Home Inspections: Best Practices for Sellers

There is so much to consider when having a home inspection done—so much, in fact, that we are focusing this post on best practices for sellers in particular. One thing a seller may wish to consider is whether a pre-sale inspection would be advisable. A pre-sale inspection gives the seller a “heads up” regarding issues and allows the seller to make repairs proactively to improve the selling condition of the home.

One thing to bear in mind, though, is that if a seller chooses to do a pre-sale inspection, the seller may have an obligation to disclose the results of that inspection to the buyer’s agent. For example, in Maryland, if a seller has actual knowledge of material defects that a purchaser “would not reasonably be expected to ascertain or observe by a careful visual inspection of the real property” and those latent defects post a direct threat to the health or safety of the purchaser or an occupant, those material defects must be disclosed.

How would a seller select an inspector?

  • You may wish to hire an inspector who is a member of a professional association, such as the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), the National Institute of Building Inspectors (NIBI), or the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). Membership in such associations typically requires more than state licensing does. For example, InterNACHI membership requires that the inspector passes an exam, completes an ethics course, completes a standards of practice course, and submits four mock/simulated inspection reports. The NIBI Certified Program requires a course, an exam, completion of 50 home inspections of reports, submission of two reports for review, and professional liability insurance. ASHI has various levels of membership, the highest of which is the ASHI Certified Inspector (ACI). The requirements for becoming an ASHI Certified Inspector are available here.
  • If the inspector is accredited with the Better Business Bureau, the seller should check to see if there have been any complaints filed against the inspector and whether they have been resolved in his favor.
  • The seller should check for review of the inspector in the public domain, on Angie’s List, etc.
  • The seller should consider asking a prospective home inspector for a sample report. Some of the key considerations when reviewing the sample report are:
  • Is it of sufficient length? A comprehensive report is likely to have 20-50 pages.
  • Does it have a sufficient number of high-quality color photos?
  • Does the report use clear and concise language?
  • Does the report have a user-friendly format, including a summary?
  • It is important to inquire of a prospective home inspector what he did before he became an inspector. It will be to the inspector’s benefit if he has prior experience as a contractor.
  • The seller should inquire as to how many years the inspector has been in business.
  • The seller should ensure that a prospective inspector is bonded and insured and has Errors and Omissions insurance.

What should the seller do prior to the inspection?

  • It is in the seller’s best interest to make sure that the home is clean and de-cluttered before the inspector arrives. De-cluttering will ensure that spaces are easily navigable by the inspector.
  • It is also critical that the seller make sure that the inspector will be able to access all areas that need to be inspected—there should be nothing blocking entry points (a dresser blocking access to an attic, for example) and nothing locked (like an electrical box) that he would need to access.
  • Make sure that all locks are working properly.
  • Make sure that the HVAC filter has been recently changed.
  • Make sure that all appliances are plugged in.
  • Make sure that remote controls (g., for ceilings, for lights, etc.) are accessible to the inspector.
  • Turn all pilot lights on.
  • Make sure the fuse box is properly labeled.
  • Clean debris from gutters and make sure downspouts are in their proper positions.
  • Make sure all bulbs are in working order (else the inspector will have to investigate whether the fixture itself is in working order).

What should the seller do on the day of the inspection?

  • Be on time!
  • Be present for the inspection—observe, listen, ask questions.
  • Do not leave pets at home who will be disruptive to the inspection; find a temporary and safe location for pets away from the home.
  • At the conclusion of the inspection, the seller should request a bit of time with the inspector to review his findings. Even if the seller was present and engaged during the inspection, there may be things that the inspector noted but did not verbalize during the inspection.

What should the seller do after the inspection?

  • Once the formal report has been shared with the seller, the seller should carefully review it and determine what fixes might be necessary before the house is put up for sale.
  • The seller should hire professionals to do whatever repairs have been deemed necessary and the repairs and should make sure that any work requiring permits is properly permitted. (See our previous blog post: I don’t really need permits, do I?”)
  • When the buyer’s inspection takes place, the seller should make documents available to the inspector regarding recent upgrades (such as a new roof) that were undertaken in preparation for sale.

A pre-sale inspection can be a very worthwhile exercise, as long as the inspector is carefully selected and the seller prepares properly for the inspection.