Just imagine. After prepping for weeks to get your home looking its best, it's now on the market. You receive a great offer. But they want a home inspection. And the bottom falls out from under you as you nervously wait for inspection results. Will the buyer walk? Will they insist on a price reduction? It can be a very nerve-wracking time.
To increase your chances of a good inspection - and a successful sales outcome - it pays to take care of things beforehand. Below is a great reminder of the types of things inspectors look for.* Some of these you can check and repair yourself; some you may want to get help with. And some you may just choose to leave as is.
If you're thinking of selling, I'll be glad to review the types of repairs or updates you should invest in before your home goes on the market. In this changing market especially, the more you can do to ensure a smooth offer process, the less stressful the process and the more you'll stand to gain.
Here's more details on each of the items, with what inspectors look for, why the item may be an issue, and considerations re: repair/replacement.
1.) Windows/Screens: If there are any cracked/broken windows, damaged or missing screens, they may be written up in the report. Don’t panic. Just repair or replace what you choose in order to keep it off the report. If any double glass panels are “fogged” due to the seal being broken, it will probably be noted as well. These can be surprisingly inexpensive to replace.
2.) Peeling Paint: Paint doesn't last forever. It's important to identify if your home needs new exterior paint before selling. Look for cracked, chipping, or bubbling paint around the exterior of the home, and areas where moisture builds up.
3.) Cracked Caulk: Caulking is important to seal a home from extreme weather conditions. For this reason, many home inspectors will look for cracked caulking around doors, windows, and water areas. This is an easy one to fix. Just purchase some high-grade caulking that fits the application needed and take care of it before the inspector shows up.
4.) Siding/Trim: Check for any loose boards that need to be refastened or replaced before a home inspection. If replacing exterior siding, be sure to match it to the original colour and texture to leave a uniform look.
5.) Decks & Fences: Check for boards that need to be replaced, and see if any railing is loose. Check the framing of the fence for loose panels, and secure them back in place as needed.
6.) Positive Drainage: Make sure there is nowhere directly around the outside of the house that rainwater could flow TOWARD the house. Water should do just the opposite for the first 3 feet. This might mean a little shovel work. Also, make sure that any surface downspouts pour 3’ away from the house or into a tray that does the same.
7.) Gutters: If the gutters are in need of cleaning, that may end up on the report. It's best to clean the gutters before listing your home for sale. This is particularly important if you have a two-story home that overlooks gutters from the upper level windows. Clean gutters send a message to the buyers that the home has been well maintained. It's an easy chore to knock out.
8.) Roof: A bad report can be at the top of the list of things buyers fear. You could be proactive and ask a roofer to give you an estimate on minor repairs (a tune-up). If you decide to do the repairs, you can then ask for a “Roof Certificate”. This will help put the buyers at ease.
9.) Heat Pump/Air Conditioner: The unit on the outside of the house should be free of leaves and bushes to allow it to cool properly. Simply clean the area around the outside units to ensure that they are not obstructed by debris.
10.) Garage Door: Do a simple test. Open the door, have someone hit the button to close it, then wave your foot in the path of the infrared beam (electric eye path near the ground). It should stop then reverse the door back to open position. Next, repeat this - except instead of waving your foot, grab the door with both hands and make it stop. It should offer some push against you then reverse back to open position. The inspector will most likely perform both of these tests.
11.) Heating/Cooling/ Water Heater: If your furnace is many years old, you may wish to consider having it inspected, so there’s no surprises later. You may wish to actually replace your water heater if it’s several years old. This is usually a relatively minor expense, and can help facilitate a sale.
12.) Showers/Tub Surrounds: These often get written up for cracks in the grout, or caulked joints. This can easily be fixed ahead of time if you are handy. Just match the grout colour and texture and re-grout the damaged areas to make the tile look new again.
13.) Ceiling Fans: Most home inspectors will test every ceiling fan in the home to make sure that they all work properly. Be sure that you replace any broken fans before listing your home for sale.
14.) Light Bulbs: Replace any that don’t work. Yes, they will actually check all lights (not lamps). While you're at it, replace any of the cold "curly" flourescent bulbs with new "warm" LEDs.
15.) Electrical: For about $10, you can get an outlet tester at any home improvement store. This will inform you of any outlets that will fail the inspector's test (yes, they test every single one, inside and out). Some of these testers have a button to check GFI (ground fault interrupter) outlets. GFI outlets are usually located at wet areas: garage, exterior, baths, kitchen, and laundry depending upon the year built, because of changing codes. These outlets can also be protected by one device:
- either a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlet or
- circuit breaker located in your main electrical panel.
Speaking of the panel, make sure it’s easily accessible. All switches, outlets and junction boxes must have cover plates without cracks. There can be no exposed “Romex” (home in-wall wire). It must be in a metal or plastic conduit.
16.) Plumbing: Fill all sinks halfway, then pull the plug to see if they drain normally. If slow, it might just need the P-Trap to be cleaned. Check in cabinets, under all sinks for any moisture on the bottom, supply lines or valves (use a dry paper towel and check by wiping).
17.) Toilets: All toilets will be flushed and noted. If there is a leaking sound before flushing, it’s probably the flapper valve. These cost $5-12 and need no tools to install. Toilets will also be checked for secure mounting (they shouldn’t move).
18.) Safety Detectors: Test all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Better yet, replace all batteries and test to ensure they function. Note that safety detectors are mandatory in some jurisdictions.
19.) Stairs: The balustrade (entire baluster system) will be checked for sturdiness. If any of it is loose, you might want to have that repaired before inspection.
20.) Kitchen Appliances: The inspector will run the dishwasher through its cycles, turn on all range/cooktop burners, oven, vent fan & light and if included in the sale, check all functions of the refrigerator. Repair or replace any appliances as needed.
A Few Extra Items to Be Aware Of:
Windows: All windows will be opened, closed and re-locked. Hard movement or failure to lock will be noted. Some of this can easily be improved by cleaning tracks/guides and using a clear spray silicone from a hardware store.
Interior - General: The inspector will note each room for things like moisture stains, drywall cracks, loose flooring, or uneven floors.
Some homeowners have neither the time nor expertise to throughly check and vet their home prior to listing. Depending on the age and condition of the home, I've at times recommended that my clients hire a home inspector to review the home, before it’s listed for sale. The inspection report helps the client know what to expect, and also helps them prioritize any pre-sale repairs.