Updated 9/4/17 from an article originally published 9/9/15.
Your home might be under contract, but the work is far from over. One of the most stress-inducing aspects of selling your home is a visit from the home inspector. A home inspection has become a standard part of the home buying process, so don’t be surprised when prospective buyers put your home under significant scrutiny.
The sooner you prepare yourself and your home, the more smoothly this process will go. If you’re looking to sell your house, it’s already time to start preparing for this inspection. By prepping yourself in advance, you’ll know exactly what home inspectors look for instead of finding out the hard way and scrambling last minute.
This home inspection checklist will help you stay on task and make sure you won’t have to drop your sale price unexpectedly after the fact.
Checklist of General Items a Home Inspector Looks Over
This list is not comprehensive since every state has different regulations and not all inspectors are certified. Also, not all certifications are created equal. Since the buyer is usually the one purchasing the inspection, you won’t necessarily have a say in the inspector’s credentials. As a buyer, look for an inspector with a legitimate certification, like the one offered by the American Society of Home Inspectors.
A home inspector should go over the following areas of your home:
- Roof and attic space
___ Looks for signs of missing or damaged shingles or areas of excess wear.
___ Decides how many layers of roofing exist on the structure.
___ Makes sure gutter joints are sealed and draining properly.
___ Checks the attic for signs of leaking, poor ventilation and rotted wood.
___ Sees what type of siding is on the structure, what’s underneath it and what shape is it in.
___ Checks if there are any broken windows, rotting frames or sections that aren’t sealed.
___ Makes sure the house appears to be straight with a solid foundation.
- Plumbing system
___ Makes sure there is adequate pressure from all fixtures.
___ Runs the water and inspects pipes and flooring for signs of leaks or water damage.
___ Estimates age and material of all piping in the home.
___ If the home is on a well system, a well water test should be included.
___ Inspects airflow throughout the house and makes sure all equipment is functioning properly.
___ Checks for signs of asbestos which is then usually tested by a different service.
___ Records the age of the equipment and its cleaning history.
___ Checks for signs of old knob-and-tube wiring.
___ Examines the electrical service and determines if there is adequate capacity.
___ Sees if all electrical components are up to code and will recommend any updates as needed.
Watch Video: How to Touch Up Paint Before Selling Your Home
Checklist to Complete Before a Home Inspection
To stay on top of things, here is a checklist of stuff you can do before the home inspection to make sure all goes smoothly.
One Month (Or More) Before Inspection
- Gather necessary paperwork: Look through your files and collect anything involving general maintenance and repairs. Include documents showing HVAC inspections, roof repairs and other house-related fixes. If a problem comes up in the home inspection that you’ve already addressed, you’ll want proof.
- Draw a map of the property or locate your survey: If you have a septic system or a well buried in your backyard, sketch where it’s located so the home inspector (and the future homeowners) can find it. If you’re not sure where it’s located, this gives you some time to find out before the inspector arrives.
- Fix what needs fixing or be prepared to negotiate: Even if you decided to mask certain issues while showing your home, the inspection would most likely uncover them. Don’t wait until the last minute to address these areas of your home. All problems you expect to show up on the inspection should be dealt with at this time. If you choose not to make the repairs, be prepared to adjust your asking price.
One Week Before Inspection
- Make sure the inspector has access to all areas of your home: In most scenarios, you’re likely packing up your belongings while you prepare for your home to be inspected. Make sure, however, that you pack strategically. The home inspector will need to inspect every closet, electrical panel, furnace, water heater, attic access and crawl space opening. Don’t stack boxes in a way that it would block access to these locations.
- Remove clutter and debris outside: If you have clutter anywhere on your property, now is the time to take care of it. This includes cutting back any branches or weeds that cover the roof, siding or other areas of interest. Make sure the home inspector can get to exterior faucets and electrical outlets, and that they’re not blocked.
- Turn on all utilities: If the property is vacant, make sure all of the utilities are turned on.
The Day Before Inspection
- Clean the house: It might seem counterintuitive since there are moving boxes everywhere, but you should clean your house thoroughly before a home inspection. Keeping a clean house won’t make much of a difference if you have an issue with a leak or a faulty electrical panel. However, a clean home gives the home inspector the immediate sense that this property is well cared for and well maintained. They’ll be less likely to dig deeper into minor issues if they have the feeling that the house has been kept in good shape.
- Inspect lights and appliances before the inspector does: Check for blown out light bulbs and replace them as needed. This is also a good time to make sure pilot lights are lit on your stove, water heater and furnace. Light fixtures and appliances that don’t work can cause the inspection to be incomplete and delay the entire process.
- Double check that all areas are accessible: Retake a tour of your property today with the idea of making accessibility a priority. Make sure the inspector has access to locked gates, sheds or anything else that’s not in the realtor’s lock box. You can remove the locks or provide keys to your real estate agent.
On Inspection Day
- Tidy up: Pick up your bedroom and living areas, wash dishes in the sink and leave the house in excellent condition.
- Make sure animals aren’t an issue: Before you leave the property, make sure all of your animals are secure. Most home inspectors prefer that animals are taken off the premises, but you can secure them in a crate on the property if necessary.
- Leave the house: If the buyer is paying for the inspection, make sure you’re out of the house at least an hour before the inspection. Expect to be gone at least three hours so the inspector can do a thorough job.
Doing the legwork to prepare your home for an inspection is time well spent. The inspection process will be more pleasant for everyone if you take the time to prepare your property and make sure everyone has complete access to your home. While no one can guarantee the results of a home inspection, you’re less likely to be surprised when you take the initiative to prepare.