When a home seller puts their house on the market there are a few things that they should do to make sure everything goes well. Almost every prospective buyer will have a professional home inspection done to determine the true condition of the home.
The following list provides some guidelines for the seller to make sure that you put your "best foot forward" when showing the home. A professional home inspector will look at almost everything. They may also find things you were not aware of and put them in the report. This is not the best time to find out about a defect that could be expensive to repair. As the saying goes "Preplanning prevents problems." I strongly suggest that sellers have their own professional home inspection performed prior to putting the house on the market to avoid getting blindsided by the buyers inspection.
A professional home inspector typically follows a set of Standards of Practice from one of the major home inspector organizations. These standards specify what is to be inspected and how these items are to be inspected. The inspection performed is a limited time visual inspection. The inspector will not do any destructive testing or disassembly of equipment. They will also not move personal property such as furniture and stored items. That means a defect that is blocked from view by such items will not be reported on and there is a downside to that. After you move out and all of your furniture and personal property has been removed, the defects will be apparent and visible to the buyer during their final "walk through" inspection. Having something significant turn up at this point in time is never a good thing.
Among the things that a professional inspector will look at are the "major systems."  The major systems are considered to be;
  • The roof structure and its coverings.
  • The foundation, basement, and/or crawl space.
  • The central heating and air-conditioning systems.
  • The electrical system.
  • The plumbing system.
The inspector will also look at the "Grounds", observing the drainage and grading as it affects the house, any paving such as walkways, driveways and patio slabs or constructed decks and any landscaping such as trees and shrubbery that may impact the house structure.
Additionally, the inspector will go through each room interior and note any deficiencies that, in their opinion, have safety, structural or maintenance considerations.
This entire inspection process will typically take 2 to 3 hours. The inspector will then provide a verbal summary of their findings to their client at the end of the inspection.
Most inspection companies these days simply deliver the verbal summary on site and then produce the actual report back in their office where they have time to look over their notes and the photographs they have taken during the inspection. The latter process generally produces a much better and more comprehensive inspection report since there is no time pressure generated by the need to print on site. The inspector can take the time to look over their notes and pictures and produce the report in a way that their client can easily understand. 
The following list will provide you, the seller, with some guidelines to follow to prepare for this process.

Make maintenance improvements.

The maintenance improvements listed below are relatively easy and inexpensive to accomplish yet they can substantially improve a home's appearance, efficiency and comfort.
  • Trim trees and shrubs which touch or overhang the house.
  • Apply new caulking and weatherstripping as needed around windows and doors.
  • Clean gutters of debris and leaves, repair or replace cracked or broken gutters, downspouts and extensions to ensure proper drainage.
  • Replace bathroom caulk or grout were necessary to prevent seepage and improve appearance.
  • Ventilate closed basements and crawl spaces, or install a dehumidifier to prevent excessive dampness.
  • Re-grade soil around the perimeter of the house to prevent ponding of water next to the foundation.
  • Have the heating, ventilating and air-conditioning systems professionally serviced. Replace any dirty filters.
  • If you have a fireplace, have the chimney professionally cleaned and inspected. This is called an "NFPA" Level II chimney inspection. This is performed by a certified chimney inspection professional using special equipment and video cameras to inspect the interior of the flue. The general home inspector may comment on visually observable defects noted in the firebox or the exterior of the fireplace but they cannot see inside the flue without special equipment that they generally don't have and are not qualified to use.

Pay attention to the details.

Fixing even minor items can go a long way toward improving that important first impression of your home. Here are some improvements you might consider:
  • Repair leaky faucets. If the fixtures are badly deteriorated, consider replacing them.
  • Repair or replace any loose door hardware such as doorknobs and hinges.
  • Replace any damaged window screens.
  • Replace burned-out light bulbs, and wherever possible, replace broken light fixtures.
  • Secure any loose safety railings such as on decks or stairways.
  • Patch small holes in walls and ceilings and repaint.
  • Repair or replace faded or peeling wallpaper.

Take safety precautions.

 Pay attention to items relating to protecting the home and its occupants from danger. The following are important safety precautions which homebuyers will appreciate, are relatively easy to implement, and shouldn't cost a lot. Doing so will create a great impression!
  • Install good-quality smoke detectors.
  • Install good-quality carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Insure adequate outdoor lighting, especially in suburban and rural locales.
  • Make sure any electrical outlets installed outdoors and within 6 feet of the water supplies inside such as a kitchen or bathroom are GFCI protected.
  • Keep stairwells tidy and free of debris and obstructions.
  • Make sure there is plenty of clearance around the garage door, the electrical panel and furnace so that the inspector can easily get to them. If access to these areas is blocked by stored personal property, these items cannot be easily inspected and maybe disclaimed in the report. This leaves a huge question in the buyer's mind as to the condition of the systems and may even require a return trip by the inspector for an additional fee. Your buyers won't be happy about this.
  • If you have a direct entryway door from the garage to the interior of the house, make sure there is a functional self-closing mechanism installed on the door and at the door closes and latches by itself. This door must be a fire rated door. If you have installed a pet door in this fire rated door, it is no longer a fire rated door and must be replaced.
  • If you have a powered garage door operator, make sure the required safety devices are functioning. The safety devices are; the light beam device located within 6 inches of the floor on either side of the opening that prevent the door from closing if the light beam is broken such as by an object on the floor. The second device is called the "down tension" safety device and it is meant to stop the door from closing and reverse it should the door encounter an obstruction while closing.

Make cosmetic improvements.

 An attractive, clean and tidy appearance will enhance your home's appeal. In addition to making any necessary repairs, remember to:
  • Keep the lawn mowed and the house "picked up".
  • Clean the exterior walls and trim (power washing works well), and wash the windows squeaky clean. Don't forget to hose off the screens or repair/replace any that are damaged.
  • Open the shades and curtains to create a bright, inviting atmosphere.
  • Pay particular attention to the cleanliness and comfort of the kitchen and bathrooms.

Prepare for the buyer's inspection.

Here are a few of the things you should have on hand;
  • Appliance receipts, service records and warranties
  • Information on the age of major components such as the roof coverings, furnace, air conditioner etc.
  • Major component warranties such as roofing, siding, windows (if they have been replaced) and any appliances.
  • Utility bills such as electrical gas and water for the past 12 months.
Hopefully, this home sellers checklist has helped you gain a clearer knowledge of your home's overall condition from a buyer's perspective. Now you can make improvements that will increase your home's marketability. And remember, you are marketing your house! You probably wouldn't try to sell your car without making it clean and ready. It just makes good sense. Of course, even if your house is already in optimum condition, a professional home inspection can also be a good marketing tool. Just leave a copy of the report on the kitchen table for agents and purchasers to read.

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