For both buyers and sellers, home inspection is one of the most stressful components of a home transaction. Everyone is nervous about what the inspector might find; understandably so; there’s a lot of money involved!
But if you understand what to expect, a home inspection can be reframed as an opportunity to learn more about a house and make the best possible decisions. These home inspection tips for both buyers and sellers can help you get there.
Home Inspection Tips For Buyers
Buying a house is an enormous life milestone, and you want to ensure you’re not getting a “lemon,” for lack of a better term. An inspection protects your interests and gives insight into what future maintenance and upkeep the house will require.
Include It In Your Offer
Even in a red-hot seller’s market, you can write different types of clauses, like home inspections, into your contract so that it’s still competitive.
Ask your agent about including an inspection clause that gives you the right to inspect the house but not to back out of the purchase if the inspector finds anything wrong. These inspections are for informational purposes only, but they’re still far too valuable to skip; you need to know what to expect when you move in.
Learn Whether Your State Licenses Inspectors
Believe it or not, some states do not license home inspectors at all! There are other accreditations that an inspector can earn, including professional associations; talk to your agent if you have questions about how to find a qualified inspector you can trust.
Ask For Referrals
On that note, one great way to find a good inspector is to ask your friends and family (and agent) who they’ve used and who they liked. You can also throw this question out on social media platforms with neighborhood group components, such as local Facebook Groups or Nextdoor.
Read Any Reviews
We live in a time when people can review just about anything, and home inspectors provide a reviewable service. After you get a list of referrals, spend some time looking them up to see what kind of reviews exist and how they respond to any criticisms of their work.
Understand That A Perfect House Doesn’t Exist
Home inspectors can tell you that inspecting a house isn’t a pass-fail endeavor, and there isn’t a house in existence that doesn’t have something that will emerge on an inspection report. Even a brand-new home might have a blown-out light bulb or a window that sticks!
Set your expectations so you’re not disappointed when the inspector finds things that should be addressed.
You might have to take time off work, but attending your home’s inspection is well worth taking a vacation day to do. This will be a wonderful chance for you to ask your inspector questions about what they’re seeing and how common it is, what issues usually present themselves in homes like these and what the warning signs are, and anything else that’s on your soon-to-be-new-homeowner mind.
Use A Checklist
The inspector is going to be looking at the different elements of your house and the systems and appliances that make it a comfortable place to live in a systemic and focused way. You can follow along by downloading a checklist (there are a ton of home inspection checklists for buyers available online; just ask Google!).
Ask About Other Inspections They Would Recommend
A general home inspection will look for any major issues, but it’s not a deep look at (for example) the house’s roof, or foundation, or anything that might be wrong with those things.
Your home inspector will have a good sense for what specialty inspections might be required or desired. Ask them if they would suggest you get a pest inspection, a radon test, or any other assessments—especially if they find signs that there’s a deeper problem.
Think Carefully About What You Want Fixed
It seems like a no-brainer to some buyers that of course you’re going to want the seller to fix anything that’s wrong with the house! And for some repairs and deals, that makes the most sense.
However, getting the seller to find a contractor and complete a home repair in a limited amount of time before closing—and having those repairs done to your standards—might not be feasible. You can also ask for a repair credit (or money off the home price) to make the repair yourself after you move in.
And for smaller repairs, it might make the most sense to tackle it yourself after the house is officially yours.
Ask For Documentation For Any Completed Repairs
If you ask your seller to make the repairs, ask them to provide receipts. At the very least, you’ll want to know who’s making the repairs so you can follow up in case of any issues—but you’ll also want the confirmation that it was done at all.
Home Inspection Tips For Sellers
A home inspection is more for the buyer’s benefit—at least, that’s a common knowledge. But there’s a lot that sellers can get from experience, too. Here’s how to make the most of the home inspection as a seller.
Consider Getting One Before You List
Your home inspection won’t match up exactly with the buyer’s, but that’s not the point. If you get an inspection before listing, you’ll get an opportunity to see your home through fresh eyes and fix up or repair any possible problems before a buyer (or real estate agent) ever sets foot inside the door.
Disclose Any Known Issues In The Seller’s Disclosure
Not every state requires a seller’s disclosure, and they aren’t exactly beloved by homeowners. But it’s important to disclose anything you know is a problem or an issue in the house; you don’t have to talk about hypotheticals.
When the inspection happens, if you didn’t disclose something that’s really obvious (or should have been), you run the risk of sowing mistrust with your buyer and possibly derailing the deal entirely. Be upfront!
Remove Clutter And Clean Up
Home inspectors are not the Queen of England and don’t expect a grand reception. That said, they will have to move around your entire house and look at different elements, which can be uncomfortable and even unpleasant if the surroundings are messy or downright dirty.
Replace Burnt-Out Light Bulbs
It’s hard to test a light switch when the bulb attached is broken! Take a test run through your house and check for any burnouts that need to be swapped out for a fresh light bulb.
Empty Any Appliances
The appliances in the house will be tested during the inspection, which means turning them on. If you’re using your oven to store dishes or other items (including food), move the oven contents so they don’t get inadvertently destroyed when the inspector tests the oven!
It’s also a nice idea to keep your washer, dryer, and dishwasher empty for the inspection so that the inspector doesn’t have to interface with a stranger’s laundry or dishes, clean or dirty.
Make Sure Basement/Cellar/Crawl Space And Attic Are Accessible
Every part of the house will be included in the inspection, including the attic and the cellar or basement or crawl space. If your basement or cellar doors are usually blocked, or there are items on top of your crawl space access, move everything around so that the inspector can get to the entrance and inside the space easily.
If your attic doesn’t have a drop-down ladder, put a ladder next to the attic entrance so that your inspector doesn’t need to run around looking for one and halt the inspection process.
Unlock All Your Doors
This might seem obvious, but it’s also something that people forget to do and that can therefore slow down an inspection. The inspector will need to look at all the rooms and closets in the house, so make sure that any doors that are routinely locked for privacy or safety reasons get opened up.
Collect Any Maintenance Or Upgrade Documents In A Folder
The inspector will ask for any documentation around maintenance or upgrades you’ve done in the house. To make things easier for them, put those in a folder and leave it out on a counter, conspicuously marked, so the inspector doesn’t have to ask!
Make Yourself Scarce
Buyers will want to attend the inspection because it allows them to ask the inspector to clarify any findings and learn more about the house they’re buying. The benefits to attending an inspection are much less clear for sellers; your presence might even make the buyer nervous, or they might hesitate to ask some questions in case they inadvertently offend you.
So do everyone a favor and find somewhere else to be during the inspection. That should go for all your household members, including pets! Stay out of the way and let the inspector do the job.