Find out What Home Inspectors Look For
Nearly all home buyers hire a professional home inspector to take a close look at their new house before closing. You can speed things along by analyzing the condition of your home and making necessary repairs now before the house is under contract. Whole-home inspections cover numerous systems within the house, but there are a handful of hot-spots that concern buyers the most.
Mold and Mildew at the Home Inspection
Mildew stains and odors scare buyers, especially because toxic black mold is such a hot topic. You likely won't even get an acceptable offer if mold and mildew are present. Even if the mold in your house is the normal variety, treat it and address the source of the problem. If it comes up in the home inspection, the buyer might demand professional mold remediation, and that can cost thousands.
Damp Basements and Crawlspaces
Mildew odors signal that a basement is too moist. Buyers and home inspectors will look closely at the walls and floors for patches of mildew and signs of dampness. The inspector might use a meter to determine how much moisture is present in these spaces because moisture deteriorates building materials and attracts insects. Cover exposed earth in basements and crawl spaces with plastic to help keep moisture levels down. Most foundation "leaks" are a result of poor drainage that funnels water towards the foundation.
To address this issue, consider the following steps:
- Make sure gutters are clean so that rainwater flows toward downspouts instead of spilling over gutter sides along the foundation.
- Point drainage downspouts away from the house.
- Check water flow through buried drainage lines by flooding them with water from a hose. If water comes back towards you, the line is plugged and should be cleared.
If foundation problems do exist, and you cannot make repairs, you might need to lower the price of the house upfront, with the understanding that the price reflects the problem. Another option is to give the buyers an allowance to make repairs after closing.
Roof and Chimney
Deteriorated shingles or other roof coverings are one of the first things home buyers and home inspectors notice. If the elements underneath the shingles are moist or rotted, repairs will likely be requested. Some states require a separate roof inspection. Make sure flashing around the base of the chimney is watertight, and that mortar and bricks are in good condition. Inspect the fireplace to make sure it is functioning properly.
Fix leaks long before the home inspection takes place. The inspector will check water pressure by turning on multiple faucets and flushing toilets at the same time. The inspector will also run the dishwasher. The home inspector might check the septic system. One method uses dyes that are flushed down a stool. The inspector waits to see if the dye surfaces on top of the septic drain field, which would indicate a drainage problem.
Inadequate or Inferior Electrical Systems
The electrical panel and circuit breaker configuration should be adequate for the needs of the house. Depending on the code, these systems change over the years, especially with older homes. The inspector will look for receptacles with ground fault circuit interrupters (GFI) in bathrooms and kitchens.
These receptacles contain mini-circuit breakers that click off during a short circuit or overload. The home inspector will likely make sure the receptacles are what they appear to be, and not "dummies" that aren't wired correctly. The inspector will test a portion of the remaining receptacles in the house.
Other Important Home Inspection Checks
- The home inspector will check the heating and cooling systems, making sure they work and commenting on their efficiency.
- The home inspector will take a close look at the structure and foundation.
- The home inspector will check appliances that remain with the house, including smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
Before the Home Inspection
Do everything you can to get the house in good condition before you attempt to sell it, but don't be discouraged if the inspection report contains a few negative statements. Home inspectors make a note of everything they see. All homes have defects.
Remember that the home inspection report is not a wish-list for buyers. Read your contract carefully; it dictates which systems should be in good working order at closing. If the roof is older but doesn't leak, it's in good working condition. The same is true for older appliances.
Your contract may also state that you are under no obligation to make any repairs at all, although the buyers can then likely withdraw from the contract. Don't feel you must comply with unreasonable demands for repairs.
Edited by Elizabeth Weintraub. At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, CalBRE #00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.