When selling residential real estate, there’s no escaping all sorts of inspections—home inspections, pest and fungus, septic, well, soil, roof, and more. Streamlining this process not only speeds up the sale, it can be the difference between a sale that closes and one the falls apart.
When you get inspections up front, you get two big benefits. First, you can fix problems before prospective buyers ever see them; you can address issues like faulty electrical wiring, outdated plumbing, or unpermitted additions (go get a permit). And, second, you can forestall the inevitable haggling from prospective buyers who use newly acquired information from inspections to argue for price reductions.
Here are some tips to get the most out of home inspections. (Thanks to Pillar-to-Post Home Inspections for inspiring this column.)
If an inspector cannot inspect, you won’t get good results. Provide keys to any locked areas: guest house, basement, shed or outbuilding, etc. Remember, home inspectors look at everything—foundations, crawl spaces, attics, garages, and every room in the house. They inspect plumbing, electrical wiring, ventilation, insulation, and so much more. If you have anything blocking access to the water heater, furnace, air conditioner, electrical panel, main water shutoff, or gas meter, move it. If you’re suddenly wondering, “Where is the water shutoff?” now would be a good time to go find it.
On the day of the inspection, it’s best if you’re not there and neither are your kids or pets. If this is an investment property, it’s best if your tenant isn’t there. Although it’s tempting, do not follow the inspector around and point out all the valuable improvements you’ve made. This is not, in fact, helpful. Know what else isn’t helpful? Having your tenant follow the inspector around to point out every conceivable defect in an attempt to kill the sale. And as for pets, the best-case scenario is that they serve as a minor distraction. Worst case? Well, let me tell you a story.
I once had someone at my property who had to remove the cover to the crawl space under my house. He brought his dog, which I was fine with. Days later, my cat had gone missing and I was worried the dog had killed my cat. Turns out, my cat had slipped under the house when the grate was removed and then couldn’t get out, and no one knew. Thankfully, I heard his faint meowing and was able to save him. In the end, it’s just safer for all involved for you to take your pets off the premises or secure them where they cannot cause trouble when an inspector is on site, especially if you happen to have a 120-pound rottweiler.
As you grab your pets and head out the door so the inspector can work in peace, give a quick thought to any valuables that are small enough to sprout legs and walk off. Trust me when I say, the inspectors I know would be grateful if you secured your valuables so they cannot be accused of stealing. That way it’ll be clear that your 15-year-old daughter’s 17-year-old boyfriend was the culprit, as opposed to the 38-year-old inspector who depends on his good reputation to feed his family.
KEEP PAPERWORK IN ORDER
Finally, if you have done what so many of us intend to do, that is, keep your receipts, warranties, permits and owner’s manuals where you can find them, go ahead and show them to the inspector. And when you sell the house, you can present them to a grateful buyer.
So, as I said at the outset, getting inspections early and presenting results to prospective buyers can save time and secure the sale. Everyone involved can make decisions based on the facts and no one gets any nasty surprises.
If you have questions about real estate investing, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (707) 462-4000. If you have an idea for a future column, share it with me and if I use it, I’ll send you a $25 gift certificate to Schat’s Bakery.
Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 45 years.