) they’ll ask the seller to fix before proceeding with the sale. Home buyers may also choose to ask for a discount on the sale price (or a credit at closing) in lieu of asking the seller to repair the issue themselves.
In some cases, if the inspector’s findings are severe enough, the home buyer may choose to walk away from the sale completely.
Should you get a pre-listing inspection?
If you don’t like the idea of being surprised by a major issue that causes the buyers to ask for a lower sale price, consider getting a pre-listing inspection.
You may not want to pay the extra money — which will give you a longer list of things to spend money fixing — before you put your house on the market. But it’s worth considering, especially because a pre-listing inspection will help give you a heads-up of the kinds of things your buyers will discover when they schedule their own inspection. What is more, getting a pre-listing inspection and taking care of major flaws with your home can result in a higher sale price and your house spending less time on the market.
Even if you decide not to make repairs based on the inspector’s findings, you won’t be blindsided when the buyers do their own inspection when you’re only days from the finish line.
How to prepare your home for an inspection
As a homeowner, you may feel some nerves at the prospect of a professional coming into your house and looking for issues. You’re probably proud of your home and don’t want to give the buyers any reason to think it’s not worth the price you’re asking.
The first thing to remember is this: a home inspection is not a test that your home passes or fails. All properties have defects, even new construction — and good home inspectors know how to tell and explain the difference between major and minor defects.
Once you’ve put the inspection into proper perspective, it’s time to prepare your home to put its best foot forward.
1. Clean and declutter
While you won’t necessarily score points for a sparkling kitchen sink, it can’t be denied that a clean home leaves the impression of a well-maintained home.
You’ll also want to clear furniture and belongings away from inspection access points such as:
- Under sinks
- HVAC system
Don’t forget to clear the clutter away from the exterior of the home as well so that the inspector can see windows and doors, siding, trim, and gutters. Don’t let things like trash cans or overgrown plants get in the way of where the inspector needs to walk and observe.
2. Label your fuse box
You probably know how frustrating an unclear fuse box can be. To make the inspector’s job easier, double-check that all labels are clear and legible so that the inspector can easily read them at a glance.
3. Inspect your roof
Grab a ladder and check out your roof for yourself, since the roof is always a big part of the inspector’s process.
Make sure your downspouts are in the right position. Clear away leaves from the gutters and debris from the roof (you may want to pressure-wash it). If you spot any loose or missing shingles or other damage, now is the time to take care of those minor repairs.
4. Replace light bulbs and batteries
Do you have any blown light bulbs around your home? Replace them.
When was the last time you replaced the battery in your smoke detector or garage door opener? Make sure those small things are in good working order, and test your carbon monoxide detector while you’re at it.
5. Check for leaks
The inspector will be looking for signs of water damage, so get any water damage fixed prior to the inspection if you can.
Check around and under sinks, appliances, and bathroom fixtures. Look at the walls, ceilings, floors, and the exterior of the home for any signs of discoloration or warping.
6. Double-check your heating and air systems
Your pilot light is likely already on in your water heater, but if you have a gas fireplace, make sure that pilot light is on, too — and that it functions properly. The inspector will want to check whether the fireplace works, so you should make it easy for them.
When was the last time you replaced your furnace filter? Making sure you have a clean one will help show the inspector that you’ve been maintaining your heating and air systems properly.
7. Fix running toilets
If a toilet runs longer than usual after you flush it, take care of that easy fix yourself. And while you’re in the bathrooms, make sure all your drains are unclogged, that the caulking around sinks and tubs is updated, and the grout is clean.
8. Check doors and cabinets
You may have gotten used to that loose cabinet or sticky door lock, but now is the time to make those minor cosmetic repairs that will give an impression of your home’s condition.
Tighten the hinges and handles on all your cabinet doors so that they open smoothly and close flush against the frame. Double-check that all door knobs (and their locks) are working properly, and replace any that need it.
And check for any doors and windows that have been warped from hot or cold weather, especially the ones you don’t use often. Make sure everything opens and closes as it should.
9. Handle pests
There’s no reason to ignore a cockroach or ant infestation in the best of times — but when an inspector is visiting, it’s especially important to keep your home secure. Take this opportunity to set out bait, spray for ants, and knock down those pesky wasp nests on your porch.
The day of the inspection
When the day arrives, do a final walk-through to make sure your home is clean and all access points are clear. Take dishes out of the dishwasher, laundry out of the dryer, and make sure all your utilities are on. Depending on the time of year, turn on your air conditioning or heating.
Unlock any gates, doors, or fuse boxes that you normally keep locked. Leave out remotes for appliances like your garage door and lights.
Since home inspectors are famously early, it’s wise to expect them to arrive ahead of schedule. If the buyer is the one who ordered the inspection, make a plan for your family to be gone during that time — and bring your pets with you, if you can. If that’s not possible, plan to crate them or keep them in a secure area of the house while the inspection is going on.
Inviting a stranger to meticulously examine every aspect of your home can be disconcerting, to say the least. And if you’re anxious to get your home sold for a good price, it’s understandable to worry that an inspection might throw a wrench in the works.
But remember: it isn’t a home inspector’s job to “pass” or “fail” your house. Every home has small defects, and it’s extremely unlikely that the inspector won’t find something to put in his or her report.
The best you can do is to prepare by tidying your home and checking it over for minor repairs you can do yourself. Get your home in the best shape you can, and then take a deep breath: an inspection is a normal part of the selling process, and it’s bringing you one step closer to that next exciting phase in your life!