Simply following the steps provided in this article will help you survive having your house inspected. Your home inspection is just one more stressful event to add to a likely growing list of events unfolding in the process of selling your home. What with moving, getting the list of needed repairs done, achieving and maintaining that “curb appeal,” the last thing you need is some stranger tromping through your home, looking in all those dark corners. Well, take a deep breath, pick up that last dust bunny under the chair, sit down a moment and read further. I provide real solutions to at least make the Home Inspection part easier.
Please have a clean home
Inspectors are accustomed to dealing with “OPD” (Other Peoples Dirt), however it is always preferable to have a clean home to work in. Don’t worry about a little mess or disorganized clutter. Packing boxes and a little dirt are OK. We do not inspect for cleanliness, however we are human and do not particularly enjoy spending several hours (sometimes on hands and knees in bathrooms) inspecting a foul nest. Even though you are likely tired of keeping things spotless for open houses and potential buyers coming through, please don’t drop the ball on cleaning completely. Extremely dirty homes may be indicative of defects and deferred maintenance.
Windows and doors should all be operable and accessible
It is a great help to have all the windows and doors accessible so I can easily check the condition and operation of them. If you have casement windows and have removed the cranks, please have them available at windows. Open all blinds and curtains for easier access, and if possible move furniture to allow for access. Any breakable or valuable items on window sills should be removed (the inspector will not move them or move furniture).
Turn on all lights and ceiling fans
You may wish to turn all the lights and ceiling fans on in the home just before the inspector arrives. It also helps if you know what all the electrical switches in the home do. The inspector can spend untold time trying to determine what each switch operates. If the inspector wishes to turn on all the lights and fans in your home, please do not follow behind him turning them off (yes, I have had numerous homeowners do this). He has likely done this for the same reason that I do this. Having all the lights on is part of the test of the electrical system to ensure it is checked under a reasonable load. The inspector will turn off the lights and fans when he is done.
Make certain all lights and fans are functional
Have any remote controls for ceiling fans available. If there are inoperable lights and they just need a bulb replaced, the inspector will not know this and does not carry bulbs with him. Inoperable lights will be written up as a defect (why pay an electrician to check them?).
Have all appliances ready for the Inspector to operate
Some inspectors will check appliances, and some do not. Let the inspector start the appliances such as the dishwasher and washing machine. Do not have clothes in the washing machine or clothes dryer (they will need to be removed by the inspector).
Remove your pets
Please be prepared to have your animals gone during the inspection. I like dogs, cats, lizards and most critters, but during an inspection they can be in the way or a nuisance (try doing an inspection with a dog barking every time you move). The inspector also does not want to be responsible for having animals escape from the home and then retrieve them. The opposite side of this coin is a funny short story: I was inspecting a villa that was situated next to a lagoon. I was outside and came in, leaving the sliding door open for just a moment, and when I turned around, a mother duck and her ducklings were proudly waddling in to the villa (I quickly scooted them outside again). Later I had a good laugh and realized just how much they quacked me up. Seriously, I will try not to let any strays in your home.
Inform the inspector if you are to have visitors to the home
Inform the inspector of any expected visitors (if you will not be there) so he can allow them in and not have to worry about whether they should be there or not. Also be prepared if the buyer (and other family members) should elect to attend the inspection. Ask your real estate agent or the buyer’s agent to attend if this occurs (the inspector should not be responsible for others).
Provide access to electrical panel
Please have access provided to your main electrical panel (fuse box or circuit breaker box). The inspector has to remove the panel cover to check the interior components. It is not fun (or safe) to stand in a crowded area and work with electricity. A charred and smoking inspector is not very fragrant either.
If you are meeting the inspector at the home, please be on time. Most of us invest an enormous amount of time for the money earned, and appreciate punctuality. If I am going to be late I will call.
Please have all utilities on, including gas for fireplaces as necessary
Having pilot lights lit will help, since most inspectors will not light pilot lights.
Provide access to attics
Please make certain access is clear and unencumbered to all attic accesses.
All doors should be accessible
Ensure all interior and exterior doors are accessible, and if there are any locked closets or utility type sheds, please provide keys as necessary.
Should I stay or should I go?
This is a good question people often ask me. Usually I like to meet with the owners to ask a few questions. Once I have asked the various questions that help me do my job better, feel free to leave or stay. Most often it makes no difference to me. If you are comfortable with leaving someone in your home, (assuming you will be there) plan on an inspection lasting from 3 to 5 hours on average. Ask your home inspector how long it will take. Most inspectors (including myself) are licensed and bonded.
Alert the Inspector to any safety concerns
If you know of any safety concerns in your home, please let the inspector know. Items such as attic pull down stairs that have a tendency to fall on your head (yes this has happened-ouch!) or perhaps shocking electrical fixtures or receptacles.
Do not ask what defects the inspector has found
Most Inspectors will politely tell you that the home purchaser (who is paying for the report) is the only person he can share that information with. However the inspector should inform you of any known safety concerns that may impact you. Keep in mind that if the inspector gave you the list of defects and you set about to repair them all, you may have repaired some items needlessly. That defective refrigerator or oven may be something the buyer does not care about anyway. He may have plans to replace it. For that reason, you may wish to wait until you have the requested list of repairs from the buyer, before repairing items.
Have your own inspection performed
Consider having your own inspection (pre-listing inspection) before you have a home inspection the buyer has arranged for. You get to choose the home inspector, and there are other benefits. A pre-listing inspection allows you to find out early what repairs might be needed, and to get the repairs done early. This usually is a cost savings, since you can take your time and shop for the best price for the repairs. Having the pre-listing inspection also eliminates a lot of anxiety and stress. It also allows for the home to be more realistically priced in some instances. For example, if you find out the home needs a new roof, but you do not want to invest in a new roof, it is likely you will want to adjust your price accordingly, or at least be prepared for a price reduction. On the plus side, if you get a fairly clean pre-listing home inspection report, you may wish to let your pricing reflect this (raise pricing perhaps). Most buyers will still have their own inspector inspect your home. However it conveys a positive attitude to the buyer when you have your own inspection. Presenting a list of the repaired items is also positive. Simply put, having a pre-Listing inspection can reduce anxiety, save money, and make for a smoother and quicker home sale.
Treat your home inspector as a guest in your home
I do my best to leave each home as I found it, and treat the home and occupants with respect. I know that I am a guest you may not welcome me with open arms. I also know you do not need any additional stress. Offering coffee, a soda, or water is a nice gesture and helps to set a nice tone.
Simply performing some or all of the above steps will help you remove a lot of the stress associated with a home inspection. This article does not take into account fixing or repairing common defects, so you may also want to repair any known defects as you see fit. Best wishes with your home inspection.
John M. Wickline