How to Prepare for a Home Inspection

Image by Theresa Chiechi © The Balance 2019 

Some local governments require that sellers provide buyers with a detailed home inspection while giving the buyer the option to obtain their own inspection. In other parts of the country, the seller only provides disclosures, and the buyer pays for their own home inspection.

Whether you're producing a seller's home inspection for the buyer or expecting the buyer's home inspector to show up on your doorstep, it's best to be thoroughly prepared.

Clean the House

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It sounds so simple, but homeowners often overlook this tactic. Home inspectors are people first and inspectors second. As people, they carry preconceived ideas about how well a home has been maintained. A clean home says that you care about the house. It's a good idea to make a good impression. Don't make the mistake of thinking inspectors can see past dirt and clutter, because they can't.

Be on Time

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Have the house ready for inspection at 8:30 if an inspector makes an appointment with you for 9:00 a.m. Sometimes home inspectors are early.

It's also common for inspectors to start on the exterior of the home, so leave the shades down or drapes drawn until you're dressed. More than one unprepared seller has been surprised by a stranger stomping around in the backyard.

Leave the Utilities Connected

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The home inspector will turn on the stove, run the dishwasher, and test the furnace and air conditioning, so leave the utilities on if the house is vacant. It's impossible to check receptacles for grounding and reverse polarity if the power is turned off. Without utilities, the inspector will have to reschedule, which could delay the closing of your transaction. It could also trigger the removal of the buyer's home inspection contingency.

Some inspectors will charge the buyer a reinspection fee to make a return trip, and this can cause ill will, too.

Leave Space Around the Furnace and Water Heaters

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Remove boxes, bookcases, furniture, and anything else that's blocking access to your furnace, air conditioner, and water heater. The inspector will need three to four feet of working space to inspect these items.

Inspectors generally won't move anything themselves, so they might suggest a specialist to the buyer if they don't have reasonable access. They'll let someone else deal with it. Buyers might then hire a specialist who will undoubtedly find more things wrong. Specialists have a lot more knowledge than general inspectors.

Keep the Pilot Lights Ignited

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Many home inspectors will also refuse to light pilot lights because they don't carry enough insurance to be covered for that type of liability or risk. Important items such as the water heater, gas stove, or furnace won't be inspected if your pilot lights aren't lit, and the buyer could delay closing until those inspections are completed.

Again, the inspector will probably charge extra to make a return trip.

Provide Access to the Attic and Garage

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The inspector must get into your basement and/or attic as well, so keep a path cleared. Check for water in the basement. Move all boxes and stored items away from the walls by at least two feet. Vacuum spider webs. Look in the attic for possible rodent droppings, and secure any valuables.

Leave Keys for Outbuildings and Electrical Boxes

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Leave the remote controls for your garage door opener or a key if the garage is unattached to the house. Unlock the covers for your sprinkler system and electrical box. Leave a key for exterior building access. You can label these keys and leave them on a kitchen table.

Clear Away Brush From Exterior Inspection Points

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Nobody expects you to shovel a tunnel around your home if snow drifts are blocking the foundation, but do provide a path around the house. Cut down dead tree branches and clear brush from the foundation in the summer months, and move trash cans away to provide easy access.

Provide Repair Documents

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Make available all invoices and documents regarding remodeling projects or new items you've installed, such as a roof or furnace. Find the paperwork if you've upgraded the electrical system from ungrounded to grounded, installed a new dishwasher, or repaired a leaky faucet. It will give the buyer peace of mind to know those items were reinspected.

Prepare to Be Away for at Least Three Hours

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Buyers will often accompany the home inspector, and buyers feel uncomfortable asking questions if the owner is present. Try to schedule a time for the inspection when you can be out of the house, and take your children with you. Crate your pets if you can't remove them from the premises. Many inspections can take up to three hours to complete.

Walk around your property to get a view of the areas the inspector will be looking closely at: wiring, plumbing, drainage, gutters, and foundation. You don't have to be an expert, and you're not trying to pinpoint problems before the inspector does. Just make sure the areas are easily accessible, clean, and well maintained.

Article Sources

  1. International Association of Certified Home Inspectors. "The Duty to Warn: A Home Inspector's and Home Seller's Guide to Immediate Hazards." Accessed May 3, 2020.

  2. American Society of Home Inspectors. "8 Things Every Home Inspection Checklist Should Include." Accessed May 3, 2020.

  3. RE/MAX. "Preparing Your Home For An Inspection." Accessed May 3, 2020.

  4. Watkins Realty & Associates. "Home Inspection Tips For Sellers." Accessed May 3, 2020.

  5. American Society of Home Inspectors. "The Quick Home Inspection Checklist: What To Look For When Buying A Home." Accessed May 3, 2020.