One of the most important things you can do when you’re buying a home is getting a home inspection. And if you’re the seller, a home inspection can be one of the scariest things, since this might give you a few surprises. But when you sell your home, it’s always best to be prepared. 

Anticipate the inspection

As a seller, and if you’ve lived in the house for a long time, it might make sense for you to do a pre-listing home inspection under the guidance of your real estate agent to help you assess what you might need or want to fix before you sell the house. Nothing beats being prepared. And unless you are in a seller’s market and can ignore buyer requests, it is no fun to get a surprise inspection from a prospective buyer on a house that you expected to receive a certain dollar amount for. Making the improvements needed to sell a viable home will help your resale value and will also show the later house buyer good faith in you, the seller. Only in the case of making clear you are selling the house “as is,” will you be able to easily navigate out of a house inspection without negotiating, so predict what will happen with an expert, and get those things fixed that you need to fix. 

What does a home inspection include? 

There are many potential items that are included on a home inspection report. Here are some of the more common ones: 

  • Grounds – Home inspectors start the inspection on the outside of the house by looking for current or future water issues such as standing puddles and faulty grading or downspouts. They’ll inspect landscaping to see if the lawn, garden, trees and shrubs are in good condition, and evaluate sidewalks, pathways, retaining walls, fences, sheds, and railings. Is the sprinkler system in proper working order?
  • Structure – Then the inspector will check to see if the foundation is solid. Is the basement, crawl space or pad in proper condition? Are the sides of the house straight? Are the windows and door frames square and aligned? In an older house, these things can be especially important, as sometimes over time, older houses can shift a bit which may ultimately need repair or they may have been repaired already. If they have, it’s an inspector’s job to note the quality of those repairs and other structural defects. 
  • Roof – A home inspection also looks at the condition of the roof, including shingles, how recently the roof was updated, weather damage from sun, rain, hail, etc. The roof’s flashing and fascia are also important, as all of these things can cause ceiling drips and leaks in crawl spaces. Gutters, chimneys, and skylights are also important. How are they sealed and what kind of condition are they in?
  • Exterior – A home inspection also checks for siding, brick, and attic cracks, rot, or decay. Cracking or flaking masonry near the basement are also important items to note. Are there cracks in the stucco, dents or bowing in the vinyl siding? What kind of condition is the paint in – is there blistering or flaking paint? And although dirt can be in contact with the cement foundation, is there adequate clearing between siding and the ground, which should be a minimum of 6 inches to avoid damage from moisture. 
  • Windows, doors, trim – How are the doors and window fittings looking? Are they true and square to ensure proper insulation against cold and heat? The inspector will see if frames are secure and without rot, caulking is solid and secure, and glass is undamaged.
  • Interior rooms – Inspectors are also concerned about leaning walls that indicate faulty framing or old building slippage, stained ceilings or walls that could point to water problems, adequate insulation behind the walls and in the attic, and insufficient heating or cooling vents that could make a room cold and drafty or hot and stuffy. Are fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors up to code and in sufficient numbers throughout the house?
  • Kitchen – Inspectors make sure range hood fans vent to the outside where possible, that ground-fault circuit interrupter protection exists for electrical outlets within 6 feet of a sink, that no leaks occur under the sinks, and that cabinet doors and drawers are all operating properly.
  • Bathrooms – The goal here is to inspect toilets to see that they’re flushing and are secure to the floor. The inspection also makes sure drains are draining, showers are spraying, and tubs are securely fastened. 
  • Plumbing – Whether it’s in the kitchen, bathrooms and throughout the house., inspectors are evaluating pipes, drains, water heaters, pressure and temperature of the water. Beyond plumbing issues, they may also look for water damage throughout the house.
  • Electrical systems – Inspectors will check if the visible wiring and electrical panels are in good shape, light switches and the HVAC systems work correctly, and there are enough outlets in each room.

What fixes are mandatory? 

Legally speaking, few things are “mandatory,” but there are many things that will likely not fetch as many buyers, if they aren’t fixed or at least given a concession. Those are major issues that can make a house unlivable. 

In general, a buyer should also request the seller fix things that address safety issues, health hazards or major structural risks to the property. Making repair requests or negotiating repairs is a necessary step in buying and also selling a house. Buyer requests may include such important items as:

  • Mold or water damage – Signs of water damage on the floors, ceilings, or walls. Missing or damaged gutter extensions can cause some of this too, and generally they should end 4+ feet away from the house. 
  • Pest or wildlife infestation – Bugs or rodents in the house or on the property will not be perceived well, and those things need to be handled. 
  • Fire or electrical hazards – One example would be missing smoke detectors and sprinklers. Another is a terribly updated electrical panel with improper labeling. Maybe the wiring in general is not up to code. 
  • Toxic or chemical hazards – Missing carbon monoxide detectors would be important, as well as a possible radon system, particularly in sensitive areas.
  • Major structural hazards or building code violations – These could include, for example, cracks in the walls and the ceiling from the foundation settling

There are of course many, many more inspection objections that a buyer may make. However, these are the primary “mandatory” ones, and the other ones may be labeled more as nice-to-haves or cosmetic issues. 

Next steps for sellers

If you’re the seller, there are a couple of ways to appease a buyer without taking on the responsibility for all the requested repairs. You can offer them something else, like furniture, appliances, or all that gardening equipment you’re not going to use in your condo. Of course, it’ll have to be something they find valuable and useful. But some may be willing to forgive repairs, if it means they don’t have to shop around and spend money on additional furniture.

Another option is to throw a home warranty into the deal. You could offer to buy temporary coverage for the buyer which would help pay for any issues that arise while the policy is active. If you’re a buyer considering this as part of your contract, make certain you learn what the proposed policy includes. Home warranties can be tricky and may not cover as much as you think.