Whether you are an experienced home seller, or a first-timer, the building inspection process always raises worries and concerns. Even sellers that take meticulous care of their properties know that an inspector is likely to find something, and this makes the process all the more nerve-wracking. With some preparation, however, we hope you can experience this phase of selling your home with a little less stress.
According to a joint study by the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and the National Association of Realtors (NAR), nearly four out of every five homes sold in the nation are evaluated by a professional home inspector before they are sold. Home inspectors are hired by the buyer, and having this important step as part of the purchase contract is meant to protect the buyer.
While building inspectors are not looking for problems with your house, it is their job to give your property a thorough going-over, from basement to roof, inspecting all the building materials, mechanical systems, and other property functions that affect value and public safety.
Because the home inspection is the biggest deal-breaker in a real estate transaction, it is important that both buyer and seller understand the process fully. A qualified negotiator in your corner is also critical, as often times the deal does not have to fall through if both sides can communicate effectively, and come to reasonable solutions that satisfy everyone.
There are no perfect houses, and there is no good reason to try to hide any conditions from potential buyers and their subsequent inspectors. The best approach is to be proactive, and evaluate your home with an objective eye before putting it on the market. A buyer needs to know exactly what they are buying. While that will be determined during the Building Inspection process, your full disclosure of all the history of the property work, repairs, and improvements plays a key role in the inspection going smoothly, and will give you peace of mind going into this stage of home selling. The unknown is what causes our fears, so providing all the facts up-front when you fill out the property disclosures with your broker goes a long way in belaying fears.
If you really want to set your mind at ease, and offer potential buyers more reason to look seriously at your property, conducting a pre-listing inspection is not a bad idea. There may be problems that you are not aware of that will impact someone’s decision to purchase your house. Hiring a professional Inspector allows you to take care of any issues that may exist before a Purchase and Sale contract hangs in the balance, on your own time, and by contractors of your choosing.
How a Home Inspection Works
Most home Purchase and Sale Agreements include a home inspection contingency clause, which is a provision allowing the buyer to hire a professional home inspector, and possibly specialty inspectors such as septic or water, to thoroughly evaluate the building and certain aspects of the property to determine if there are any issues regarding its structure and systems. Once a purchase agreement has been signed, the buyer has a certain amount of time to hire a professional inspector to investigate the property. You will be notified of the scheduling of the inspections, however they are mandatory to schedule during the contingency period as stated in your contract.
A typical home inspection lasts between two and three hours, during which time the inspector will physically move throughout the property, checking structural elements, and testing systems for soundness and safety. Additionally, special tests such as radon, or well-water conditions may be conducted.
Once the Building Inspection is complete, the inspector prepares a detailed report of findings detailing each area of the property and any issues that were found. A professional inspector’s report will prioritize problems according to those needing immediate attention, or those that are less serious. Inspection reports are the property of the inspector’s client (the buyer), and become excellent to-do lists for the new owners.
According the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), the 10 critical areas for inspection include:
During the Inspection
This is a high-stress and emotional time for everyone, so the best thing a seller can do is disappear during the hours of the inspections. The inspector needs full access, without interruption or distraction, to do a thorough inspection. The buyer is typically in attendance, and should be free to speak candidly and ask question of the inspector during the evaluation. Inspectors are professionals, and are used to working around pets, and will be respectful of your property. Additionally, one or both licensed real estate brokers involved in the transaction will be in attendance, so there is no need to have security concerns if professionals are involved.
After the Inspection
Once the inspection is complete, and any special testing results are in, the inspector will provide the buyer (their client) with their report. This report is the property of the buyer/client, and not shared with the seller unless a special agreement is made.
If significant issues are found, the buyer has the option to walk away from the deal if the seller does not agree to make necessary repairs. This can be avoided, if both parties can agree to solutions. This may include a reduction in the sales price, a credit for repairs at closing, or the buyer may request repairs to be made by the seller prior to closing. Lenders, and some loan programs, require how repairs are handled, so they should be included in the conversation at this point. Leaky faucets or old thermostats are not reason to go back to the negation table, but issues such as faulty wiring or the need for a new roof are. Hopefully, you have an experienced real estate broker working on your behalf that will work through this stage with you, and negotiate for a reasonable solution to keep the purchase contract together.
Finding a Qualified Home Inspector
While it is up to the buyers to find and hire an inspector, if you decide to do a pre-listing inspection, your real estate agent is your first source for a good home inspector in the area. They work with inspectors all the time, and know which ones are qualified and knowledgeable in the area and type of building you are selling or buying. To locate a professional Building Inspector in your area, you can also visit www.ashi.org for a full list.