Once your home goes into contract, you’re likely to receive a call about scheduling an inspection of your home. Home inspections typically need to be completed within 10-14 days from the date your home went into contract, see your contract or consult your agent for specific information. If you’re like most sellers you probably made as many home repairs as you could before you put your home up for sale, so there shouldn’t be much for you to do in preparation for the inspection. Simply make your home available to the inspector and buyer (the buyer’s agent may also attend the home inspection appointment though this is rare).
What to Expect
A home inspection, also known as a building inspection or a property inspection, is a thorough visual assessment of a home conducted by a certified professional home inspector at a specific point in time. Home inspections not only ease the apprehensions of buyers, they also help protect you by reducing the possibility of legal action in response to undisclosed and unanticipated defects. Purchase inspections are pretty thorough in their scope, the inspector will need full access to the home, including the attic, garage and any crawl spaces. The average inspection takes at least 2-4 hours to complete and it’s suggested that you not be present during the inspection. During the home inspection, the inspector will look for any problems that could have a significant impact from a health and safety perspective or purely from a financial standpoint. A good home inspection should include observation and operation of the plumbing, heating, air conditioning, electrical, and appliance systems, as well as observation of structural components: roof, foundation, basement, exterior and interior walls, chimney, doors, and windows. Findings should be provided in the form of a comprehensive inspection report, which includes an objective evaluation of the condition the home, clearly outlining any existing defects and potential problems.
Home inspections target two kinds of defects: the kind you can see (a patent defect) and the kind you can’t see (a latent defect).
Patent defects are easy to spot: for example, water stains, ceiling cracks, sticky windows or sagging floors are patent defects. Latent defects are more elusive because they may be hidden: for example, faulty plumbing, asbestos ceilings or dry rot.
The inspection results will be available within a few days of the inspector’s visit. Findings should be provided in the form of a comprehensive inspection report, which includes an objective evaluation of the condition the home, clearly outlining any existing defects and potential problems. When only minor repairs are needed, the buyer may elect to ignore these and make the repairs themselves after they’ve moved into the home, or they can request that you the seller remedy these issues prior to proceeding to closing. If costly repairs are warranted, the buyer is going to request that the repairs be made or that the purchase price and/or the contract’s terms be adjusted.
In the event the inspection reveals some defect(s) or deficiency(ies); the buyer will submit their request remedy which will include a copy of the inspection report highlighting the unsatisfactory conditions, and the remedy request entailing a list of repairs they will require you make if they are to proceed with the purchase. In most instances the remedy request is negotiable and you will want to review the repair list with your agent to determine which requests are reasonable, and which are petty (or perhaps cosmetic in nature) and attempt to counter these items out. If the sale is to proceed you will need to reach an accord with the buyer and the unsatisfactory items will need to be dealt with as per the terms of the remedy agreement. In the event the unsatisfactory conditions are severe the buyer has the option to terminate the contract within the remedy period, typically 4-5 days, and would be entitled to the return of their earnest deposit.
To summarize, a home inspection / building inspection / property inspection is a visual examination of a house and property at a specific point in time. When performed by a certified home inspector it includes:
- A thorough visual inspection of the structure (inside and out, from foundation to roof).
- An examination of all major systems.
- An objective evaluation of the condition of a home.
- A printed report covering all findings and identifying potential concerns
Preparing for the Inspection
- Clean the house.
- Make sure the utilities are all active for the inspection date (keep pilot lights ignited as most inspectors will refuse to light them as they are not covered for this type of liability).
- Provide workspace around furnace and water heaters.
- Provide access to attic, basement, crawlspaces and garage
- Remove grade or mulch from contact with siding. Six (6) or more inches of clearance is preferred.
- Clean out dirty gutters or debris from the roof.
- Divert all water away from the house; i.e. downspouts, sump pump, condensation drains, etc. Grade should slope away from the structure. Clean out basement entry drains.
- Trim trees, roots and bushes back from the foundation, roof, siding and chimney.
- Paint all weathered exterior wood and caulk around the trim, chimney, windows and doors.
- Seal asphalt driveways, if cracking.
- Seal or point up masonry chimney caps. Install metal fluecap.
- Clean or replace HVAC filter. Clean dirty air returns and plenum.
- Point up any failing mortar joints in brick or block.
- Test all smoke detectors to ensure they are in safe working condition.
- Update attic ventilation if none is present.
- Have the chimney, fireplace or woodstove cleaned and provide the buyer with a copy of the cleaning record.
- Seal masonry walls in the basement.
- Don’t do quick cheap repairs. You may raise questions that will unfairly cause great concern to buyers and inspectors.
- Ensure that all doors and windows are in proper operating condition, including repairing or replacing any cracked window panes.
- Ensure that all plumbing fixtures (toilet, tub, shower, and sinks) are in proper working conditions. Check for and fix any leaks. Caulk around fixtures if necessary.
- Install GFCI receptacles near all water sources. Test all present GFCI receptacles for proper operation.
- Check sump pump for proper operation.
- Replace any burned out light bulbs (if not the inspector will not insert a replacement bulb to test the fixture and will simply reference in their report that the fixture was non-operational at the time of inspection).
- Remove rotting wood and/or firewood from contact with the house.
- Ensure that proper grading is followed under a deck.
- Install proper vapor barrier in crawlspaces.
- Caulk all exterior wall penetrations.
- Check to ensure that the crawlspace is dry and install a proper vapor barrier if necessary. Remove any visible moisture from a crawlspace. Moisture levels in wood should be below 18% to deter rot and mildew.
- Check that bath vents are properly vented and in working condition.
- Remove paints, solvents, gas, etc., from crawlspace, basement, attic, porch, etc.
- If windows are at or below grade, install window wells and covers.
- Have clear access to attic, crawlspace, heating system, garage and other areas that will need to be inspected.
- If the house is vacant, make sure that all utilities are turned on, including water, electric, water heater, furnace, air condition and breaks in the main panel.