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.
Indications of Water Problems
One of the first things that you might notice that indicates you have possible moisture issues will be a musty smell in the basement. This can be your first clue that a bigger problem exists or is coming. Other indicators of moisture-related problems are:
Seepage Through Basement Walls and Floors
One of the most common and troubling sources of water in a basement is seepage through the basement walls and floors – usually during and after heavy rains. The leaks can come from moisture permeating through the walls, or from water freely passing through cracks in the foundation. Below ground leaks often end up with saturated carpets and rugs or standing water on the floor. These problems can be the most frustrating for a homeowner to fix. But, they can be much less daunting if you understand how the leaks happen.
A common problem is poor grading around the foundation of your home. The soil placed right next to the foundation walls is normally not as well compacted as the rest of the soil, so this creates a zone where water can flow more freely into the ground next to your house, and store more water because the soil is not as densely compacted. This area that is not as well compacted will settle over time, reducing the slope away from the house. Some homeowners might excavate around the foundation for a garden or other landscaping, which can create an area where water cannot freely flow away from the house. These are all sources of water in the ground next to the foundation, which can lead to water in your basement.
Roof drainage is another source that can add a significant amount of water along your foundation. Roofs with no or clogged gutters discharge a lot of water right next to the house, and gutters with missing or damaged downspouts can do the same. Much of this water can seep into the soil surrounding the house and end up in your basement, especially if you have inadequate drainage away from the house.
Surface drainage repairs can reduce or eliminate many basement water problems. The ground should be sloped at 1 inch per foot, or steeper, for the first 5-10 feet away from the foundation and continuously sloped away from the house beyond that. When grading around the house, make sure to maintain a separation from the soil and any non-concrete wall surfaces to prevent other problems. If there is a garden or landscaping, there should be a way for water to escape and flow away from the house. Keep your gutters clear and the discharge downspouts should be at least 5 feet away from the house, directed to a location where the flow will continue to drain away from the house.
If improvements to the surface drainage around your house don’t do the job, a subsurface drainage system may be needed. The most effective, but also most expensive, is to install drain tile system around the exterior of the foundation. The drain tile is connected to a pump to discharge the water away from the house.
An interior drain tile, installed under the basement floor around the perimeter of the foundation, is another effective means of removing the water from your basement. This system is installed by breaking through the concrete floor around the perimeter of the basement and installing the drain tile with a bedding of washed rock. The drain tile is connected to a sump which has a pump to discharge the water away from your house.
Simple humidity can be a significant source of moisture in basements. A major source of indoor humidity is open windows letting in the moist summer air. Indoor humidity also comes from cooking, showers, humidifiers, or unvented driers. The hot, humid air condenses on cold water plumbing, and colder walls and floors. A full-time operating dehumidifier can significantly reduce the humidity. Other methods of reducing that humidity are installing or repairing any leaks in dryer vent pipes, running bathroom or kitchen fans when showering or cooking, and reducing or eliminating the use of humidifiers in the summer.
Plumbing leaks can be another source of water in the basement. Plumbing leaks can come from water supply or wastewater pipes, faucets, appliances, or sinks or tubs. Two common plumbing leaks in homes are tile showers and the water and ice maker connections for the refrigerator. It is important to repair the leak or replace the defective item after you have figured out where its coming from. Even if you need to cut a hole in the wall or ceiling somewhere, a prompt repair of a plumbing leak can save you from much bigger problems in the future.
Leaks from Above
Exterior above grade walls can leak where the wall covering is damaged or deteriorated, or along wall penetrations. Wall penetrations include anything that is installed through a hole in the siding, such as doors, windows, electrical conduits, or vents. Water can also leak through masonry siding such as brick or stucco. These leaks may seep through the wall and run down the exterior wall, presenting themselves by the presence of stains or drips near the top of the block basement walls.
Leaks in the walls need to be addressed from the source of the leak. Leaks around windows or other wall penetrations can often be repaired with some exterior caulk or sealant around the opening. These leaks can sometimes be easily identified by the condition of the existing sealant. Always completely remove the old sealant if you are repairing the caulk and make sure to completely seal the opening.
Leaking brick walls can be repaired by replacing any damaged bricks, or a job called tuck pointing to repair deteriorated masonry in the joints between bricks. Small cracks in stucco can be repaired with a mixture of sand and exterior caulk and finished with a paint to closely match the existing surface. Larger holes in stucco need to be repaired with new stucco and painted to match the existing walls. For the usual micro-cracks that most masonry products have, there are several sealant products that can be sprayed or brushed on that can seal the small seepage pathways in the walls.
Cracked or damaged aluminium, vinyl or wood siding can be replaced one piece at a time or can be patched with sealants or matching materials. The patch, even if it is the exact same product and color as the original installation, is likely to not be an exact match due to the weathering on the siding on your house that has been exposed to the elements for a period of time.
Moisture in your basement can first appear to be a daunting problem but is often remedied with much less expense or effort that you might expect. If you have a water issue, the first step is to determine where it is coming from. You can come up with a game plan after determining the source. It is important to address these leaks as soon as possible after they are identified to prevent other, more costly and significant, damages. If you have a drip or leak and are having a hard time figuring out where it is coming from, give us a call at (612) 325-5131 – we would be happy to help you protect your investment.
Are you having a home built, or are you planning a move to a newly constructed house? You might feel like it is not necessary to have a home inspection for your pending purchase - after all - it’s brand new.
Unfortunately, issues come up even in newly constructed homes. So, home inspections are recommended even for new home construction and, in fact, a second inspection prior to the expiration of your home warranty may also prove to be a smart move.