preparing for a home inspection


Preparing for a Home Inspection in Black & White

Preparing for a home inspection is an exercise condo, townhome, and home Seller’s should seriously consider. Unfortunately most Sellers are not advised to, believe their property is in great shape and they have nothing to be concerned about, or worse, have no concern for the home inspection results. Almost every single residential real estate sale, unless the purchase was made through an auction, included a home inspection. Rather than waiting until a contract has been executed, I recommend the Seller inspect their home for any visual signs of ‘deficiencies’ (to be defined later), prior to listing.

Naturally a Buyer will want to know the condition of the property they are purchasing, and if there are any hidden defects that may not be disclosed or are unknown by the Seller. Therefor a Buyer will include a standard contingency in the contract, with the contract ‘subject to’ the outcome of a home Inspection. This is called the Inspection Period or Inspection Contingency.

Once a contract has been negotiated and all terms of the sale agreed upon and includes an Inspection Contingency, the Buyer has a specific number of days (usually between 7 and 10 days) to perform any inspections they deem necessary, at their cost(s). The reason of concern for the Seller is, as it pertains to the FAR/BAR As-Is Residential Sale Contract, if ‘for any reason’ the Buyer is unsatisfied with anything during the Inspection Period, they may terminate the contract without penalty. Depending on the type of contract used and terms negotiated, this can differ. Other contracts may specify the right to terminate only ‘if serious structural or mechanical defects are found’ during the home inspection A third scenario is a contract including a ‘budget’ the Seller and Buyer agree the Seller will pay for deficiencies found during the home inspection. Be sure to discuss with your REALTOR® the type of contingencies which are typical, and others which are possible, in your area. A Seller may think the answer to all this is not to allow a home inspection. This is definitely a poor solution, as it usually leads a Buyer to assume there is much more wrong with the property than is visually apparent.

In a real estate transaction, the home inspection is one of the biggest hurdles a Seller faces in completing a sale. It stands to reason that you will want to make an effort to have your property in the best possible condition before the home inspection actually takes place. I can tell you from my experience in real estate over the past decade, the home inspection is where most sales fall apart.

So now you know you need to take some kind of action, but really aren’t sure how to prepare for a home inspection. Let’s start here. Basically you want to make sure your home is in tip top showing condition, if possible, before listing the home on the market. Aside from any staging, painting or de-cluttering that may be necessary, you want to eliminate as many of the known defects as possible. Doing so can often bring a higher sales price, as the Buyer is more confident in the property’s condition.

Let’s start with some of the most common defects found during a home inspection. After living in your home for many years sometimes you don’t even notice some of the most visible of problems. Once a Buyer or inspector finds one of those little things, it can cause further investigation. An example, there is a dirty air filter on the air-conditioning unit. Maybe you simply forgot to change it this month. For the inspector, they will may assume the air-conditioning has been poorly maintained, and will scrutinize the unit closer, or recommend an HVAC Specialist for further inspection.

home inspection ceiling water stain

Water stains - one of the things in homes that troubles home Buyers more than anything else is water stains. Nobody wants to have a water issue in their home. To a Buyer, they aren’t sure if it is a problem with the plumbing, a roof leak, condensation, leaking window, the list goes on. In reality, the stain may have occurred from something innocuous like a toilet overflowing, or one of the kids leaving the shower curtain open. Don’t expect you will simply be able to explain that to a Buyer. Would you believe it? In any event you will want to make sure the water stains are removed, and the cause remedied. If you have a water leak on your ceiling, and you’re a/c unit is in the attic, it may be as simple as a plugged hose on the drip pan. This is definitely worth checking out.

home inspection federal pacific stab - loc

Electrical issues – To start with, make sure all light bulbs are working. An inspector will not replace a light bulb; they will indicate the fixture is faulty. Don’t forget the exterior lights! Squeaky ceiling fans can be another easy fix with a little WD-40.

Now there are four types of electrical issues which commonly appear in an inspection report. The first type are typical when an owner has made electrical changes / improvements on his own rather than hire an electrician. Often times the work is not done to code, or the improvement has caused an overloaded circuit. The second is a lack of GFI outlets (Ground Fault Interrupter) in the kitchen and baths. For homes built prior to the 90’s, this will be common and the inspector may explain to the Buyer that they are ‘grandfathered’ as they were to code when the home was built. With this, he most likely will also explain the associated risks, as these outlets are designed to eliminate the possibility of electrocution if water comes in contact with electricity. These first three will most likely be safety concerns for the Buyer so don’t be surprised if the Buyer request them to be repaired. The third concern is the “Federal Pacific Stab-Loc” electrical panel. These were very commonly installed in the southern regions from the 50’s into the 80’s. Unfortunately, they are known for trip failure and overheating problems. They are considered extreme fire hazards. While no one likes to have to make such a major investment as replacing an electrical panel, as the cost can average between $1,500 and $2,000, you may want to consider it for two reasons. Most insurance companies will no longer insure a property with said panel. If the home is uninsurable, it will not be approved by any lender for financing. The fourth most common, found in older homes, is ungrounded outlets. This is normally a “grandfathered” defect.

Bathroom venting  – Typically most building codes now require a bathroom to either have a window, or a vent which exhaust to the outside. Years ago, most bathrooms did include a vent, but they only vented into the attic, creating a breeding ground for mold. The thought of mold of any type will often cause a Buyer to terminate a contract. This is definitely worth for you to make a trip up to the attic and check for mold. You may want to consider making improvements for proper venting.

While you are up there, check your stove vent if it is not a recirculating vent. Again, it was typical years ago for a stove vent to exhaust to the attic, but most building codes require for it to exhaust to the exterior, as venting into the attic is a fire hazard.

home inspection rotting fascia board

Rotting wood – Buyer’s first though: Termites or carpenter ants. Yikes. Often though, rotted exterior wood is simply due to lack of timely sealing (painting). Exterior fascia board and eaves, decorative wood trim, wood decking and wood facades near the foundation are all common areas for wood rot.

home inspection plumbing repair Plumbing defects – Minor plumbing defects are pretty typical. A leak under the sink, a loose toilet, a dripping faucet or a slow draining tub all are often very easy repairs. Another common plumbing defect is leaky valves water heaters.
home inspection bad window seal

Failed window seals – This is a very common problem, especially of homes built in the 80’s. If you have a foggy window, you have a failed window seal. This means the thermal seal between the two panes glass of has leakage. Sometimes these can be resealed.  


home inspection mold

Mold and Radon – Mold and radon are two of the biggest deal killers in real estate. Prior to a home inspection you should check to make sure you have neither of these issues. Preferably you should check before your home even goes on the market. Mold is something that you cannot be sure of unless it is tested by a professional in the mold industry. You can however, fairly easily identify what could possibly be mold. Most of the time in homes it will be a black substance that is on, or bleeding through the walls or ceilings. The most common places to find mold are attics and bathrooms. If you find any visible signs of mold, it is recommended to contact a professional. Mold can be a major health risk.

Radon is a gas found under the ground that enters the home through cracks in the foundation. It is a known carcinogen and something that most Buyer’s are very concerned with. While there are no federal laws in place regarding radon removal, most buyer’s will request you to re-mediate it if it is found to be higher than the suggest passing limit which is 4.0 pCl (picocures per liter). Removing radon in the air is fairly easy to do. When it becomes a much bigger expense is having to remove radon from water.


home inspection appliances

Appliances – It is advisable to clean all appliances if they will be left for the Buyer. Buyers will almost for sure open the stove, refrigerator and dishwasher, and possibly check the washer and dryer. The inspector will also check that they function properly. Your agent may recommend replacing the kitchen appliances if they are dated. It is well known when a Buyer is considering two properties, new appliances can be the determining factor.


home inspection hardware repair

Cabinets and door hardware – The inspector will check that cabinet drawers and doors function properly, along with all pass-thru doors. Tightening a screw here and there can mean a few less items on the inspection report.


home inspection sprinkler system

Sprinkler systems – Turn the sprinkler system on and take a tour of the yard. Check for any broken heads or leaks in the supply lines. Again, very easy fixes.

home inspection pool equipment

Pools and Spas – If you have a pool and or spa, be sure to check with your pool maintenance company for any concerns they may have.

home inspection wall crack

Miscellaneous – The inspector will also makes notations on the condition of the walls, floor and wall tile, any cracked or non-functioning windows, missing screens, and believe it or not, even the doorbell. If it’s an easy fix, it’s worth the time. Keep in mind, wall cracks can be simply that due to settlement. Depending on the formation, they could be indicative of something more severe.


FHA & VA Inspections – If the Buyer is obtaining a FHA or VA financing, there will be a second inspection. This normally occurs at the same time as the appraisal. There is a list of items they will be checking for. Be sure to ask your REALTOR® for more information about FHA and VA Inspections.

home inspection disclosure

Disclosure and repairs – If you have the resources to repair the common home inspection defects mentioned above, it would make sense take it upon yourself to make sure you do! If money is tight, however, at least hit the easy ones, and then be sure to disclose the defects you are aware of on the Sellers Disclosure Form. Keep in mind, a Sellers Disclosure is mandatory for all residences which have been occupied, whether currently or previously, by the owner. It is far more difficult for a buyer to try to renegotiate after a home inspection if the defect has already been pointed out to them in black and white prior to them making an offer, which is why you want to complete the form and have your REALTOR® attach it to the listing in the MLS.

home inspection negotiations

After the inspection – This is often the second round of negotiations, and sometimes can be more intense than the first. A Buyer may start by requesting you to repair most, if not all, of the defects listed in the Inspection Report, or credit them an amount for repairs at closing. In some cases, they may choose to terminate the contract due to what was discovered during the inspection.

My basic rule of thumb is if the defects were disclosed in the Sellers Disclosure or in plain sight for all Buyers to see during a showing, these repairs should have been requested within the original offer. I attempt to help my Buyers understand an Inspection Report is a tool of information. The Seller is not required to make any repairs. With the same breath, consider that the Buyer does have the right to terminate the contract.

Keep in mind, major issues such as air conditioning, plumbing and electrical issues, mold, radon, and structural system defects, all which were not obvious or disclosed, are definitely items of concern and should be repaired or a credit given. Again, this is my rule of thumb. Being a negotiation, all items are subject to question. Be sure to evaluate each item request without emotion. If it is something you would want repaired or credit for, it’s best to concede. Remember, being stubborn, standing on principle, or being greedy can lead to a “no sale.” Let your REALTOR® help in guiding you.

Typical home inspections include:

  • Structural System

    The inspector will probe a representative number of structural components where deterioration is suspected or where clear indications of possible deterioration exist. The home's structural components are the foundation and framing:

    • the foundation
    • the under-floor crawl space
    • the floor structure
    • the wall structure
    • the ceiling structure
    • the roof structure



    When inspecting the exterior of the home, the typical inspection will also include screening, shutters, awnings, and other seasonal accessories, fences, outbuildings, seawalls, break-walls, and docks, and erosion control. Other items examined are:

    • exterior facade
    • flashing and trim
    • exterior doors
    • attached decks and balconies
    • stoops, steps, porches, and railings
    • accessible eaves, soffits, and fascias
    • grading, surface drainage and retaining walls


    Roof System

    The inspector will inspect the roof system visually from the ground, the roof and from the interior space available, such as the attic. Flues or chimneys are also typically included. The roof system includes:

    • roof covering
    • roof drainage systems
    • flashings
    • skylights, chimneys, or other roof penetrations


    Plumbing System

    Inspecting the plumbing system includes bathrooms, kitchens, washing machine connections, wells, well pumps, or water storage related equipment, water conditioning systems, solar water heating systems, fire and lawn sprinkler systems, and private waste disposal systems. Additionally, the following is typically included:

    • interior water supply and distribution systems including all fixtures and faucets
    • drain, waste and vent systems including all fixtures
    • water heating equipment
    • vent systems
    • drainage sumps, sump pumps, and related piping


    Electrical System

    While most remote control devices, alarm systems and components, low voltage wiring, systems and components not part of the primary electrical power distribution system, the following are:

    • the service drop
    • service entrance conductors, cables, and raceways
    • service equipment and main disconnects
    • service grounding
    • interior components of service panels and sub panels
    • the conductors
    • overcurrent protection devices
    • lighting fixtures, switches, and receptacles
    • ground fault circuit interrupters


    Heating & Air Conditioning System

    The heating and air conditioning inspection usually includes humidifiers, flues and chimneys, and:

    • installed heating and air conditioning equipment
    • drainage
    • vent systems, flues, and chimneys
    • age of units



    While wallpaper, paint and other finish treatments, carpeting and window treatments are not included, the scope of the interior inspection will include:

    • walls, ceilings and floors
    • steps, stairways, and railings
    • countertops and installed cabinets
    • doors and windows
    • garage doors and garage door operators
    • appliances


    Insalation and Ventilation

    Typically inspected are made of:

    • insulation and vapor retarders in unfinished spaces
    • ventilation of attics and foundation areas
    • mechanical ventilation systems