You’ve gone through the prep, the staging, the open houses and the showings. Several families have come through your home and you have an accepted offer on the table. This is an exciting time for many home sellers who are near the end of the selling process.
In most cases, one of the remaining hurdles is the home inspection. There are a few things that a home seller can do to prepare for the inspector’s visit. Taking the time to prepare things for the inspection can make this final step go much more smoothly. Here are a few things that a seller can do that will assist the inspector and might even help your sale.
#1 – Have your paperwork together
It is a great practice to keep a folder and log of all maintenance, repairs and improvement for the house with dates of service, contractors, contact information and warranties and manuals. The inspector can use this information to review dates and maintenance performed. Additionally, it shows an extra amount of care and diligence that you take in keeping track and taking care of your house. A home inspector will often cite the age of the furnace or appliances based on the serial numbers, which tell you when they were manufactured. Sometimes those appliances are installed a couple of years later, so having installation dates recorded is a way of showing a couple of more years of expected use than going strictly by the year that it was manufactured.
#2 – Clean the house
First impressions are everything. When an inspector walks into a messy, dirty house the first thought in their mind might be that the lack of cleanliness is a signal that the home is not well maintained. The house is probably already mostly spotless after it has been prepared for open houses and showings but make a full sweep through the home to clean up the clutter and the spills to give that great first impression.
Most inspectors are not going to comment on the cleanliness of a house because it has nothing to do with the condition of the house. Although, I did hear a story about an inspector noting in his report that kids’ toys all over the floor were a possible tripping hazard. Last time I checked, the clutter does not come with the house. I’m not sure if the inspector was trying to be funny, but a home inspection report is not necessarily the place for humor.
#3 – Change those light bulbs
A home inspector will turn light switches on and off to check the switch and the light. If there is a burned-out bulb, the report may bring that light or switch and its circuitry into question. The inspector will be able to quickly note that the circuit works as expected if the homeowners replace the bulbs before the inspection.
Likewise, it is helpful to know if a switch controls a wall outlet, and what outlets it controls. Plug a lamp into any outlet that is controlled by a switch and turn the lamp on, so that it will light up when we flip the switch. Inspectors can usually figure it out as they go, but sometimes we don’t and it can eliminate a potential red flag in the report. Some inspectors may not take the time to determine what the switch controls and will note the questionable light switch and/or outlet in their report.
Lastly, make notes if there are any odd electrical situations in the house so that the inspector is aware. I inspected a house early in my inspection career where there was a switch in the kitchen, that when I turned it on nothing seemed to happen. Later, I tested the dishwasher and that didn’t work. It turned out that the switch on the wall controlled the dishwasher. If I had not figured that out my report would have described a wall switch that either did not work or had a burned-out bulb, as well as a dishwasher that would not run.
#4 – Make things accessible
Make sure that you leave plenty of workspace for the inspector to effectively do their job. Clear a space around the furnace, hot water heater, electrical panel, and any other appliance or utility around the house. The inspector will need to be able to freely and safely inspect these items – a 3- to 4-foot radius around the front of the appliances is usually adequate.
An important access point that is frequently blocked is the attic access. The access is often located in the ceiling of a bedroom or hallway closet. Clear out your closets to make sure that there is clear access to the opening. The inspector is going to need to place a ladder up to the opening so that it can be accessed, so it is best for the closet to be completely emptied to allow for unobstructed access.
Most inspectors will move items that block their access to these important inspection points. If you don’t trust a stranger handling your personal belongings, clear the area before the inspector arrives.
#5 – Take care of your pets
I love most pets. But, even the friendliest dog or cat can be a hazard or a hindrance to a stranger in your home. Plus, I am not the only person at your house for the inspection. The buyer and buyer’s realtor will probably be there as well, and they might not be as comfortable with the family cat rubbing against their leg. If you need to leave your furry family members at home, put them in a kennel so that they do not bother the inspector. A worst-case scenario is when an inspector does not know that there are pets in the house, and they escape and run when the doors are opened.
#6 – Leave the keys
Make sure to provide a key or other means to allow access to any garages, sheds or other detached buildings on the property. The inspector is going to want to take a look around these on behalf of their clients. Also, be sure that all interior doors are unlocked and that all rooms are accessible.
#7 – Find somewhere to go
You don’t need to be available for the inspection – in fact it is usually preferred that the owner is not at home. It is likely that the buyer, buyer’s realtor and the inspector will all be there and your presence can make some of the conversations between the buyer and representatives uncomfortable. We need to be able to freely discuss the inspection. Expect to be out for about 3-4 hours – take in a movie or go shopping to kill the time. You may want to leave a phone number where you can be reached in case of an emergency.
A home inspection will go more smoothly if the owner has prepared the house for the inspector to perform the work without too much disturbance or impediment. Some preparation by the homeowner can even contribute to a more positive evaluation of the overall condition of the house, such as replacing light bulbs or providing service and installation records. The ultimate goal is to sell your house, so that alone should be worth the extra hour or two spent helping the buyer with their home inspection.