Don’t Let These 15 Home Inspection Questions Trip Up Your Home Sale

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Undergoing the home inspection process can be daunting for any home sale. As a homeowner ready to sell, you may feel confident about your home’s condition, but the scrutiny of a professional home inspection can bring about unexpected surprises.

HomeLight spoke to Toni Vander Heyden, a top-selling agent in Rockford, Illinois, and Frank Lesh, executive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors, to answer all your burning home inspection questions upfront.

Whether you’re a seasoned seller or dealing with your first home sale, we’ll help prepare you for your home’s inspection and the possible repairs and negotiations that might follow.

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1. What’s the purpose of the home inspection?

The purpose of a home inspection is to give the buyers of a house the details they need to make an informed purchase before closing. The inspection brings to attention any major defects about a house that could threaten a buyer’s health or safety and gives the buyer the chance to negotiate on repairs or request a price reduction based on the findings.

The point of an inspection is not to make a house look as bad as possible to cheat the seller out of a good deal; any inspector who agrees to that end goal would be entirely unethical.

A seller can deny any and all repair requests resulting from the inspection — so long as the contract stipulated that repairs would be negotiable — but the buyer can then walk away, void the contract, and keep their earnest money if it comes to a stalemate.

2. Can the seller be present at the home inspection?

While there are no hard and fast rules preventing sellers from being at the home inspection, their presence can sometimes create an uncomfortable dynamic. Buyers may feel restricted in their ability to speak openly with the inspector about the condition of the property or ask candid questions if the seller is hovering nearby.

However, there can be benefits to having the seller present if they can provide insights or answers to specific questions about the history and maintenance of the home. In some cases, the real estate agents involved may negotiate a compromise, where the seller is available for a portion of the inspection to answer any questions and then leaves for the rest.

Ultimately, the decision should be made based on what is most conducive to a thorough and honest inspection, keeping in mind the comfort levels of all parties involved.

3. Is the seller entitled to the home inspection report?

Not automatically. Unless you pay for a pre-listing inspection, the buyer is the only one who receives a copy of the home inspection report. However, since the buyer will use statements in the report as leverage for negotiations, they’ll often provide a copy of the sections that support their requests.

4. How does a seller prepare for the home inspection?

The big thing is you need to allow for “readily accessible areas,” says Lesh. So clear out clutter and move items away from attic entrances, crawlspaces, electrical panels, and any other parts of the house that the inspector needs to perform a visual inspection on. Other seller preparation tips include:

  • Leave the utilities on and provide the remote controls for any fixtures, such as lights and ceiling fans.
  • Get pets out of the house for the duration of the inspection.
  • Plan the inspection for when you’re at work or have an appointment, so you have somewhere to go for two to four hours while the inspection takes place.

5. What are a seller’s disclosure obligations and how do they relate to the home inspection?

Nearly every state has a disclosure form sellers must complete. These forms list any problems with the home the seller knows of (like if something is broken or doesn’t work), sheds light on the general condition of the home, and notes any major repairs or remodeling work you’ve done over the course of ownership.

To review your state’s disclosure form, check out our seller’s disclosure guide.

Typically the seller has to provide the state’s required disclosure form within a few days after signing the purchase offer. This doesn’t negate the need for a home inspection, however. The buyer will still order an inspection for the purposes of identifying any unknown issues with the house that aren’t immediately noticeable.

6. Which repairs on the home inspection report are mandatory?

“There is no law that says things have to be fixed,” explains Lesh. “However, safety-related items are typically a good idea to repair, so no one gets hurt. For example, a gas leak is extremely dangerous, and that should be fixed.”

Essentially, you need to look at what might constitute a threat to a person’s health or safety. For example, an old water heater generally won’t pose risk to the buyer, aside from cold showers.

Also remember to check on local codes and when they were updated. If you did a remodeling project after the code went into effect, you’re likely not on the hook to bring it up to the new code before closing.

However, if you’ve accepted an offer saying that all repairs are mandatory, then you’ll have to complete them all per the agreement. But if you signed one that says all repairs are negotiable, then you don’t.

Regardless of the terms of the offer, smaller, inconsequential items needing repair might not be included — like cosmetic issues that aren’t “major components of real estate” per the inspection regulations, Vander Heyden says.

7. How much will repairs that come up in the home inspection cost the seller?

Repair costs can range from practically nothing (fixing a gas leak by tightening a fitting) to thousands (repairing a broken underground sewer line). Lesh says the best course of action is to have a home repair contractor come out to assess the damage and give you an estimate to fix it.

8. Do I have to hire a pro to fix repair requests or can I DIY?

You can DIY repairs, but that doesn’t mean you should. It really depends on both the repairs and the contract. For example, it’s easy enough to replace a busted electrical socket on your own, but replacing all the knob and tube wiring in a home will require a professional.

Sometimes, though, the agent will include in the contract that they want all the items repaired by a licensed, certified, and insured contractor. And that’s often for the buyer’s benefit, Vander Heyden says. A homeowner may be able to replace a broken pane of glass, for example, without paying someone to do it, but a buyer may want to know that someone reputable who was certified to do the work fixed it.

9. If my home inspection turns up a lot of issues, what are my options?

You’ve got a few options here. You can repair everything; you can offer to repair some of the issues; or you could do nothing and sell the house to someone else.

Commonly, though, sellers will end up reducing the sale price of the home or give the buyer a credit, so they can make repairs once the sale is complete. Vander Heyden says this often happens with major repairs that aren’t covered by insurance, like an aging roof.

“Typically a seller is not going to buy the most expensive roof,” she says. “They’re just going to get one that will pass the inspection. But the buyer would rather pick their own color and the quality of the shingle. So we negotiate a credit, or an amount of money towards the roof repair, for the buyer to do the work once they move in.”

10. If a buyer backs out, do I have to disclose the report results to future buyers?

You don’t need to share the previous report itself, but you do need to disclose any issues that exist in the home.

“You’ve got two options,” Vander Heyden shares. “Either fix any issues from the inspection, which would be my recommendation because that’s the right thing to do to remarket the house, or go back to the disclosure report and mark on there that you’re aware of a problem, initial it, and date it with the day you were made aware of the issue.”

11. If I have to offer the buyer a credit for repairs, how much will that be?

That’s really up to you and the buyer. The credit will be negotiated during the sale.

Vander Heyden suggests getting bids from several contractors or stores to see how much it would cost to fix or replace the problem, and then taking those bids to the buyer to work out a credit price.

12. What do sellers need to know about repair negotiations?

“The first thing I would do is try to avoid them,” Vander Heyden says. But if you can’t, both she and Lesh suggest working closely with a real estate agent who’s done a lot of home sales. They have all the tools and knowledge to ensure everything goes smoothly.

13. Is it worth it to concede to repair requests?

It can often be easier to concede to repair requests if the seller wants everything to go through without delay. But it really depends on the contract and the types of repairs requested. If it’s something like installing a banister on a staircase, that takes virtually no time and money to do compared to something like re-drilling a well.

However, if you’re selling a house as-is, any repair requests can void the contract. Vander Heyden recently ran into that issue, where the buyer’s agent came back from the inspection with a list of repairs. She told him the contract specifically said any repair requests would void the deal, and he backpedaled.

You might also consider how long the house has been on the market and how much interest it has. If it’s been the average amount of days with nominal interest, then you’ll likely want to try getting the major things like electrical and plumbing fixed. But if the home has only been on the market for a few days and there are already five offers, you’ve got a bit more leeway to negotiate.

14. What’s a pre-listing inspection and should I get one?

A pre-listing inspection happens before a house goes on the market. It’s not mandatory, but it’s often recommended by professionals. The goal is to let the seller know what’s wrong with the house and then have a chance to fix it before listing the home, so there aren’t any surprises during the actual inspection.

Lesh does caution, though, that a pre-listing inspection won’t be the final word on necessary repairs. Things can change quickly and unexpectedly between the pre-listing inspection and the buyer’s inspection. So while it’s a good idea to get one done, just remember that you still may run into repairs you weren’t prepared to deal with.

15. Should I work with a real estate agent during my inspection negotiations?

There are benefits to working with a real estate agent who’s negotiated through hundreds of home inspection results and knows how to work out a deal that will lead to the best outcome for you and your priorities.

In addition, an agent can help connect you with professionals you may need during the home inspection and repair process, and also advise you on what needs to happen in order to get the house ready to sell.

“I’m always looking for common things home inspectors find,” Vander Heyden shares. “That doesn’t mean I’m a home inspector; it just means I’ve transacted so many homes that I know what they’re looking for. I’ll point it out to the homeowner and say, ‘Hey, let’s take care of this.’”

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Navigate home inspection challenges for a successful sale

A home inspection is more than just a procedural step. The goal is to ensure the property is safe and sound, not just for the sake of the sale, but for the future homeowner’s peace of mind.

As you wrap up this important stage in selling your home, keep in mind that your approach to the inspection findings can significantly impact the sale. Whether it’s considering repair negotiations, understanding when to stand firm on your decisions, or deciding whether to hire a home repair contractor, each choice plays a role in steering your home sale toward a successful conclusion.

Partnering with a seasoned real estate agent can further streamline this process, ensuring that you navigate the home inspection with expertise and confidence.

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