You found a great agent, prepared your home for sale, attracted buyer interest, got great offers, and accepted one. Next step: the home inspection. Knowing how to prepare for a home inspection is vital when you’re a seller to help the process proceed without unnecessary delays.
To get you ready, we’ve tapped veteran home inspectors and a top real estate agent to share insider tips and advice to help you prepare for inspection day.
Home inspection basics
A home inspection is a visual inspection performed on behalf of a buyer. The inspector looks for any safety, health, and mechanical issues that don’t meet your state’s standards or the buyer’s lender requirements.
What do home inspectors look for?
Inspectors examine properties from the roof to the foundation. “We look for things that are significantly deficient, unsafe, near the end of the service life, or not functioning properly,” says Tim Buell, former president of the American Society of Home Inspectors.
When your home’s systems fail, they can cause a mountain of problems, including electrical fires, unstable foundations, and unsafe living environments. Repairs can be costly for the potential future owners, threatening to tank the sale.
The following list encompasses some red flags inspectors look for:
Structural integrity issues
- Foundation settlement
- Cracks in basement walls
- Warping, moisture, and mold in crawl spaces
- Gaps between walls and floors, or around windows and door frames
- Loose, missing, or buckled shingles
- Attic and ceiling moisture
- Cracked, rusted, and missing flashing
Electrical system issues
Malfunctioning HVAC systems
- Cracked ductwork
- Inconsistent temperatures
- Rusted units
- Rattling, clanking, thumping, or hissing noises
For a comprehensive inspection checklist from NACHI, download their PDF checklist.
When does a home inspection occur during the real estate transaction?
The home inspection is scheduled immediately after a seller accepts an offer. Typically the buyer has seven to 10 days to complete the inspection unless the buyer and seller agree to something different. Smart sellers will have already prepared their home for inspection in advance, sometimes even before they receive the offer.
Who performs the inspection, and what are their certifications?
Inspections are conducted by a certified or licensed home inspector. Requirements can vary from state to state; some states are regulated and require licensure.
Illinois and Connecticut require a license, for example. Licensees need to complete training as an associate inspector working under an inspector for one year and pass an exam. Other states like North Carolina and Florida require 100 hours of training and passing an exam.
The American Society of Home Inspectors offers national board certification for American and Canadian home inspectors. Inspectors need to:
- Abide by ASHI’s code of ethics
- Follow ASHI Standards of Practice
- Provide evidence of 250 paid home inspections that comply with ASHI’s standards
- Submit inspection reports that ASHI will verify
- Pass the National Home Inspector Examination
Who pays for the inspection?
A buyer generally covers the cost of a home inspection. If a seller pays for the inspection, it could be perceived as a conflict of interest, though inspectors are unbiased professionals. Buyers choose their own inspector.
A home inspection contingency is an out for a buyer to terminate the purchase contract if the home inspection turns up more repair issues than the buyer is willing to bear. A seller has a specific number of days (typically seven to 10) to respond to the buyer’s repair requests. The seller can negotiate how much they’re willing to repair from the report or deduct the cost of repairs from the purchase price. If the seller refuses to budge on repairs or the price, the buyer has the right to walk away from the sale with their earnest money deposit in hand.
Consider a pre-listing inspection to get ahead of needed repairs
A pre-listing inspection, also known as a pre-sale inspection is a home inspection the seller pays for before listing their home, as the name suggests. The inspection uncovers potential surprise repair issues that could jeopardize the real estate deal.
After a pre-listing inspection, a seller can fix the repair issues before a buyer has the chance to discover them. For example, many buyers would walk away from a home that needs a new furnace. Since some repairs can take from a few weeks to over a month, the seller has the opportunity to get ahead of repairs which can mean a speedier sale.
Before we list a home, I typically recommend sellers service their HVAC if they haven’t in the last six months. It’d be smart to do some preemptive maintenance, too, and set the receipts and warranties out on the kitchen counter or a dining table for the inspector to review. That can take care of a lot of issues.
- Robert Hussey Real Estate AgentCloseRobert Hussey Real Estate Agent at Keller Williams Currently accepting new clients
- Years of Experience 18
- Transactions 111
- Average Price Point $204k
- Single Family Homes 104
How to prepare for a home inspection
Brian Wetzel, a licensed home inspector serving York County, South Carolina, offers clients a home inspection checklist with essential items for the interior, exterior, kitchen, bathroom, and the garage so sellers can prepare for an inspection like a pro.
Complete repairs your pre-listing inspection uncovered or that your agent recommends
By tackling repairs that turned up in your pre-listing inspection, you can make headway on the buyer’s inspection. If you opted out of the pre-sale inspection, reach out to your agent for suggestions.
Robert Hussey, a top real estate agent who sells houses faster than 59% of Madison, Alabama agents says, “before we list a home, I typically recommend sellers service their HVAC if they haven’t in the last six months.”
It’d be smart to do some preemptive maintenance, too, and set the receipts and warranties out on the kitchen counter or a dining table for the inspector to review,” explains Hussey. “That can take care of a lot of issues.”
A qualified agent will always do a walk-through inside and out with a seller with clients and suggest important fixes.
Together, they’ll check appliances, run the garbage disposal, test electrical outlets, flush toilets, open and close windows, doors, turn on the heat and AC, and open and close the garage door as well as check curb appeal items like paved driveways, the lawn, and the condition of your exterior paint. According to a survey from HomeLight’s Top Agent Insights for New Year 2022, buyers will pay 7% more for a home with great curb appeal.
Ensure the inspector can access all areas
Make sure they have access to all areas and systems, including the attic, HVAC, plumbing, electrical panels, and any exterior buildings on your property such as a guest house, accessory dwelling unit (ADU), shed or detached garage, and storage closets. Remove any boxes or contents that could get in the inspector’s way. Keep remotes near items, including fireplaces, lighting fixtures, and ceiling fans.
Matt Steinhausen, a veteran home inspector from Lincoln, Nebraska recommends that homeowners move shelving and laundry appliances in front of electrical panels. He recalls when items have prevented him from thoroughly examining the panel and wiring.
“I need to be able to enter every room, open every cabinet and closet, and inspect every detached structure; all areas of all structures should be unlocked and accessible,” Steinhausen says.
“Many times I’m unable to get to various mechanical components because when people declutter their homes for showing, they pile all their contents in the storage areas, such as utility rooms.” If the home inspector cannot access an area, they will need to return for a second visit.
Don’t forget to trim back shrubs that have grown too close to the house and remove decorative items such as statues, furniture, and fixtures. This will make it easier for the inspector to position a ladder firmly on the ground to inspect the roof.
What are inspection requirements for a VA loan?
While a home inspection is not required for a VA loan, a home inspection is required for a VA appraisal. If you want to open up your buyer pool to military buyers who plan to finance, the buyer’s lender will require a home inspection as part of an appraisal to ensure your home is safe, sound, and sanitary. Inspections performed by appraisers are not as meticulous as home inspections, however, appraisers will inspect the following structures, systems, and appliances.
- Home structure: The construction of foundation, roof, walls, floors, and ceilings.
- House exterior: Siding, windows, trim, lighting, fences, and drainage systems are examined.
- Roof and attic: Aside from roof construction, roof framing, flashing, ventilation, and insulation are inspected.
- Electrical: Wiring, ceiling fans, light fixtures, and the main electrical breaker is checked for potential hazards.
- Plumbing: Pipe materials need to be up to current standards; toilets, sinks, showers, and faucets are checked for leaks and necessary repairs.
- Major appliances and systems: HVAC units, chimneys, fireplaces, water heaters, furnaces, and septic systems are inspected.
- Other appliances: The condition of smoke detectors, ranges, built-in microwaves, dishwashers, garbage disposals, and other relevant small appliances are assessed.
What is a four-point inspection?
A four-point home inspection examines the condition of a property’s four major systems: roofing, HVAC, electrical, and plumbing. Home insurance companies request four-point inspections to assess risk before a policyholder can renew a home insurance policy or before eligibility can be approved for a new applicant.
Typically four-point inspections are conducted by a building contractor, architect, engineer, or a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI), or by a state building inspector.
- "8 Telltale Signs of Squirrel Damage (and What You Can Do About It)," Angi (September 2021)
- "Home Inspector Licensing & Certification," International Association of Certified Home Inspectors
- "Certification," American Society of Home Inspectors (2021)
- "Code of Ethics," American Society of Home Inspectors
- "Top Agent Insights for New Year 2022," HomeLight (January 2022)