A Home Inspection, Performed by a Professional Home Inspector is a key component of almost all home resale transactions. This article is intended to help the home inspection client obtain the most comprehensive home inspection possible.
The Home Inspector is typically retained by the buyer during the contract option period, although more and more home sellers are opting to have professional home inspections performed, prior to placing their home on the market. While the article is written in the context of a buyer’s home inspection, the content can be applied equally well to a seller’s pre-listing home inspection.
In preparing for a home inspection, it’s important that everyone involved understands the role of the home inspector, who they serve and what to expect from the home inspection report.
To be effective, the home inspector must be knowledgeable across a broad range of subjects related to home construction and maintenance. Though many home inspectors have experience in a particular construction discipline, their role is that of a generalist. Compare the role of the Home Inspector to that of your family doctor or General Practitioner. You see your family doctor for a check-up or physical. He/she can perform a thorough examination and assessment of your condition and may recommend advice to help improve your overall health. However, your doctor will likely refer you to an Orthopedic Surgeon (a specialist) if he/she suspect that that pain in your knee may be a torn cartilage. Similarly, a Home Inspector may advise you to consult with a specialist if they find certain conditions (e.g., a Structural Engineer to further evaluate indications of structural distress in the home). A good inspector will limit this kind of referral to only those things that cannot be adequately assessed within the scope of a home inspection.
In order to perform a proper home inspection, the home inspector must be able to access virtually every part of the house, open and inspect inside electrical panels, HVAC equipment, attic spaces, crawl spaces, etc. They will need to operate all of the systems and appliances that convey with the house. This includes virtually everything from the dishwasher, to the HVAC systems, to the automatic garage door operators, even the irrigation system. If the home inspector cannot adequately assess a system because the utility service is turned off, access to the system is obstructed or even because the A/C system throughput is being restricted by excessively dirty return filters, these will be disclaimed and identified in the report as systems which could not be properly inspected. These situations result in unnecessary time delays in the transaction and the additional cost a return trip to reinspect, either by a specialist or by the original home inspector to complete the inspection of those items that could not be properly inspected during the initial inspection. These issues can be avoided by proper planning and preparation on the parts of the buyer, seller and their agents.
Getting the most value possible out of a home inspection requires some coordination between the buyer, the seller and their agents. Assuming that all parties, have a vested interest and share a common goal of completing the real estate transaction and avoiding post-sale issues, a thorough and timely inspection is in everyone’s best interest. We have prepared the following guide and downloadable pre-home inspection checklists to help all parties get the optimum results from their home inspections.
Pre-Home Inspection Preparation for the Buyer
Download a printable .pdf verion of Pre-Home Inspection Checklist – For the Buyer
Verify the scheduling through your agent. Ensure that the seller has adequate warning as to when the inspection will be and how long it may take. Make sure that the home inspector knows where to find the house and how to access it (gate codes, alarm code, SUPRA lockbox, etc.).
Ask your agent to provide the listing agent with the “Pre-Home Inspection Checklist – For the Seller” and gets it to the seller. If this is a vacant or bank owned property, find out who you need to contact in order to get ALL utilities turned on and into normal operation mode. Inspectors will not turn these items on for you at the time of the inspection. If they are not on, they will be disclaimed as not inspected.
Review your inspection service agreement, get answers to any questions and sign it.
Make sure that any specialty/ancillary inspections are scheduled (e.g., termite, pool inspections, on-site wastewater treatment, etc.).
Notify inspector of any specific concerns you have about the house.
Notify the inspector if there is anyone that you want them to discuss findings with or deliver a report to. Your inspector will not disclose findings to anyone (even your agent) without your express approval.
Ask whether the seller has any ongoing service contracts or warranties for major systems (e.g., on-site wastewater, pool, termite, etc.) especially if they include warranties. Ask for copies of the documents and find out if/how they can be transferred to you after closing.
Review the seller’s disclosure closely. If major repairs have been made (e.g., foundation repairs), find out if they are covered by a warranty and whether it’s transferable to you after the sale.
For new construction, make sure that the house is as close to move-in ready as possible
Try to be present for at least the last half hour of the inspection. This is a great opportunity to learn a great deal about the house and while photographs in reports are great, it’s much better to have the inspector point items out to you “live”, before you see them in the report.
Pre-Home Inspection Preparation for the Seller
Download a printable .pdf verion of Pre-Home Inspection Checklist – For the Seller
Ensure that all utility services, valves, connections (e.g., electric, gas, water, etc.) are turned on and any pilot lights are lit.
Make plans to be out of the house, if possible. If there are any children at home make sure that a responsible adult is present. The inspector may decline to perform the inspection if juveniles are present without an adult.
Disable the security system. Unlock or provide keys to areas that the inspector will need to access, including garage and attic doors.
Try to position personal belongings and storage items so that they do not hinder access to any wall, ceiling or floor areas, including in attics, closets and under-sink cabinets.
Ensure that access to open and enter attic stairways and entrances is clear so that the inspector can enter these areas (don’t forget garage attic access openings). Do the same for crawlspace access in pier and beam homes.
Make sure that there is nothing blocking access to, or preventing operation of HVAC systems, electric service panels, water heaters, appliances, plumbing access panels, etc.
Replace dirty HVAC air filters. Make sure that they fit properly. The inspector cannot properly assess performance of the A/C when the filters are dirty. Having clean filters in place may save you from having to arrange for an HVAC service call to service and check the equipment after the inspection.
Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and replace old batteries.
Trim bushes back from the foundation and walls. Remove any debris, wood, stored items, etc. from around the home and garage foundation to avoid these from being reported as conducive to termite infestation.
Ensure that pets won’t interfere with the inspection. Ideally, they should be out of the house.
Reduce incidental reported findings by addressing basic maintenance items, such as: failed light bulbs; leaking faucets, clogged aerators and leaking drain stoppers; tub and shower caulking; clean range hood filters; loose downspouts or missing splash blocks; missing receptacle covers and switch plates; broken windows, latches and screens; etc.
What Not to Do:
Don’t attempt to conceal known issues or problems. Not only is this dishonest, but if the home inspector suspects that someone has attempted to conceal defects, he/she will scrutinize everything that much more closely.
Don’t perform quick-and-dirty repairs or attempt to repair items if you are unsure of the proper method. Home inspectors can often spot improper repairs and do report them. Also, it frequently costs substantially more money to undo a bad repair than it does to repair the item properly in the first place.