Selling a home quickly and profitably comes with a lot of hard prep work. Besides making sure it looks beautiful and appeals to potential buyers, you’ll want to ensure that it’s “healthy” enough to pass a home inspection with flying colors.
Once you’ve secured an interested buyer, they will hire a home inspector to evaluate your property. As a home seller, there are plenty of steps you can take to make sure the home inspection process is smooth and efficient. Take a look at our top home inspection tips for sellers — then download our free home inspection checklist (a fillable PDF)!
1. Consider your curb appeal.
If you followed the advice of your home stager or real estate agent prior to listing your home, we’re sure you probably already did this to some degree. (Our consultations cover many of the issues that may arise during an inspection.) Having the exterior of your home accessible to an inspector will make the process more efficient and minimize the need for a possible return visit (which is costly and viewed negatively by most parties). Prior to your home inspection, make sure to do the following:
- Trim back shrubs and tree limbs that have grown too close to the house. Leave at least a foot of clearance.
- Leave a minimum of 4 to 6 inches of clearance between the siding and any landscaping materials, like mulch or stone.
- Clean the gutters thoroughly. Ensure the downspouts and other drains are free of obstruction and flowing correctly. Make sure the run-off isn’t pooling next to the house.
- Examine all the trim and siding around your home, and repair any wood rot (do not just paint over it). Poke suspicious spots with a knife or screwdriver to find soft, rotting wood. A few of the most common areas I see in my staging consultations include garage door corners, window sills, door jambs, deck posts, and porch posts.
- Recaulk gaps, seams, and trim where necessary and fix any exposed nail heads.
- Make sure all exterior doors, locks, and deadbolts are operable. Add weatherstripping if necessary.
- Remove any stored items that are kept against the side of the house. Remove any lawn decor or furniture that may inhibit their ability to place a ladder firmly on the ground to access the roof.
- Leave exterior buildings on the property, like storage sheds, a detached garage, or a guest house, unlocked and accessible. Provide any keys, garage door openers, or door codes they may need. You’ll also want to leave any keys or unlocking instructions for sprinkler systems or other systems that have electrical panel boxes or utility boxes.
2. Have the interior ready.
Inside your home, you’ll want to double-check some of the common trouble spots for many home inspections. These include:
- Ensuring all interior doors and locks are operable.
- Checking for leaks under sinks. If you’ve ever left a towel or mat under the sink “just in case” something happens, remove it. Otherwise, it can look like you’ve either had a previous problem or are trying to hide a current issue.
- Make sure the hot water heater operates properly.
- Vacuum dust from all air intake vents and replace filters. Use a sharpie to write the current date on your air filter so that the inspector will know they’ve been recently replaced.
- Consider having the HVAC system serviced if you haven’t done so within the past 12 months. Leave a receipt for the home inspector and buyer.
- Inspecting all caulking, trim, and seals.
- Make sure smoke detectors work.
- Test all fixtures, lights, and fans. Replace all non-working light bulbs.
- Repair any drywall cracks or nail pops.
- Make sure appliances are clean and empty so the inspector can turn them on and properly test them (you don’t want a dirty oven to smoke up the house and set off the fire alarms).
- Clean up! A tidy home helps promote the idea you have been a conscientious, responsible homeowner. A dirty home implies the opposite.
Properly preparing the inside of your home ready shrinks the list of annoying imperfections the inspector has to record. A burnt-out light bulb or a small in the plaster may not seem like a big deal to you, but lots of little repairs can add up and overwhelm a potential buyer.
3. Ensure the inspector has access.
Make sure an inspector will be able to easily reach all places and systems, including the attic, HVAC, plumbing, and electrical panels. Leave everything unlocked and remove any furnishings, shelving, or storage boxes that may be in the inspector’s way. Place all remotes near the items they operate, like ceiling fans, light fixtures, and fireplaces. Remember, if they can’t access an area, they’ll have to come back for another visit (which usually leaves everyone involved feeling frustrated).
4. Provide receipts.
In the absence of documentation, home inspectors tend to provide estimates to potential buyers (e.g., “Water heater appears to be nearing its life expectancy” or “Roof looks to be more than 20 years old”). While these are educated guesses, they’re sometimes wrong. If you’ve recently had part of your home replaced or serviced, leave copies of the receipts in an obvious place, like the kitchen counter or dining room table. Your documentation may include items such as:
- HVAC servicing
- Water heater or window replacement receipts
- Pool maintenance
- Pest control inspection
- Roof replacement and/or warranty
- Receipts for any other properly handled repairs
5. Leave the house.
Should the seller be present at the home inspection? It depends somewhat on the seller’s attitude. A friendly homeowner who is able and willing to answer questions and provide documentation about repairs can be quite helpful. However, a seller who is grouchy or defensive, who doesn’t know much about the house, or who performed shoddy repairs (or didn’t complete repairs) probably shouldn’t be there.
That said, most home inspectors and real estate agents advise home sellers to leave while the home is being inspected. In fact, many inspectors hate it when the homeowner is present (though they probably won’t tell you this directly). A homeowner’s presence makes it harder for them to fully evaluate and criticize the home because the seller may protest or engage them in conversation. Even a quiet homeowner will have to spend time moving from room to room, further slowing down the process.
Ultimately, anything that slows down the home inspection or makes it more tedious risks irritating the home inspector. As a result, they may take a more critical view of your home and its issues. Remember, they’re human, and if you aggravate them, things may not play out in your favor.
Pro tip: Take any pets with you if possible. If not, ensure that they are secured.
Preparing for a Home Inspection? Get Our Checklist!
Visit our Library of Freebies to access our Home Inspection Checklist for Sellers. It’s a fillable PDF so you can fill it out on your tablet, phone, or computer (or print, if you like)!
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