Selling a home can be quite a process. First come the negotiations. Then comes the inspection. Then comes the financing commitment. Sandwiched in the middle, the inspection is usually a contingency to the offer, meaning the buyer can back out of the contract based on problems discovered. 

The Process

The purpose of the inspection is for the inspector to look for flaws. The inspector will compile any issues they find in a report, then the buyer determines what repairs they want the seller to make, and an addendum is presented from buyer to seller. A good real estate agent will work with you to negotiate these requests. Issues affecting health and/or safety are generally covered by sellers, but it's best to talk with your agent to make sure none of the requests are unreasonable. Don’t want to be responsible for a repair?You may be able to negotiate a price credit with the buyer instead. 

Before you even list the house, it's a good idea to have your agent walk through and give suggestions on fixes you can make before you even list it. General maintenance, like fixing peeling paint, is usually easily remedied. If you have been maintaining your home since you've owned it, the issues the inspector finds may be minimal. In addition, back when you listed your home for sale, you were required to disclose to buyers the home’s “material defects” — anything you know about the home that can either have a significant impact on the market value of the property or impair the safety of the house for occupants - in the property disclosure. Material defects tend to be big underlying problems, like foundation cracks, roof leaks, basement flooding, or termite infestation.

What a Home Inspection Covers 

No two homes are the same, and no two inspections are the same. Here's a general list of areas the home inspection usually covers: 

  • Plumbing systems
  • Electrical systems
  • Kitchen appliances
  • Heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment
  • Doors and windows
  • Attic insulation
  • Foundation and basement
  • Exterior
  • Roof
  • Grounds
  • Radon
  • Water (if private)
  • Wood-destroying insects

The Repairs

Sellers won't have to fix everything in a home inspection report. Many issues found during a home inspection are cosmetic or involve normal wear and tear and can be negotiable. The two main areas of repairs sellers should handle include: 

  1. Structural defects. This is any physical damage to the load-bearing elements of a home; these issues include a crack in the foundation, roof framing damage, and decaying floor boards.
  2. Safety issues. Homes for sale have to meet certain safety standards. Depending on where you live, safety issues that you, the seller, may have to address could include mold problems, wildlife infestation, or exposed electrical wiring.

How to Prepare for the Home Inspection

  • Assemble your paperwork. Ideally, you’ll have summaries or invoices of renovations, maintenance, and repairs you’ve done on your home that you can provide to the home buyer should they want to know things like when the furance was last serviced. 
  • Make sure your home is clean. Take time to declutter and deep clean the whole house. 
  • Remove any obstacles that may block the inspector’s access. Take measures to ensure the inspector has complete access to all facets of the property, including electrical panels, attic space, and fireplaces. 
  • Leave the utilities on. For the home inspector to test items such as the stove, dishwasher, furnace, and air conditioning system, utilities must be connected even if the house is vacant.

Home inspections may sound like a taxing process, but once it's done, you will be that much closer to reaching the closing table.