Selling your home can make you feel like you're living in a fishbowl, with potential buyers and real estate agents evaluating, judging and otherwise picking apart the place you've called home for years. Just before the actual sale comes the most intense scrutiny of all: the home inspection.
A pre-sale home inspection is pretty much a given in home sales today, and on occasion it can actually make or break the transaction. A home inspection ensures that the buyer knows exactly what they're buying, and if the seller hasn't done the preparation that enables full disclosure and prevents surprises, it can be a nerve-wracking experience.
"There's a huge psychological dynamic that happens in this whole process," says David Tamny, a certified home inspector in Columbus, OH, and president of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). "The buyers are making a big purchase and they're obviously going through a whole host of emotions, and then you've got the inspector there, and it's their job to deliver up to the buyer's expectations...There could be problems the seller isn't even aware of that could impact someone's decision to buy the house."
If you're new to the home sale process, study this guide to prepare for and survive the presale inspection. You'll earn valuable peace of mind and possibly a profitable sale price as well.
How a home inspection works
Nearly all of today's home purchase contracts include a home inspection contingency clause, which is a provision allowing the buyer to hire a professional home inspector to thoroughly evaluate of the house and determine if there are any issues with its structure or systems. Once a purchase contract has been signed, the buyer can book a professional inspector of their choosing, whom they may or may not accompany during the two- to three-hour inspection.
A typical home inspection includes a check of a house's structural and mechanical condition but can also encompass tests for radon gas, detection of wood-destroying insects and other services requested by the buyer. Back in 1976, the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) standardized the home inspection process and established Standards of Practice dictating what must be inspected as well as how far the professional home inspector needs to go to report their findings.
According to ASHI, the ten critical areas for inspection during the process are the structure, exterior, roofing system, plumbing system, electrical system, heating system, air conditioning system, interior, insulation and ventilation, and fireplaces.
Once the home inspection is complete, the inspector creates a report for the home buyer detailing all that was found. This report will note problems requiring immediate attention and conditions that could lead to more serious issues over time.
<!-- Start Playerseed for video: 19945049 -->
<!-- End Playerseed for video: 19945049 -->
How the seller should prepare
There's no hiding the truth of a home inspector's findings, so the wisest way to head off potential problems is to evaluate your home before you even put it on the market. Just by deciding to sell your home, you're entering a competitive market where quality work, steady maintenance and general care for your home will shine through. So, if you can afford to do so, plan on hiring a home inspector yourself in order to secure a presale profile of your home. This gives you the opportunity to repair and improve the things you can, and the chance to determine larger issues that should be disclosed up front. Bottom line, you'll have a reference point by which to compare the results of the buyer's home inspection─a great advantage that could possibly prevent the loss of a sale.
"Nobody lives in a perfect house," says Tamny. "You may have been in your house all these years, and there are little things you probably don't even pay attention to. Be prepared to fix stuff up, because it's just part of the whole process─don't take it personally."
During the home inspection
The key advice here is not to be at home when the inspection happens. The home inspector needs to be able to do a thorough, detailed job without interference or interruption, and if the buyer is along for the ride, they must be free to ask critical questions and to point out areas of concern. If the shoe were on the other foot, you know you'd expect the same, but it can be unsettling to observe this process in your own home. So get your home ready and then get out of the way.
After the home inspection
Once the home inspection is complete, the inspector will be reporting results only to their client, the buyer (a circumstance bound by law in many states). The discovery of major material issues─the kind of stuff that's a big enough deal to be a sale roadblock─may bring you back to the negotiation table, and should be the only impact on completion of the sale.
"A kitchen faucet dripping is hardly a material defect, but if you have a foundation problem or the house needs a new roof, that's material because somebody could decide not to buy a house if they knew it needed a large repair like that," advises Tamny.
Working with the best
No matter which side of the transaction you're on, the help of a qualified home inspector can make all the difference in your comfort level during what can be an intimidating and sometimes invasive experience. To locate a pro in your area, use ASHI's "Find A Home Inspector" locator at www.ashi.org. All inspectors listed here have met rigorous testing and experience requirements, and are among the most qualified in the nation. And while you're visiting ASHI online, click over to their Virtual Home Inspection Tour for an interactive, step-by-step look at the ins and outs of professional home inspections─a great way to get acquainted with the process before you're actually part of it!
Tom Kraeutler is a home improvement expert for AOL Real Estate and host of "The Money Pit," a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program offering home improvement and remodeling tips and ideas, as well as help tips for buying or selling a home.
Want to know more about home inspections? These AOL Real Estate guides can help:
- Home Inspections: What to Expect
- Video: Home Inspections: It Pays to Know What You're Buying
- Video: Home Inspections for Sellers: Prepping for the Sale
- Home Inspection Red Flags for Buyers