7 Things Your Home Inspector Wishes You Knew

home inspection

A home inspector can make or break a sale for both sellers and buyers. It’s why, no matter whether you’re buying or selling, the home inspection process can be somewhat terrifying!

For sellers, it’s a stark reminder of the nagging issues you might have turned a blind eye to over the years. And for buyers, it’s a recipe for pure heartbreak—falling in love with a home that might just end up making no sense to buy.

But don’t let the inspection stress you out. And remember, that’s not what your home inspector wants either—all he or she wants is a comprehensive to-do list and a happy client.

So form a team with your home inspector to make the process easier and more effective. Knowledge is key! Here are seven essential things you keep in mind.

Home inspector tips for sellers

1. Move your pets

We know your puppy is adorable—but even if your home inspector loves dogs or cats, pets running underfoot makes the job much more difficult.

Inspections often require opening exterior doors again and again, offering pets far too many opportunities to dash to freedom. When you leave the premises for the inspection—and many inspectors ask sellers to do so—take your pets with you. Please.

With animals out of the way, “every time I walk in or out, I don’t have to worry about losing a cat or a dog,” says Alan Singer of Sterling Home Inspections in Armonk, NY.

2. Don’t forget to clean

Whether you plan on being there for the inspection or not, make sure to clean up beforehand. No, you don’t need to scrub—an inspector won’t ding you because your stove’s grimy. But all that clutter? Yeah, that’s all got to go.

“It makes a huge difference when I walk into a house where everything’s put away,” Singer says. “It’s a game changer not just for me, but for the home buyer.”

Often, the inspection is the first time the buyers are (almost) alone in the house for an extended period of time.

“If it doesn’t feel like how it did before—if we’re trying to dig through items—it can sour their experience,” Singer says.

Home inspector tips for buyers

1. Your potential home will have problems

Your home inspector will likely come up with a seemingly endless list of problems after the walk-through. Don’t panic!

“I’m on their side, but still, I’m judging the house fairly,” Singer says. “Even my home has problems, issues, maintenance things.”

Yeah, there are times when you should worry (we’ll get to those a bit later). But not every issue is mission-critical, and your inspector will know which problems you should tackle first.

2. Almost anything can be fixed

There are a few starkly frightening home inspection terms that seem to be in everyone’s vocabulary: mold, radon, and asbestos.

And yes, they’re scary—but no scarier than a roof that needs replacing, home inspectors say.

“People who write articles tend to scare homeowners about mold or radon,” Singer says.

So let us—your humble (and rather defensive) writers—take a moment to correct that assumption: Don’t worry so much about mold and radon!

Singer, who started his career in homebuilding, says, “everything is upgradable, fixable, or replaceable. You just need to have a list of what those things are.”

Not convinced yet? Check out this Washington Post article about a couple who got a discount on a four-bedroom Colonial because they weren’t terrified by mold.

3. One thing you should worry about is water

Here’s one problem we give you permission to stress out about (just a little): water. No, it’s not a deal breaker (remember that part where we wrote almost anything can be fixed?). But it’s important to address any water-related issues before the deal closes—or at least immediately afterward.

Make a note of issues such as puddles and leaky ceilings. And give special attention to the basement. Addressing water problems in the basement can be an expensive and difficult proposition, Singer says. “A wet basement can be hard to fix.”

4. Home inspectors can’t predict the future

You might want to know how many more years the roof will hold up—and while your inspector might be able to give you a rough estimate, he can’t give you a precise timeline.

“People think that we as inspectors have a crystal ball,” Singer says. “Or that we have X-ray vision” to see through walls or examine the inner circuitry of your kitchen stove.

Sorry, folks: They don’t, and they can’t.

“We can’t tell you how long it will last,” Singer says. “We can just tell you if it’s in good shape.”

5. Find the balance between your heart and brain

It’s easy to forget your love for the home when you’re counting the dollar signs and hours you might have to spend on repairs. But just remember to take a deep breath, think rationally, and consider whether it’s a smart investment in your future.

Singer empathizes: “The justification can sometimes be a horrible process because our brains are all about money and time and (asking) ‘What kind of mistake am I making?’”

Barring any major renovations needed—such as a new roof or mold removal—your inspector’s visit will simply provide a to-do list. But not everything needs fixing immediately, so don’t let a long list dampen your love for the home. Just take things one at a time.

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7 Small Home Flaws That Can Be Big Deals for Buyers

torn screen

By: Stephanie Booth

After living in the same home for a while, it’s amazing what you can get used to. A creaky floorboard, for instance. A chipped tile that you’ve been meaning to replace but haven’t gotten around to. A doorknob that needs a little coaxing to turn. No big deal, right?

Well, these small flaws can be huge deal breakers when you decide to sell your home.

“Prospective buyers are going to add all the ‘flaws’ they find to the price of the property, and that’s when they start trying to discount the price,” cautions Jane Peters, a real estate broker and owner of Home Jane Realty in Los Angeles.

Curious what some of these seemingly small problems are? Check out this list of minuscule (to you) things that buyers see as big hurdles to closing a sale.

  1. An old electrical panel

Recently, home buyer made a controversial request for a repair at a property listed by Cedric Stewart, a real estate consultant at Keller Williams in the Washington, DC, area.

Apparently their home inspector claimed that $2,000 worth of repairs were needed on an electrical panel to get it “up to code.” The sellers insisted the current panel worked just fine.

“To the sellers, it was a small issue,” says Stewart, “but to the buyers, it was an electrical panel that could fail them at any time.”

To end this particular dispute, Stewart received bids from four electricians and got the repair quote knocked down to $1,200. The sellers offered that amount as a credit in lieu of repair at closing.

“The buyers grumbled,” Stewart recalls, “but they took it.”

  1. Ripped window screens

Window screens will wear out over time, but if yours are torn, take it seriously.

“They’re a pain for anyone to replace,” says Stewart. “Therefore, sellers don’t want to do it and buyers will insist that they do. If the sellers refuse to fix it, the buyers will demand a credit. This can be a major point of contention, and we’ve seen it delay progress before.”

Stewart recalls one seller who agreed to replace a damaged window screen. But on the final walk-through, it still hadn’t been done—and the buyer threatened to walk away from the deal.

“It worked out,” says Stewart, “but it wasn’t pretty.”

  1. The location of your laundry room

Even if you own a state-of-the-art washer and dryer—and plan to bestow both on your lucky buyers—they may not be so thrilled with these nice appliances if they aren’t situated in what they think is the “right” place.

“Some buyers have a problem with the laundry being on the ‘wrong’ level, especially in a three-level house or townhouse-style condo,” Peters explains.

In other words, you might be fine lugging your laundry to the basement, but don’t expect all buyers to feel the same way. Offer to move these items to a new locale to warm buyers up.

  1. Sticky door locks

Live in a house long enough, and you’ll encounter a malfunctioning door latch or lock. That may be no big deal to you, but it may alarm buyers big-time.

If it’s an exterior door, they will likely view this as a major safety issue, explains Stewart. And although it may seem like a simple fix, it’s often a complex one, he says.

Think about it: The company that installed the doors may no longer be around, the model may not be in production anymore, and/or it could be tough to get someone to replace the exact hardware. Consider fixing this problem before a buyer notices it.

  1. Your bathtub or shower

Some people prefer showers, others want baths (particularly parents who must clean up small kids). So if you’re missing one or the other, watch out.

In an ideal world, you’ll have both: a bath with a showerhead above. But even if your bathtub works just fine, make sure the style isn’t too off. Not everyone is excited to soak in a tub straight out of “Stranger Things” in avocado green. If that’s you, luckily there is an easy fix: Consider slapping on a new coat of paint (yes, you can do that). Here’s how to paint a bathtub.

  1. Small closets

“Many buyers focus on closets,” says Peters. “Are there enough? Are they large enough? Walk-in closets are also preferred.”

There are a few things you can do to ease these concerns. For one, try to make your closets look roomier by decluttering them as much as possible. Put excess items elsewhere (like a rented storage unit). You might also consider hiring a contractor to build or extend closets where needed—or at least point out to buyers that they can do this themselves.

  1. The walls of your kitchen

Some people like—no, make that love— open kitchens. So if your kitchen currently has four walls, you could be in trouble.

“Buyers may look at the possibility of breaking down a wall,” Peters says. But be warned, many might not want to do the work, or just get such a bad first impression of your kitchen that they move on. If you think your kitchen’s four walls feel cramped and is stalling your sale, consider opening it up yourself. Here’s how to knock down a wall.

 

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What Does a Home Inspector Look For? A Whole Lot

home inspectors
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