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Home Inspections for Sellers: What to Expect

What you'll learn:How to prepare for a home inspection and how it can impact your home sale

EXPECTED READ TIME: 7 minutes

Home Inspections for Sellers: What to Expect

 

Does the thought of a stranger scrutinizing every inch of your house and reporting the results to another stranger make you uneasy? You’re not alone. Add the fact that it can make or break your home sale, it’s no wonder sellers are seeking home inspection tips.

We want to alleviate your fears by answering some of the most common questions about home inspections to help a seller prepare for what’s to come – before, during, and after the process.

Before: Preparing for a home inspection

Let’s start with the basics. What should you know and do before an inspector walks through the door?

What is the purpose of a home inspection?

A home inspection provides an unbiased third-party assessment of the physical integrity of a property in a thorough but non-invasive manner. Inspections will test to see if things are functioning correctly and are of acceptable quality before a buyer proceeds with a sale.

Is a home inspection required?

It’s generally recommended for buyers to request that an inspection be completed before closing on a property. But unlike an appraisal, an inspection is not required.

As a seller, you can choose to get an inspection prior to putting your house on the market. Repairing any important items may attract more buyers and lead to a higher sale price. The fewer things on the list needing repairs, the more attractive the home becomes to shoppers.

What is the best way to prepare for an inspection?

The results of your inspection will play a big role in how – and if – your home sale will go through. It’s a good idea to do what you can beforehand to set your house up for success. That can include cleaning inspection access points, testing functionality, and making necessary repairs to the property.

What are home inspectors looking for?

According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors’ Home Inspection Standards of Practice, they are looking for material defects that negatively impact the property value or pose a risk to people.

The standards of practice are extensive and can vary by state. A home inspection checklist may include:

Category

Items

Appliances

Built-in appliances

Doors

Frame damage, visual damage, functionality

HVAC

Thermostat, air conditioner, heat pump, furnace, ducts

Roof

Faulty shingles, cracks, moss growth, gutter issues, chimney cap

Termites

Termite-related damage

Plumbing

Leaks, damage, faucets, spigots, toilets, tubs

Electrical

Outlets, panels, light switches, light fixtures, wiring

Flooring

Cupping, abnormal sounds, cracking, deterioration

Windows

Staining, damage to frames, air leakage, fogging

Water heater

Unusual sounds, abnormal smells, corrosion, gas leaks, blackened areas near the burner, piping, back-drafting, wiring

Walls

Surface damage, dampness, structural damage, crawlspace

Foundation

Cracks, settling, damage

Should the seller be present at a home inspection?

There’s no rule on whether a seller should or shouldn’t be present during a home inspection. The buyers and their agent are typically present, so it’s often recommended the seller not be on-site to avoid unnecessary tension. If there are any questions or discrepancies in the report, communication can be handled afterward.

Why would a seller not want a home inspection?

You may want to avoid a home inspection for any number of reasons. For instance, if you’ve kept up on all your home’s major maintenance, repairs, and improvements over the years and have it all documented, an inspection may seem like overkill. An inspection can also slow down the selling or closing process. As a seller, it’s important to remember that buyers requesting an inspection are simply doing their due diligence to ensure a fair and honest sale.

During: The home inspection process

The big day is here. What actually happens when an inspector arrives on-site?

What does a home inspection look like?

The concept is relatively simple: An inspector arrives, surveys the exterior and interior of the house, and reviews specific items against a checklist of important elements. After going through every room, taking pictures, and reviewing their notes, they’ll often invite the buyers and agent to walk through the house together, pointing out their observations and areas of concern.

Afterward, a formal, often lengthy, report is created and delivered to the party who ordered the inspection. This is often the buyer. The seller will receive notice of the results and may see some or all of the documentation depending on the buyer’s wishes.

What are home inspectors not allowed to do?

The chart above may look intimidating, but there are many limitations, exceptions, and exclusions that have to be honored. Plus, an inspector only gets one shot. Their results are limited to what they observe on the day of inspection; they can’t make predictions about future conditions, and they can’t come back for a second round.

Here are a few things an inspector is not allowed or not required to do:

  • Offer to fix any issues they discover during an inspection
  • Determine the market value of the property or its marketability
  • Determine the life expectancy of the property or any components or systems
  • Move furniture, obstructions, or do anything they view as dangerous
  • Determine property boundary lines or encroachments

How long does a home inspection take?

According to Home Inspection Insider, a thorough inspection of a 2,000 square foot house typically takes two to three hours to complete. There are many factors that can affect the time frame including the size, age, and condition of the house, your inspector’s experience, and weather on the day of inspection. The official results are usually delivered within 24 to 48 hours.

After: Impact on closing

Finally, what happens after it’s all said and done?

Does a house have to pass inspection to be sold?

Contrary to common belief, inspections are not graded on a pass/fail system. It’s up to the buyer and their agent to interpret the inspection report and decide if they want to use the information to negotiate the deal. They may reduce their offer, request seller concessions or credits, ask the seller to repair specific issues, or cancel the sale completely. Sometimes the buyer accepts the findings as-is and proceeds as planned.

Can a seller back out after inspection?

A seller can’t technically back out of a purchase except during certain situations, but you can refuse to make requested repairs or offer credits or concessions – which may cause the buyer to walk away.

How long does it take to close on a house after inspection?

While you’re approaching the home stretch of the home buying process, there’s more work to be done after an inspection is complete – especially if negotiations take place. Once the buyer and seller come to an agreement, an appraisal will be scheduled if it hasn’t been already. Then your lender will complete their verification process called underwriting and a closing disclosure will be provided for you to review three days before closing. These last steps usually occur within 15 to 20 days after the inspection.

Who pays for a home inspection?

Typically a home inspection is paid by the party that ordered it. Inspections requested by a buyer are often paid at closing with closing costs. An inspection requested by the seller is paid by the seller.

Final thoughts

No house is perfect. Don’t be surprised if your home inspection comes back with a long list of seemingly nitpicky issues and accompanying photos from everything from the roof to the HVAC, wiring, and foundation. A buyer may feel entitled to negotiate, but you still have leverage – especially in a seller’s market when other buyers are lining up at the door. Talk through concerns and options with your real estate agent to make a plan for moving forward.

 

 

Preparing to sell?  Download our free essential guide for selling your home.

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