I have been in the Real Estate resale home market for 33 years and have attended over 1,000 home inspections. My entire career has been at Weichert, Realtors in East Brunswick. As a high-quality realtor, it is my business to help my seller’s properly prepare for a home inspection to give them the best chance of a successful deal.
In New Jersey, Sellers and Buyers agree on a purchase price first, then the buyer performs a home inspection. This can cause a disconnect between a Buyer’s expectations for the home and a Seller’s expectations for the sale.
I bring to the table a vast knowledge of what the homeowner should do to prepare the home for the inspection and how to respond to issues that might arise.
Here is a list of 10 things to do to prepare for a home inspection:
#1 – Make sure everything is visible
The home inspector represents the client that is paying for their time. The buyer expects the inspector to use that time to examine the “bones” of the house and spot potential issues with the structural and mechanical systems. However, problems arise when an inspector can’t see what they are there to inspect!
Sellers must clear out the storage spaces in the home – attics, basements, and garages. These unfinished areas of the home are the inspector’s best access to sill plates, beams, joists, plumbing, and electrical work. These areas usually also contain the furnace or boiler, central air systems, and hot water heaters, which are prime areas for inspection. Unfortunately, these areas also tend to be the areas that homeowner’s use for storage, which block access to the major points of interest for the inspector. Failing to clear out the areas for access may mean the seller will be presented with a bill for a second visit from the inspector so the inspector can reach these vitally important areas of the home.
#2 – Check to make sure all work is permitted
As a seller, it is important to know that any work you have done on your property was done correctly and all permits have been closed with your municipality. Some things that may require permits are updated electrical panels, adding a bathroom, finishing a basement, changing a roof, changing HVAC, adding a deck etc. When you hire your contractor, make sure that they are licensed and able to obtain all permits necessary for the work they will do on the home. Also, please make sure to follow up with them as sometimes paperwork can get lost.
So why is this important for the buyer and the inspector? Having proof and knowing all working was done with permits cancels out all the guess work on your buyers end if they are wondering whether the work was done to standard/code. Buyers will feel more secure knowing that the work was done correctly and will feel more comfortable during the transaction knowing that the seller is being proactive in assisting the process.
#3 – Let the Buyer have their time with the inspector
Yes, we know it is your house and you always have the right to be there to defend it against anyone pointing out things that need to be addressed. But you must keep in mind that you are selling the house to a new person/family who needs to feel comfortable with what they are buying. So, standing in the living room while staring at the buyer and inspector may not be the most comforting thing for a buyer to experience even if you are just being friendly. Your buyer should feel open and free to ask questions to their inspector as the home inspection goes on. Giving them their time and space to do so will allow the buyer a sense of comfort knowing that they are getting their monies worth. In fact, many home inspectors will only answer questions to the buyer as this is who they are representing. So yes, go the movies, visit mom, take the dog for a long walk and come back when all is done.
#4 – Make sure utilities are on
If your home is being currently occupied, then should go without saying. But let’s say you are selling your investment property or a home you’ve inherited. You should ensure that the water is running, electricity and gas are working and that there are lights in the home. The homes inspectors are paid by the buyer to inspect a home during a certain time frame. If the inspector finds that the home is not able to be fully inspected and needs to return, then yes you guessed it, the inspector will charge a fee! This fee is not something your buyer will be happy about. In fact, your buyer might ask you as the seller to front the cost since the home was not properly prepared for the inspection. So, to alleviate any problem with additional monies being spent by either side, be prepared and have utilities on and operating properly.
#5 – Make sure keys are left for all areas
Accessibility is extremely important for your buyer to have a complete home inspection. Many times, sellers are used to having certain areas secured whether it be due to children or pets in the home or just personal privacy. You must remember to make sure all areas can be accessed so please leave keys to locked rooms. Some areas the inspector may need access to they you could have locked are basements, garages, attics, crawl spaces or even some bedrooms. If you need to the arise to be secured after the inspector is done checking, please be sure to leave a key with detailed instructions. No need to point out why it is locked since it is your home and personal reason, but the inspector and buyer need to see all rooms. Opening all doors eases the buyers concern that nothing defective in the home is being hidden.
#6 – Clear exterior of property
So, we talked a lot about prepping the inside of your home. But what about the outside. Is this just as important? The clear answer is yes! Sellers get caught up in what the inside should look like that they forget that inspector must visibly see what is going on outside of the home. Some considerations to make are clearing leaves, snow and ice in the fall and winter seasons. The inspector and your buyer should be able to visibly see walkways, pathways, driveways, decks, patios etc. This is not only important for the buyer an inspector to find and potential issues but more I more importantly for safety concerns. The last thing you as a seller would want is to find out that someone has slipped, tripped or fallen on your property causing injury. So, it is best to err on the side of caution and make sure the exterior of your home is as visible as possible.
#7 – Mark boundaries for exterior items like septic and well
To take out the guess work and spending extra time, be sure to place markers of exterior items like well and septic locations. Leaving a copy of your properties survey that shows markers and boundaries is an outstanding gesture for your buyer and their inspector. This is especially important and thoughtful when you have a large or irregular lot that isn’t fence in.
#8 – Take your pets
Just as it is important for you as the seller to leave the home during the inspection, your pets should go out too. Nothing is more distracting than a dog barking or cat following your buyer and the inspector throughout the home. Or even worse the animal running out of the home during one of the many times the front or back door will be opened during the inspection. Also, be mindful that some people may be allergic to certain animals or even afraid of them. To avoid any issues with pets, the best practice would be to take them out when you leave. If taking your pet out is not an option, at minimum place your active pets in a crate for safety and security.
#9 – Practice Patience
There is never a perfect A+ inspection report. Let’s face it houses are manmade and come with their issues no matter how young or old your home is. Of course, we all see our homes in a different light than the next person, but the reality is as a seller you need to take feedback as it comes. The best thing about an opinion is it is just that an opinion. If there is something you do not agree with on the home inspection report, you can always get a second opinion. So, do not get frustrated, take a breath (or two) and move on to the next step to get to the final goal of getting your house ready and sold for its new owner.
#10 – Put yourself in your buyer’s shoes
The last, and probably most important thing to consider is putting yourself on your buyer’s shoes. Buying a home, especially for a first-time buyer, can be very nerve wrecking. Small issues can seem like a mountain to climb for some buyers. But as the seller, has a unique opportunity of assisting with creating a positive buying experience for your buyer. Sometimes you must think of it as if you were buying the house again and whether inspection issues would be a concern to you. By using this guide/list as basis for the home inspection process you will be 10 steps ahead of the game. Proper preparation leads to a smooth and successful transaction for everybody involved.
So now lets end with a quick story of a buyer I was working with that had some inspection issues that could have been prevented..
So my past customer in East Brunswick who we will call Elaine, had the opportunity to go through three consecutive home inspections on three different homes when she was in the market to purchase. The first home was lovely and had all the wonderful criteria she was looking for. During the home inspection, it was discovered that the seller had finished the basement and had not gotten any permits. This was immediately a red flag and Elaine ended up walking away from the deal since the seller had decided it was not of their concern to gather permits for work they deemed as A-OK in their book. On the second home, Elaine ran into a similar issue, once again no permits. This time for a deck and a bathroom in the basement. Fortunately, the seller had no issue in obtaining permits from the East Brunswick building Department. The bad news was neither items were done to code and ended up having to be removed and reconstructed. This process caused a time constraint for Elaine and she once again needed to walk away from the deal. Finally, Elaine found her third house. This time a round the seller had done all things possible to make her buyer comfortable throughout the process. Before the home was ever listed, the seller knew to gather all permits and make a list dates that items were updated and changed. She also made sure to rid the home of excess boxes and storage to make the attic and crawl spaced visible for any potential buyers. Most important of all, when she received the report she did not panic with issues but offered Elaine the opportunity to requests items to be corrected. Of course, both Elaine and the seller did not get all that was requested but eventually came to a meeting of the mind so that everyone walked away from the transaction happy.
It is most important for a buyer to come in and feel comfortable with the inspection process. I always advise the seller that any way you can ensure a smooth inspection is a big hit right off the bat.
I go over a prep sheet with my sellers in advance of the home inspections to address these major areas of concern to ensure a smooth home inspection process. For more information on how I assist my sellers, please feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have.
Let’s get together and chat!
Here’s what a past client had to say about my expertise in the home inspection process:
”Your expertise in assisting us through the home inspection and negotiating processes is greatly appreciated. Every piece of your professional advice that you provided through the whole process from the beginning to the end was extremely helpful. Thanks again for everything!” Best, Chia-ling